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"Christ, what's she doing there? Why's she no at work?" I suppose I became hooked on Laura Hird as soon as I read those words a few months ago in her debut novel. Still a relatively new author, Hird comes across as the fiery Scot, complete with passion, and a take- no-hostage bolshiness to her material. In this collection of short stories, printed before her first acclaimed novel, 'Born Free', Hird deals with subject matter as diverse as paedophilia, necrophilia and daytime spooks. She doesn't bother with graphic details or waste time on characterisation, that's left for the reader. What she does do is smashes into a situation / story mid-flow, provides a glimpse, charges out again and leaves the reader breathless. Her writing is fast and furious but complete and aware. Pigeon-holed with the likes of Irvine Welsh (Ecstasy, Glue), Hird's writing is distinctive. Echoes of Welsh are there but there's no mistaking the two authors. Hird brings in a sense of tenderness mixed with caustic dialogue that Welsh simply doesn't have. Reading Hird is like a steaming knife cutting through ice-cream: straight to the centre, to the crux, leaving nothing hidden. She's not afraid to deal with taboo subjects either and avoids euphemisms, instead, uses a sledgehammer wrapped in cotton wool to get to the heart of things. No nonsense, no prevarication, just an honest here-it-is-do-with-it-what-you-will approach to some of today's societal problems - that's Hird style. But don't become complacent, she has other tricks up her sleeves to get her point across. Perhaps the best weapon from her arsenal is humour, sometimes black, others ironical. Maybe this talent was best used in 'Born Free' by which time it had been honed a little more. But nevertheless, the embryonic stages can still be found here. Granted it is a little more tentative but when she applies it, Wow! you'll know about
it! Hird has got the imagination that is lacking in a lot of contemporary authors. She is fresh, confrontational and comes across as having dished out a Kirby Kiss or two in her time; but conversely she has a tenderness of perception that softens the edges, that guides and protects the wary reader as they travel through her mind. The content of this offering may not be to everyone's taste or stomach but we should be so very proud of her; she's our very own home-grown star that oozes understanding, awareness and a fertility of mind that the literary world had been so sadly lacking for too long. Hird is here to redress that balance. I, for one, am so very, very glad of that. Quotes: "Roars like a lion on the printed page" ID Magazine "Tied together with cutting insight and sharp style, making Nail bite, scratch and chew. Librarians should file with care" The Face "Confirms the flowering of a wonderfully versatile imagination on the literary horizon. . .The keynotes here are wit and energy: sharp and steady - right on the Nail" Independent on Sunday Paperbacks Nail and other stories: £6.99 (ISBN 0 86241 850) Debut Novel: Born Free £6.99 Albion Rovers (collection): £6.99
In this collection of short stories: a ten-year-old boy uses Edinburgh buses to escape from his dysfunctional mother and her boyfriend; a retarded youth tries to join a female gang; a dead lesbian lover can't let go; and a British soldier loses the plot.