A grim, rather airless portrait of a loner spiraling through anger, obsession, and increasingly violent fantasies toward destruction. Taylor's debut, set in Britain's perpetually depressed North, follows the half-hearted efforts of Errol Oldfield to elude the furies that seem to be hounding him. Unschooled but bright, energetic but without ambition, he exerts real effort only in pursuit of his various fetishes—including the accumulation of handkerchiefs lifted from the women he fancies. At the moment his interest is focused on Maxine, a co-worker at the Thrifty Miss Betsy discount- shop. A divorcÇe, Maxine is happy to play Errol along, repeatedly seeming to offer and then retract some sort of intimacy. And Errol, for reasons never fully made clear, haplessly goes on hoping and longing. Interspersed with the scenes of Errol's strangulated courtship are some bleak if perfectly etched ones of life among the down-and-out crowd that Errol moves among; hustlers, petty crooks, the walking wounded, all are featured in a number of boozy scenes in which the possibility of violence always hovers on the margins. Errol himself is given to indulging in violent fantasies, many having to do with his prissy, disapproving, tart-tongued flatmate, Bernard. Another matter never fully explored is just why Bernard, fastidious and self-satisifed as he is, is attracted to the messy, sullen, confused Errol. Cruelty continually rearranges these lives: relationships turn abusive or are casually abandoned, friends betray one another, sex is often a substitute for connection. Taylor, in his fascination with the mind of an obsessive personality, and in his unblinking view of fetid flats, shabby pubs, and aimless, damaged working-class lives, clearly has much in common with writers such as Irvine Welsh and James Kelman, but unlike them he has not yet found a language, or a vision, that transforms his material. Errol remains a figure more puzz1ing than moving, and the grisly climax is unsurprising. Taylor has vigor, and a sharp eye for detail, but his first fiction lacks sufficient depth to be truly memorable.
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