Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Swansea Terminal

If you've read Robert Lewis's excellent The Last Llanelli Train you'll be delighted to learn that his dipsomaniac PI Robin Llywelyn is back in Swansea Terminal.

That's the good news. The bad news is that Llywelyn is now a homeless wreck who knocks about with a heroin addict and a suspected child molester. He also has terminal cancer. If that's not bad enough he owes a favour to a violent local gangster involved in an import/export scam.

It may sound bleak but Swansea Terminal is a superb read with some terrific comic touches by the author. None better than giving your hopelessly alcoholic leading protagonist the Beckettian task of guarding a warehouse full of Harp lager.

For me the best crime fiction always has a strong sense of place and that's certainly true with this novel. How refreshing to see Swansea extensively mapped out and given real geographical substance without any kind of reference to a certain drunken bard.

Not that this book is short of references to the bottle mind. In fact there is an abundance of great observational writing on drinking culture in general; and the psychology of the alcoholic in particular.

Swansea Terminal is no whodunit - from the outset we know exactly who the criminals are. Instead the main interest for the reader is located in Llywelyn's own mental and physical disintegration. He is a detective in extremis imperilled from within. For this reason Swansea Terminal has more in common with the loser fictions of Bukowski and Fante than say, the archetypal detective novels of Raymond Chandler.

Swansea Terminal by Robert Lewis published by Serpent's Tail is on sale now. It's brilliant - you should buy it.