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The media would sometimes like us to think that crime is a sexy business where no one is really hurt. If a person is ripped off in Hustle its their own greed thats to blame and not the cheeky chappies that do the robbing. There are countless biographies of real criminals that highlight their luxury lifestyles, drug use and how they only hurt their own. However, is this the true impact of crime? Gangs of youths may think its fun to hang around outside drinking and maybe they think they arent causing anyone any real problems, but what about the people that are indoors too scared to go out. As someone who grew up near Liverpool I have seen my fair share of bullies and gangs that make the everyday persons life miserable. Its this reality that made me hate Outlaws by Kevin Sampson, a book that tries to apologise for the shiftless few that ruin a peaceful time for the rest of us.
Its modern day Liverpool and three aging likely lads are getting together to start a score. Now in their 40s they have all moved on in their lives, but get together once in a while for old times sake. Ged is the self delegated leader of the gang as he sets up the jobs and organises people. Moby is more the muscle, a man who likes to drink and sleep around. Finally there is Ratter, a bloke who is doing well in his own rights and begrudges having to take orders off others. Times are changing for the group as events start to unfold that will see them split; who will come out on top in a struggle for power?
There are many issues that I had with this book as to why it is only worth 1 star (and that is a bit generous). Rather than starting with my own personal grievances I will explain the other issues that also make it an abject failure. Firstly, the writing style is awful. The book is told via several characters in first person narrative style. Therefore, you may have a chapter that jumps from inside the heads of three different people 20 or 30 times. As a tool to discover their innermost feelings it works, but due to the chopping and changing every few paragraphs it grates badly.
The internal monologues are not aided by Sampsons inability to create an even vaguely sympathetic character. Ged, Ratter and Moby are all loathsome scumbags who will do anything for an easy ride in life. They disrespect everyone, especially women, and try to make out that they are the good guys. It seems that Sampson has tried to make Ged a more likeable character by making him a fan of vigilante justice. I can understand a person that wants to beat up scallys or rude bus drivers to an extent, but to assume that I will sympathise with them and actually like them is asking far too much. Sampson has assumed that all readers of this book will be right wing, justice seeking, rabid froth monkeys! Maybe the majority are and the book was not aimed at me at all!
A final criticism that can be levied at the book as a whole is its complete lack of real story. Sampson must believe that he has written such interesting characters that we will be willing to invest over 300 pages following their mundane lives. The actual central narrative does not exist as the book creeps forward at an intolerable pace. Add to this the overly sick and disrespectful sex scenes and you already have an awfully written book.
Now over to my personal misgivings with this book and these surround Sampsons apparent support of crime. This book is very similar to the movie The Football Factory that followed a group of hoodlums as they pretended to enjoy football so that they could fight. It was an awful film, as like Outlaws, all the characters were detestable and no one learnt a thing. Its one thing to say that it is ok to be a cheeky chappie, another to suggest that robbing, fighting, cheating and swearing is ok. Sampson has written a thoroughly nasty story about a thoroughly nasty group. Rather than having a moral to the story it seems to me that he supports the characters and thinks that being anti social is a good thing. Its this ignorant attitude towards other people that has always gotton my goat and further ruined this book for me.
Overall, Outlaws is an abomination of a book. It is poorly written with no narrative and a group of characters that will make your blood boil. Add to this Sampsons insistence of apologising for and glamorising the lives of scumbags and you are in for a bad 300+ pages. Even if the characters had been sympathetic the issues with the writing would have made it a 2 star book at best. However, due to Sampsons ignorance and insensitivity, especially to his female characters, I am reluctant even to give this book one star. Please note Mr Sampson that not all men are fight loving, women hating, scumbags. Avoid this book, if you really want to read a book like this try Chopper as at least its funny.
Author: Kevin Sampson
Price: amazon uk - £6.39
play.com - £5.99
In Outlaws, Moby and his brothers-in-arms, Ged and Ratter revel in the glory of being Faces, respected kingpins of the Mersey underworld. As Moby, a fast-living, wisecracking Scouse entrepreneur with a flexible attitude to the law, and a crippling fondness for lap-dancers, says, I do not half mind being a Somebody in Liverpool.But as the season of goodwill approaches, and the need to make fast cash looms like an old enemy, the Outlaws see that their world is changing. A new breed of somebodies is clamouring at the gates of their little kingdom--a growing army of ruthless young wannabes, trigger-happy upstarts for whom words such as Honour and Loyalty are best consigned to the history books. Retirement and respectability suddenly seem like enticing prospects for the Outlaws, but can they get out alive before their own petty rivalries tear them apart? The noble thief is a cliché, and so is the formula of villains killing themselves in their bid to become pillars of the local Golf Club. But Sampson's fourth novel offers a thoroughly fresh take on a timeless story. Outlaws transcends the dreary preoccupations of gangsta fiction through two things: its vividly drawn characters and its ceaselessly witty use of language. Its trio of narrators are not Goodfellas with Brookside accents, but complex men struggling to conquer a thoroughly real world. They do so with a mixture of charm, cunning and unforgivable viciousness--and the result, for the reader, is an exhilarating battle between sympathy and revulsion. Fans of Awaydays and Powder will relish a further excursion into the mysteries of modern-day Merseyside, and everyone looking for a comic, intelligent gangster yarn can stop searching. Ged, Ratter and Moby might be struggling to pull off the Big One, but Kevin Sampson has done it in spades.