Bongo Fury, by Simon Maltman
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by Books Go Social. All thoughts and opinions are my own.]
Despite my ancestry, I don’t read nearly as much about the Scot-Irish of Northern Ireland (and other places) or the trouble in Ireland as I would prefer to . This is a book that is probably easiest to read if you have a bit of a brogue and can at least relate to life in Northern Ireland, and have understanding of the paramilitary situation there. The author, who I’m not particularly familiar with, has apparently developed a reputation of writing entertaining crime stories about life in Northern Ireland, and this is definitely along those lines. It is apparently the first part of a novel, but was sent to me as an independent short story. I must say that I found the story highly entertaining and would definitely be interested in reading the rest of the sections if and when they are available. Not everyone wants to read about the travails of entrepreneurs and private investigators in an environment of gang violence, but that is definitely the sort of material that is my wheelhouse as a reader and reviewer for whatever reason.
Anyway, this particular short story is about 40 pages in length. As such, it’s a pretty classic length for a short story, and keeps up its plot rather vividly. The plot itself consists of a gang version of a Ponzi scheme. Our hero, a music selling middle-aged small business owner from Bangor who also grows and deals a bit of marijuana on the side, tries to help out a friend who owes a bit of money and then finds himself involved in a larger mess involving a local gang leader, and then ends up doing a favor for said gang leader in order to smooth over some trouble that he had with some of his goons. The story shows itself as greatly self-aware, with humorous jokes about Snow Patrol, a band I happen to like, as well as private investigators of crime fiction fast like the legendary Philip Marlowe. This is a story that is aware of genre and invites the reader to view those genre conventions either faithfully or ironically depending on their tastes and preferences. Like much of contemporary writing, the hero of the story certainly stands apart from society and clearly operates outside of the law without compunction, but the story is compelling enough to draw interest in the larger tale which is foreshadowed throughout.
This is the sort of story that will be particularly appreciated by those who happen to like crime fiction and have either an interest or a knowledge of complicated political context of Northern Ireland. The story has an interesting protagonist and some worthwhile minor characters, and is filled with a great deal of entertaining action as well as an ominous mood of gloomy foreshadowing. Of particular interest is the way that every effort by the protagonist at sorting out the immediate problem only gets him involved deeper and deeper in a problem that defies his comprehension and limited capacity of imagination. He wants to sell some old music and enjoy the company of friends and his girlfriend and daughter and he keeps on having to engage in difficult and dangerous business that anger people further and further up the hierarchy of very bad people in the area. This story even hints that he ended up being in the tabloids, which would have required dealing with very important people in a very flamboyant way, which itself draws immediate interest in seeing how this story turns out. Any yarn which makes you want to read the larger story is definitely worth praising.
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