There’s trouble on both sides of the pond for Manchester ex-con Cal Innes.
Cal’s pal Paulo has asked him to escort Liam, a young fighter he has big dreams for, to Los Angeles, where he’ll box in the Alvarez amateur competition and maybe earn a shot at turning pro. Before they leave, Cal tries to do another good turn by threatening an old nemesis, Mo Tiernan, who’s been sticking his nose into Paulo’s business. On his arrival, Cal—dehydrated, aggrieved at surly Liam, dying for a smoke in a no-smoke zone and crippled by back spasms—takes his charge to Shapiro’s gym, a boxing venue where trouble’s brewing in the form of Josh Callahan and his dad, who taunt the opposition, then try bribes to win their match. Repairing to the nearest bar to wash away his back pain with pills and hooch, Cal meets up with Nelson, a trainer who convinces him he can turn Liam into a winner. But all is not well. Calls to Paulo back in Manchester aren’t connected; Cal doesn’t know who’s on the level; Nelson is killed; Liam lands in hospital; and Cal finds himself in an LAPD interrogation room.
The hard-boiled parlance so sublimely tawdry in Cal’s debut (Saturday’s Child, 2008) seems forced here, while the jabs at American strip malls, air conditioning and fast food rarely rise above the mundane. Consider this a step on the learning curve and hope for a better follow-up.