Liam and Ryan are skipping school. They are fourteen and playing with an air rifle in the fields above some estate near Bradford. It is late in the year, the trees are bare and the wind cold. There are horses in the field they are crossing, a field they are not supposed to be in. There are brambles and a quarry and they have to bury a pigeon that they have just shot – that took two goes to kill because they only injured it first time.
The jacket describes this as a Southern Gothic brought to Yorkshire and that is a fair enough description. The language is sparse – occasionally reaching some kind of Cormac McCarthy heights, “A long silence weighed down in from somewhere far beyond the field and the valley and the city and the horses. It stretched down and grew vast between the two boys for a long moment whilst the horses stood firm against the dark grass.”
The boys speak an authentic dialect, language which is sparse and brittle as the growth around them. Believably Yorkshire but also believably young teenage: “shut up, dickhead“. They are playing at being out in the wilderness, but Liam especially keeps mithering about being hungry or possibly getting wet if the rain sets in.
There is a history and a threat underlying their adventure and on page 78 – just over half way through – Liam asks a question of Ryan that changes our understanding of what they are doing, and why they are doing it here. It is a great pivot in the story.
Soon enough they are looking at death, or at dying: “The two boys were small beneath the dark and endless sky.”
It is a cracking long-evening read: it makes you think of crows and scant hedgerows and that wet black mud that shows between thinly grassed patches of land in winter.
(available from Wrecking Ball Press: https://wreckingballpress.com or their shop in Hull)