Ah'm goanae write this opinion the way ah would say it. Ah'll be usin words that ye might no know, but ah've gottae dae that. That's the way Des Dillon writes it, so if ye struggle wi this opinion ye'll struggle wi 'Duck' an a'. But if ye can git yer heid roon this opinion ye'll huv nae bother readin oor Des's best work. If this first paragraph's startit'ae bug ye a'ready then jist forget a' aboot 'Duck' - ah'm sure ye'll no want tae read it. I was of course kidding, I'm not going to do the whole opinion in dialect - I wouldn't be so cruel to the, umm, "nationalistically challenged" among you! The point I was trying to make is, however, a very valid one. In 'Duck', as is the case in all of his work, Des Dillon writes the bulk of the text in dialect. So if you don't think you could put up with that, or if you don't see translating it as an entertaining challenge, then this book probably won't be for you I'm afraid. However, if you do think you could cope with the dialect (or if you have the good fortune to be of the Scottish persuasion - preferably west central!) then this really is an unmissable piece of work. In 'Duck' Des Dillon examines the psyche that drives the typical West Central Scotland hard-man or ned. The 'hero' of the tale is a violent, drunken, drug-taking chancer named Mick Reilly, the type of person you wouldn't really want to associate too closely with - but still loveable in his own way. It's a tale of the underbelly of society, the underbelly of my hometown society to be precise. I know many Mick Reilly's, they are my neighbours, relatives, acquaintances. I'm sure we have all come across them, in different settings, with differing accents, but similar psyche. I know them in passing, but Des Dillon has lived it. He knows the Mick Reilly's of the world from the inside, he knows w
hat makes them tick, he's been there, I know for a fact he has. He'll let you get to know them too. The actual details of the story aren't too important, although there is some very clever writing involved. A brief synopsis: Mick Reilly runs off to Blackpool with the sixteen-year-old babysitter, Carmen. In attempting to escape the drab existence of his surroundings and his marriage he finds himself instead embroiled in a mini version of what he has left behind. An insular society of Scottish Ex-Pats exists in Blackpool (it does in reality!), into which Mick and Carmen are quickly drawn. The friendships and habits which develop, and the relationship between Mick and Carmen are actually far more intense than they were back in Coatbridge - culminating in the two being forced to return home following an, umm, event. Back home he faces up to the demons created in Blackpool, the intense feelings for Carmen (a hellcat if ever you met one!) and the realisation that he has been drawn back by the magnet of a life that he will never escape. He has returned to the same cycle of existence that he tried to leave, only this time he's in even deeper. Will it eventually break him? What is far more important than the plot is the way Dillon probes the reasoning behind the actions of such characters. Why do they drink so much, take drugs, fight? Are they truly capable of love? Do they feel remorse for their actions? Is their path pre-defined, could they escape even if they wanted to, could they change? How do such characters minds actually work. 'Duck' takes us into a world that exists in abundance, it takes us right in. It takes us through the streets, into the homes right inside the head of the petty criminal, the drunk, the wife beater. It's a deep insight into a world that most of us have only looked at from the outside. A world that may just have parallels with our own cosy little worlds. The funny parts are hilarious, the sad
parts tear jerking (I didn't cry though, I'm 'ard). The characters are strong and the plot realistic if not too intense. For me it had that essential quality that all good books have - when I finished a chapter I just *had* to read a bit of the next one. That of course leads to finishing the next chapter and *having* to read a bit of the next one until the book is devoured in one sitting. For an average length book that is a measure of how much I enjoyed it, I didn't, or couldn't, put it down until the end. Oh, yes, one downside, the typography. Des Dillon uses all sorts of fonts and styles to get a point across. The words can be very large or very small in places. They can be spiralling, emboldened, faded - you name it and the print does it. To start with it is OK, and I must say that it adds a bit of interest too, but as time moves on it actually started to annoy me slightly. I don't think it adds much, and actually affects the readability in places. Some of his other work is the same so I take it that was down to the author and not the publisher - so a big GRRR in the direction of Mr Dillon for that. And.. I better mention that there are lots of sweary words in it (the four-letter ones), and shhh, also s-e-x. The profanity isn't gratuitous though, it's just the everyday parlance of the characters, and the sex is just sex, nothing outrageous (pah!). On a personal level a different slant was added to 'Duck' for me because of the fact that it was set in my hometown. I know the places that Dillon describes, I've been in the pubs, walked down the streets, lived it daily. That puts a different slant on things obviously, but a slant that was neither detrimental nor enhancing to the story, just different. Isn't building up character profiles, visualising places, making it all come together, one of the most enjoyable parts of reading? It usually is for me. It's rather difficult to let your imaginatio
n go wild though when the 'real' pictures are already installed firmly in your mind. I enjoyed 'Duck' in a way that non-residents of Coatbridge may not, but that is not to say that non-residents won't enjoy it, they will, not in my way though. They will enjoy it, you will enjoy it, because it's different, it's clever, it's an alternative view of a section of society that most of us have our own perceptions of but no *real* knowledge of. 'Duck' is funny, sad, violent, romantic. 'Duck' is compelling, engaging, original, entertaining. 'Duck' is recommended most strongly by me, what more can I say? Do yourself a favour and read it soon. Publishers Price £6.99 http://www.amazon.co.uk £5.59 http://www.uk.bol.com £6.29 ISBN: 0747267073
Mick Riley, husband, father and unreconstructed nineties man, is suffering from a delusion - he thinks life will improve if he runs off to Blackpool with the babysitter. But fun with the alluring Carmen does not solve the pain in his head.