It is January 1973 and the winds of discontent are picking up speed as they gust across the wintry skies of a country in which industrial stoppages and wildcat strikes follow each other on an almost daily basis. Equal pay and equality for women are still pipe-dreams in the second city of the empire, where hospital casualty departments are overflowing, as they welcome the victims of violence and domestic abuse, who, after being patched up, if they are lucky, are spat back out to face a world that is moving at a pace at which only the fittest can hope to survive.
Dumfries is the sixth book in the current series of The Glasgow Chronicles, which has followed a cheeky wee bunch of manky boys from the tenements in 1960’s Toonheid, through adolescence to their coming-of-age as one of Glasgow’s most up-and-coming underworld gangs of the early 70s.
The problem, as usual, is that half the hapless Mankys are currently in jail, with one of them having been sentenced to 14 years for shooting two police officers in the robbery of The Clydeside Bank on Maryhill Road in November 1972…the longest prison sentence ever handed down to a young offender in Scotland.
With Tony, Johnboy, Silent, Snappy and Pat all doing time, the remnants of what was once a thriving money-making outfit, is being managed by Simon Epstein, owner of Carpet Capers Warehouse. When Simon is not plotting the downfall of the legendary Honest John McCaffrey, ‘The Housewife’s Choice,’ and owner of Honest John’s Kitchen Essentials shop by day, but one of the city’s top moneylenders and gangsters by night, Simon is ruthlessly ensuring that The Mankys’ wheel-of-fortune stays firmly on track.
When everything seems to be on a downwards spiral and with no reprieve in sight for those languishing in jail, hope appears on the horizon through the smoke of screeching tyres from a speeding car in Colston, as it ejects the half-dead body of Haufwit Murray, sometime police informer and one of the city’s transient gangland hanger-ons. As he lies close to death in the Intensive Care Unit of Stobhill General Hospital, with little hope of recovery, Haufwit’s dying confession to Inspector Paddy ‘The Stalker’ McPhee triggers a chain reaction that forces Wan-bob Broon, the city’s Mr Big, out into the open, bringing deadly consequences for some and celebration and hope for others.
Dumfries is a dark, often violent, chiller-thriller, that will have followers of The Mankys drawing their curtains and locking their doors, before reaching for the book, as they try to anticipate who will do what to who next. You have been warned.