Friday, May 15, 2015

Review of Vinnie Got Blown Away by Jeremy Cameron (1995, re-released 2015, Hope Road Publishing)

A Walthamstow native, Nicky Burnett, has been in and out of trouble his whole life.  Now nineteen he finds the body of his best friend, Vinnie, at the bottom of a tower block, minus his feet.  It seems that Vinnie had crossed some deadly criminals who have decided to take over the drug trade in the area.  Nicky’s code of conduct dictates that he needs to exact an appropriate revenge and to defend his patch.  The problem is he’s seriously outgunned so he sets off to persuade his mates and assorted local hard men and villains to join his vendetta. 

Most British crime novels tell their tale from the perspective of the police, or have a middle-class sensibility running through them.  Vinnie Got Blown Away, first published in 1995, however, is told from the perspective of a habitual petty criminal and is set amongst the working and benefits class estates of Walthamstow in outer London.  More than that, Cameron writes in a style that captures the inner dialogue and thoughts of his protagonist, nineteen year old, Nicky Burnett.  The result is a tale that captures the social realities of urban youth, casual crime, single parenthood and broken families.  Yet the story is not a grim, grey read, but rather has a vibrancy sustained by dark humour and well penned characters.  The tale is told through two intersecting plotlines: Nicky’s attempt to persuade friends and acquaintances to seek revenge for the murder of his best friend, Vinnie; and an account of Nicky’s time behind bars and his observations about how to survive.  Although relatively linear and short, it’s an engaging and compelling read that at times really sparkles (I particularly liked the section on learning French and a school trip to France).  Overall, an interesting tale of loyalty, courage and revenge that ends with a hack of bang.

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