A compelling, rambling novel about a lifelong rivalry between a disciplined teacher and members of a murderous outlaw biker gang who fight battles from the sunny South African coast to the damp tube stations of England.
Reid’s first novel focuses on the life of Spencer, an experienced South African teacher whose life unravels after he’s suddenly fired from a small German-oriented country school. Spencer quickly loses his home and all connections to his wife and son. He finds casual employment as a substitute teacher in England. He begins drinking, playing pool and taking on minimum wage stockroom jobs for extra cash. To his regret, he encounters Hood, a former student who has become a drug runner for the Snake bike gang. Spencer attempts to evade Hood and his manipulative games, but he’s drawn into entanglements with Hood’s boss, the evil and unpredictable Xanthye. Reid’s story is vivid, colorful and imaginative. Reid draws on his personal experiences of teaching in South Africa and England, and he provides unique insight into the lives of bikers and teachers on the South African coast. Yet his story suffers from being overly allegorical and unrealistic. Reid paints Spencer as the voice of reason: a crusader against liberal culture, political correctness and drug use. Spencer is so tied up with his own past that he chooses not to quit teaching or to dismantle Xanthye’s wild gang. Instead, the teacher goes on long tirades to his best friend and escapes into memories of his high school days. Reid’s story is difficult to read since he tells it as an unordered set of memories. One particularly disturbing aspect of the story is the fact that Spencer forms a close, almost sexual bond with Venus, a rambunctious teenager. Venus is the daughter of Vicki, a beautiful, unattainable Afrikaner blonde from Spencer’s youth. Venus and the reader often question whether Spencer is Venus’ biological father.
At times incoherent and simplistic, but extremely entertaining and a complete break from the formulaic crime thriller.