Pages are small on ereaders. It’s a fact. Kicking Off is such a fast paced novel that it will keep your thumbs occupied as if you’re on a game console. That’s as much as to say it’s a real or virtual page-turner. Jan Needle’s new novel offers a unique perspective on the social ills of our country and an uncomfortable insight into the powderkeg that is our prison system, all delivered at break neck speed with an uncompromising hardness that reflects the seriousness of the subject matter.
Populated by a cacophony of characters from Glasgow hardmen to sleazy politicians, all human life is to be found in the pages of this novel and the parallels of their moral depravity across the social divide is sometimes chilling. Down at heel journalists mingle with politicians on the make, bleeding hearts liberal prison governors deal with staff more brutal than the men they guard. We might expect Glasgow hardmen to feature heavily in a prison thriller, but Needle is more subtle and his compass much broader. The story hinges round the millionaire Michael Masters, whose crime is the acceptable white collar banking fraud, and who is shafted by Donald Sinclair, a politician on the up resulting in both men getting more than they bargained for from the prison system. Due to Sinclair’s double dealing, instead of a short comfortable stay in an open prison, Masters is dished out 6 years at Bowscar, and by a twist of fate, becomes centrally implicated in a prison riot of unparalleled violence.
When gangland thugs end up sharing cells with millionaire fraudsters, fitted up by a politician on the make, the powder keg is set to go off – and explode it does in an orgy of extreme sex and violence that will leave you wondering who, if anyone, will survive this modern tragedy unscathed. Deaths are fast and furious, described with a sickening graphic style that is quite in keeping with the underlying theme of the demise of moral integrity right across our social system. From the first memorable image of a man falling from the roof at Buckie Jail to the turn (or click) of the last page, the style is relentlessly tough and the complex plot will keep you gripped and guessing – and thanking your lucky stars that this is fiction. Or at least hoping that it never becomes fact.
Reviewed by Cally Phillips
Kicking Off is available in Kindle format
Find out more about Jan Needle