I love it when books bulid connections of their own. Murakami’s Colourless T (for short) charts a young man’s recovery from a grievous hurt after more than a decade. Peter May’s stand-alone novel, Runaway, proclaims that “Hurt will haunt you”. Turns out it haunts someone for five decades!
Parts of the novel are based on his own experience of being a runaway at the age of 16, leaving Glasgow behind to hopefully land himself a record contract in London. Exactly what Jack Mackay and his friends try in 1965. It is interesting to speculate how much of this reflects May’s own experience. In view of what is to transpire, I do hope, not too much!
The novel doesn’t start there, but in 2015 in London with a murder, news of which proves to be a catalyst for Maurie, now dying from cancer in Glasgow. He determines to return to London to settle an old injustice and convinces his former travelling companions, Jack and Dave, to take him. After Jack coralls his lazy and unemployed (unemployable?) grandson as chauffeur, they set off on the same route as that taken 50 years earlier.
The two difficult journeys make up most of the novel and allow May to contrast youthful vigour and the frailties of old age, the fire and the ambitions of the young and the disappointments of lives lived settling for second best. He also explores the sociological parallels between 1965 and today (e.g drug culture, social deprivation). What can go wrong when a bunch of naive teenagers set off to grasp life by the horns? What can go wrong when a bunch of geriatrics set off to even an old score? (Un)surprisingly past patterns repeat themselves in both dangerous and humorous ways.
The novel comes alive when the boys reach London in the middle of the Swinging Sixties. A group of penniless wannabes from Glasgow need a lucky break. One is forthcoming, though not the one they would have chosen. It does, however, pitch them into the thick of things. Their wide-eyed wonderment gradually turns more knowing. Relationships are threatened by emotional inexperience and growing tensions, that will eventually lead to the murder which opens the novel.
May takes his time depicting the journeys south and the colour of the Swinging Sixties. Perhaps a little too much as I did feel that the 1965 climax was rushed and depended on not one, but two plot devices which didn’t quite ring true. (Cf: Footnote) Minor quibbles. I remember having a few of these with his previous novel, Entry Island. That went on to win the 2014 Deanston Scottish Crime Novel of the Year. On that basis I predict another – er – runaway success.
© Lizzy’s Literary Life (2007-2015)
(Footnote: Memory aid to self: phone call, fall guy)