BACK DOOR TO HELL by Paul Gadsby - a review
Boy meets girl. Girl has a plan. A plan that’ll change everything.
Nate and Jen are two working class kids looking for a chance to leave behind their dreary, minimum wage lives.
Jen has figured out a way to change everything, she just needs a little help to pull it off. That’s where Nate comes in.
She’s got it all planned. In and out before anyone notices, nobody gets hurt and finally they can start living the lives they always imagined. A simple heist, even for amateurs like them.
The problem is local crime lord Crawford is not an amateur. Not by a long chalk. Jen & Nate have stolen his money and more importantly they’ve damaged his reputation. He intends to get both back. No matter what the cost.
THE FIRST PARA
'Forest Hill was hopping on the big night. Some hip local band was playing in one of the pubs that had a late licence, gaggles of revellers spilling from the cordoned outdoor smoking section into the street. Nate crossed the road to avoid them, nearly knocking into a drunk couple lurching into the street as they tried to hail a cab.'
The ancient Romans and Napoleon both agreed that what a general needed most of all, is luck. So too, the writer. Because there is absolutely no question in my mind Paul Gadsby should be a household name amongst the crime fiction community. And that some of those household names are very fortunate to be there in his stead.
I digress, so, BACK DOOR TO HELL. Well, there's Nate. And there's Jen. The present is bleak for them both, but the future, the future can be whatever they want. Jen has a plan, see. And Nate, he sort of likes Jen, so he's along for the ride - wherever it might take them.
The ride, blimey, where do I start? A cast of characters so vividly drawn and so expertly veiled, a plot so driven, a leading couple so likeable and a villain so relentless, all of it laid it out in a narrative so taut it could snap your hand off.
The tension throughout the entire book is almost unbearable.
In the hands of a less able writer, the story of a couple on the run being hunted by a ruthless gangster could have died within a couple of pages in an avalanche of cliches. But not here. Not this book. Not this writer. For the writing is glorious. The dialogue is snappy, the settings brought to life with minimal strokes, the atmosphere breathed onto the page more than written - not a word in the entire book is their without merit.
And there are scenes in this book - too many to mention - where I just could not take my eyes off the page, I was so captivated. Yes, it is violent - Gadsby writes what he has to write, and he writes it without fear - but there are also scenes of exquisite beauty and tenderness. One of my favourite episodes, indeed, one of the most memorable scenes I have read in any book in a very long time, involves the hitherto ruthless Crawford teaching his autistic son how to box. It is simply stunning.
I cannot recommend this book highly enough, and suspect even this review will not do it justice.