A Young Team With Serious Staying Power

‘The Young Team’ by Graeme Armstrong

Azzy Williams is ready. Ready to smoke, pop pills, drink wine and ready to fight. But most of all, he’s ready to do anything for his friends, his gang, his young team.

Round here, in the schemes of the forgotten industrial heartland of Scotland, your mates, your young team – they’re everything.

Azzy Williams is fourteen; a rising star, this is his life and he loves it.
Azzy Williams is seventeen; he’s out of control.
Azzy Williams is twenty-one; he’d like to leave it all behind.
But a way out isn’t easy to find . . .

Inspired by the experiences of its author, Graeme Armstrong, ‘The Young Team’ is an energetic novel, full of the loyalty, laughs, mischief, boredom, violence and threat of life on these streets. It looks beyond the tabloid stereotypes to tell a powerful story about the realities of life for young people in Britain today.

I am not given to hyperbole when it comes to books. I try to take a balanced approach and judge a work by its own standards. A repeated pet peeve of mine is reviewers who criticise a book because it’s not the one they want written. “Well, put your crayon in your mitt and write the book you wanted to read then!”

Even so, this book has to be one of, if not the most, important novel for Scottish arts of the millennium thus far.

Graeme Armstrong has battered into the limelight of the literati with this debut like a Reebok Classic to the coupon.

This is a novel of profound pathos, tapping into the world of a class of people who don’t get heard, who’s voices are perennially misunderstood, marginalised and stigmatised.

But this is no poverty safari. There is an understanding here that people are people. That light and shade and good and bad are universals. That people can change and escape and grow but that these are choices and that personal responsibility is a factor. And an acknowledgement that society is stacked against these young people and hope is just a chimera if you can’t live beyond today.

I almost cheered when the Strathclyde Violence Reduction Unit and the folk hero that is John Carnochan got into the text (“You just need to give people a chance,” and the big man knows what he’s talking about.)

There’s a clear lineage between Irvine Welsh’s ‘Trainspotting’, Alan Bissett’s ‘Boyracers’ and ‘The Young Team’ but, for me, this novel surpasses both its forbears.

Yes: they are written in the dialect and vernacular of their surroundings; yes: they are populated with the pop culture references of their settings (although if, like me, you were training to be a teacher in 2006 and not heading to Fantasia, a lot of the Trance references fly over your head. I’m really quite old.)

However, what sets the Young Team ahead of those two is that – like one of those t-shirts you see with the evolutionary stages of man is that ‘Trainspotting’ is like a primordial swamp of black comedy and social realism ending in a swamp of despair. ‘Boyracers’ is lighter, more pop culture fixated and makes a case for education as freedom. ‘The Young Team’ does it all and leaves you longing for Azzy to make the right choices to meet his potential, to free himself for good.

Armstrong is more than a voice to watch. He is potential behemoth of the literary scene up here. A book which will sink into you and stay with you forever. It should be compulsory reading for all teenagers in Scotland.

Purchase Links: https://www.panmacmillan.com/authors/graeme-armstrong/the-young-team/9781529017328 Where you’ll also find an extract

Debut author Graeme Armstrong

Graeme Armstrong is a Scottish writer from Airdrie. His teenage years were spent within North Lanarkshire’s gang culture. He was inspired to study English Literature following his reading of Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting at just sixteen. Alongside overcoming his own struggles with drug addiction, alcohol abuse and violence, he defied expectation to read English as an undergraduate at the University of Stirling; where, after graduating with honours, he returned to study a Masters’ in Creative Writing.

His debut novel, The Young Team is inspired by his experiences.

Social Media:

Twitter @G_Armstrong21

Gangsters and Geezers Keep it in the Family

Family – might be the death of you…

The Glass family business is crime, and they’re good at what they do. Vengeance took Luke Glass behind bars – but now he’s free and he’s never going back. Luke wants out of the gangster life – all he has to do is convince his family to let him go.

His brother holds the reins of the South London underworld in his brutal hands – nobody tells Danny Glass no and expects to live – not even DCI Oliver Stanford, bent copper and one of the Met’s rising stars. The way Danny sees it, his younger brother and sister Nina owe him everything. The price he demands is loyalty, and a war with their arch enemy gives him the leverage he needs to tie Luke to the family once more.

Luke can’t see a way out, until Danny commits a crime so terrible it can’t be forgiven. Love turns to hate when secrets are unearthed which pit brother against brother. Left with no choice but to choose a side, Nina holds the fate of the family in her hands.

In the Glass family, Owen Mullen has created a crime dynasty to rival the Richardsons and the Krays. Heart-pounding, jaw-dropping with non-stop action, Family is perfect for fans of Martina Cole, Kimberley Chambers and Mandasue Heller.

The blog tour banner for Owen Mullen’s novel ‘Family’

“Family” is my first exposure to the work of Owen Mullen and, on this evidence, it won’t be my last trip to the world of the Glass family.

I’ve written elsewhere (and here) of how impressed I am by the work Boldwood Books are producing in the crime genre and Mullen is a very worthy addition to their stable of writers.

Here we have the crime family dynamic coming under strain as newly released Luke strains against the ties of his increasingly psychotic brother Danny while his Machiavellian sister Nina cooks up her own schemes.

