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by David Bowker

Pub Date: June 1st, 2003
ISBN: 0-312-31178-8
Publisher: Minotaur

Briton Bowker’s US debut.

Down on his luck as always, horror novelist Billy Dye takes on the dicey but desirable assignment of interviewing Manchester’s most notorious crime kingpin, Malcolm Priest. Priest’s reputation is well deserved. Coarse, foul-mouthed, and menacing, he boasts of both his charity work and his criminal activities. Billy treads carefully in the interview but later, fueled by alcohol, writes a candid and highly unflattering portrait of Priest. Imagining a violent death at the hands of Priest thugs, Billy gets an unexpected reprieve. His editor butchers the article to make it a puff piece, and Billy finds himself once more face-to-face with Priest, ghostwriting the gangster’s memoir. His financial and survival prospects make it an offer he can’t refuse. Before long, however, Billy offends the quick-tempered Priest and finds himself in a graveyard facing execution. An unlikely deus ex machina comes in the person of a hit man known only as Raghead, a freelancer who maintains his anonymity by wearing a bag over his head in meetings with his employer. Raghead happens to be the nom de guerre of Steve Ellis, Billy’s closest childhood mate and fellow-admirer of horror classics. As the pathologically loyal Raghead becomes a one-man militia, battling a series of cartoonish thugs sent to eradicate his friend, Billy grows as a writer and a person by reconnecting with someone who genuinely believes in him.

Alternately quirky and grisly (perhaps too grisly for some), Bowker’s first crackles with energy and surprising warmth.