Tuesday, 13 September 2016

'A Gap in Society'

The second story in the new Ghosts & Scholars Book of Shadows is by John Howard. And it's another riff on 'Lost Hearts'. What, two in a row? Isn't that asking for trouble? Well, no, because Howard's take on the story couldn't be more different from that of Clive Ward.

Here the point of view is that of a boy living on the margins of contemporary society, in a caravan with his dad. They have neighbours - a Roma father called 'Carol' and his son Boian. The two men are employed by a dodgy local businessman who, we gradually realise, is guilty of more than the usual exploitation of migrant labour. Meanwhile, Boian has made friends with two children, one of them Roma, who haunt the town of Aswarby...

This is not a convential Jamesian pastiche, but instead uses 'Lost Hearts' to make some sound observations n the bigotry and greed that divides modern Britain. The fate of the villain is never really in doubt once the set-up is established, but it's a very well-crafted story and I enjoyed it. Howard strikes the balance between restraint and passion, here, in a way that's at odds with James' style. But, as I said, it's not a pastiche.

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