So far, so ‘Lock Stock’. But what elevates this above the routine is the quality of the turns. It was Raymond Chandler who advised writers, “When in doubt, have a man with a gun come through the door (‘Trouble is My Business’) Mullen certainly likes to take advantage of this handy aphorism and there are geezers puffing into pubs with gats clapping like no ones business.

Author Owen Mullen

The real strength, however, lies in Mullen’s careful doling out of excitement. His protagonist, Luke, is an intelligent observer. His first person narration contrasts with the third person accounts throughout the rest of the tale. So we hear Luke’s thoughts, we hear his doubts, his fears, his rationalisations.

When the action explodes, it is over in seconds and gives a wide berth to the sort of sadistic, voyeurism of violence we experience in lesser writers.

Mullen is also no stranger to the odd Chandlerism. “I’d met him for less than thirty seconds and already would’ve liked to put his face up against a brick and throw a wall at it,” is Luke’s verdict on one shady character and this is worth the price of the novel alone.

We all know you can pick your friends, but not your family: however, I’d advise getting to know the Glass family very well and let Mullen propel you with his propulsive prose through the south London underworld.

Purchase Link – https://buff.ly/37rHomR

Author Bio –

When he was ten years old, Owen Mullen won a primary schools short story competition and didn’t write another word for four decades. One morning he announced he was going to write a book. He did. Since then he has written seven. Owen was born in Coatbridge, a few miles from Glasgow, where the Charlie Cameron stories take place, and where he ran a successful design and marketing business.

A late developer, he has a Masters degree from Strathclyde University which he got in his forties. In his earlier life he lived in London and worked as a musician and session singer. People tell him he enjoyed himself and he has no reason to doubt them.

The journey from rocker to writer has been a fascinating experience and the similarities between the music and book industries, never cease to amaze him. His passions are travel, food and Arsenal Football Club.

A gregarious recluse, he now splits his time between Scotland and the island of Crete, along with his wife, Christine.

Twitter https://twitter.com/OwenMullen6

Facebook https://m.facebook.com/OwenMullenAuthor

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/owenmullen6/

YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCirKpr7Dzji0x-0teu2nhqw

BookBub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/owen-mullen

Blood on the Streets of Scotland – Blood of Brothers

Blood Brothers by Heather Atkinson

When you’re running the streets, loyalty is everything…

Gangs rule the streets of the rough Gallowburn Estate in Glasgow, but the deepest rivalry of all is between Jamie Gray and his friends, known as the Blood Brothers, and their enemies, the Lawsons.

The two gangs clash frequently, but when a phone containing incriminating evidence disappears after a particularly brutal run-in, the stakes are higher than ever.

Jamie’s mother Jackie is as hard as nails and is not going to let anyone hurt her boy – even if she has to roll up her sleeves and get stuck in. What she wants more than anything though, is to see Jamie turn his back on the street life. And when he meets spoilt rich-girl Allegra, who has a penchant for shoplifting, Jackie thinks she could be Jamie’s way out.

But with the Lawsons closing in, and everyone taking sides, there is only one way out for Jamie, and to triumph he must take out his biggest enemy…

If you love Martina Cole, Kimberley Chambers, and Jessie Keane, you’ll love Heather Atkinson. Discover the bestselling author Heather Atkinson, her crackling plots, unforgettable characters and page-turning pace and you’ll never look back…

I’ve lived in Scotland over 20 years now. It is a country which has changed immensely in the near quarter of a century since I first arrived.

Additionally, I have lived in isolated rural splendour of tourist trap mountains and charming wee fishing villages as well as in crowded, post-industrial towns where men are hard and drugs rife.

It is a country of contrasts.

The area Heather Atkinson is writing about here – Gallowburn – is fictional. Except, it isn’t. it’s an amalgamation of a whole bunch of places most Scottish readers can piece together without too much difficulty.

Atkinson clearly has an unpatronising affection for her street level protagonists. The characters are rendered as fully rounded humans with clear motivations and driving ambitions.

She also is an accomplished writer of dialogue. Having published over 50 novels, it would appear that she is well attuned to her surroundings, picking up the language of the Scheme and playing it back to readers to create an atmosphere of intense verisimilitude.

Even as her protagonists are sucked further into their worlds of violence and chaos, Heather Atkinson keeps them grounded as the plot runs away outwith their control to the natural end of violence. It is a climax moving, horrifying, engaging and entertaining.

Boldwood Books are an interesting independent publisher who have selected some exciting authors to work with (Alex Coombs, who I enjoyed immeasurably for one) https://pajnewman.com/2020/09/24/missing-for-good-by-alex-coombs/

With authors of the quality of coombs and Atkinson, they will be well worth following in future.

Purchase Link –  https://amzn.to/32GYs5H

Author Bio –

Heather Atkinson is the author of over fifty books – predominantly in the crime fiction genre. Although Lancashire born and bred she now lives with her family, including twin teenage daughters, on the beautiful west coast of Scotland. Her new gangland series for Boldwood, set on the fictional Gallowburn estate in Glasgow begins with Blood Brothers which will be published in December 2020.

Social Media Links –

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/booksofheatheratkinson/

Website https://www.heatheratkinsonbooks.com/

Twitter @ https://twitter.com/HeatherAtkinso1

Instagram https://www.instagram.com/heathercrimeauthor/

Bookbub https://www.bookbub.com/authors/heather-atkinson