Lead Review

  • Book: The Black Dog
  • Location: Glasgow
  • Author: Kevin Bridges

Review Author: Tina Hartas

Location

Content

3.5*

Some of you may know Kevin Bridges as a comedian. He has now turned his hand to writing fiction, set in a very gritty Glaswegian environment. There is a lot of swearing, so if that offends you, don’t pick up this novel.

Declan is desperate to be a writer. He is already in his mid-20s, so working as a shelf stacker has to be a means to an end. No pressure there! His mum buys him a course of evening classes focussing on writing and performance. How did it even come to this? He doesn’t want to upset his parents, so he attends but he is soon in the pub causing chaos and upsetting a few people who actually shouldn’t be offended. This is Glasgow, remember. He is now in big trouble and the stress of the consequences ratchets up his anxiety. His friend Doof Doof is adept at keeping him on the straight and narrow and he also turns for comfort to his loyal Black Labrador – and black dog – companion, Hector, who is going to have to see him through this. Somehow.

The black dog is, of course, another way of describing depression and the title won’t be lost on the reader, given that there are personalities involved who rely on mind altering substances (including alcohol, of course).

James Cavani is back in town, he is a local lad who has made a name for himself in the film and writing world, and Declan admires his work. Admires him, in fact. But Cavani has his own problems, to wit looking after his sister, who lives life on a knife edge of drugs misuse. His concern for her brings him back to the world he left behind.

What the author does well is slide in his quotidian observations, things that are hardly noteworthy, but which positively glow in his writerly hands. Pub scenes and just the nothingness of people drinking, the behaviour of Declan’s dog in his devotion to his master, the one liners and even The Trunki, the ride-on kids’ suitcase, gets a mention (it will for me, however, always be the success story that was turned down by the TV programme “Dragon’s Den” where it wasn’t deemed a start up worthy of investment and yet you can’t pass through an airpot without seeing children – the parents more like – with a Trunki in tow). He describes a trip in business class from JFK to London and it’s at that point it becomes clear that he has accumulated anecdotes and observations that he really, really wants to use to fill the narrative – entertaining, descriptive and funny though they are, they serve to stall the progression of the storyline; once spotted, the device becomes a little tired. The lack of chapters to break up the narrative is unusual and is a daring device in a debut novel.

The trope of gritty Glasgow as a backdrop – Frankie Boyle set his recent noir novel Meantime there – is maybe overly worked at the moment, particularly since the era of Trainspotting.

Still, it’s an entertaining read, and one especially for devotees of the author-cum-comedian/entertainer novel .

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