...Tell Someone? - Kevin O'Hara

The web has done wonders for democratising freedom of expression, with writers work more easily "released" than ever before. When it comes to the good old-fashioned medium of books however, not too much has changed in the past decade. A few major publishing houses continue their stranglehold. Its always good therefore to see a smaller indie publisher making an impact.

Tell Someone? Is the product of the decidedly small scale English Rose Publishing based in Chorley (near Bolton), and has managed to sell thousands of copies in the two towns through local promotion and word of mouth alone. No mean feat, and heartening proof that going it alone outside the majors can pay off.

This book is the laddish tale of leery Liam, an overgrown thirty year old scamp from the aforementioned Chorley, lost and adrift in his small-town life with only mates, booze, football and wanking for relief. Time and opportunity seem to be passing him by, and an ugly secret from his past continually preys on his mind when the drunken distractions aren`t strong enough, threatening at times to destroy him. Only when a girl comes out of the blue does salvation seem to arise for Liam, but will he open up enough to let her in?

The tone here is has a backdrop of gritty bitter-sweet, with drink, drugs, graffiti and punch-ups as the scenery. But the real heart of the tale is more down-at-heel knockabout humour and romance.

This is no Irvine Welsh, and for that matter misses the lower sights of the grimy sensitivity for language Mike Duff shows in Low Life, another slice of working-class north western life from this century. There's no real surprises here, the writing is rather clunky in places and Liam and the lads arse-baring antics will grate with as many as they amuse. But with all that there is a definite and endearing emotional honesty lacking in similar works which gives it an edge and appeal.

This is "lad-lit" pure and simple, but you do get the feeling of a real life lived and evoked rather than just boxes being ticked. Simply expressed, the emotions conveyed often hit home where more obviously contrived books fail to convince. While the interior monologue of this first-person account sometimes lacks, the speech of the characters is very convincing. And a certain scene a couple of chapters before the end is unexpectedly powerful and moving in its sparsity.

This is more deserving of attention on the mass market than a hell of a lot of other lad-books out there, and those into that scene would be well advised to try the real deal here, rather than its more contrived contemporaries.

[First published in Spike Magazine, 2005]