In 1965, five teenaged friends from Glasgow ran away to London with dreams of making it big in the music business. They soon discovered that the streets were paved with cold and mould rather than gold but they still had the adventure - and misadventure - of a lifetime. Now, fifty years on, with one of them at death's door, they need to reconvene and go back to their past haunts to put an end to some mysterious unfinished business that only one of them knows about.
The book is masterfully written with the old-timers still reflecting the Jack-the-lads that they were half a century ago. Although their geriatric road trip to The Big Smoke is unlikely in places, the storytelling is lighthearted and I couldn't help but chuckle at their mischievous if unrealistic exploits. Once they arrive, the narrative turns darker with ghosts and demons of the past coming back to haunt them.
It's a cautionary tale of youthful dreams and carefree exuberance leading to disaster and the fact that some of the characters learn the outcome of the story at the same as the reader gives it even more pathos and impact. I could really get a feel for the Swinging Sixties, with the innocent, wide-eyed boys discovering everything, both positive and negative, that the cosmopolitan capital had to offer - from cheeky cameos of John Lennon and Bob Dylan to drugs, closet homosexuality, teenage pregnancy and experimental psychiatric care, it's all there.
It's also a look at the friendship of youth and old age, as well as family ties, and the past catching up with you. It's the roadtrip of a lifetime, twice over and fifty years apart, one offering a hopeful new beginning and the other a hopeless end, finally closing the circle and putting demons to rest.
It's an original idea with engaging characters that kept me turning the pages, eager to delve deeper into the story. At first, the old men reminded of the gentle, past-it buffoons of New Tricks and the revisiting of their past also made me think of Cold Case, so I think this would be ideal for an adaptation on film or TV.
star rating : 4/5
RRP : £7.99
Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.