'There are some concepts that are alien to the Glaswegian mind. Salad. Dentistry. Forgiveness.'
Glasgow in the 1950's - not somewhere you'd choose to be unless you were born to it. Yet Lennox, a private investigator of Canadian descent, finds it oddly congenial. Lennox is a man balanced between the law and those who break it - a dangerous place where only the toughest and most ruthless survive.
THE LONG GLASGOW KISS is the second book from Craig Russell featuring Lennox, Canadian raised, returned soldier, Private Investigator who dances a fine line between the law and the gangsters. Glasgow in the 1950's is controlled by the Three Kings, dangerous men who have divided up the spoils of organised crime and negotiated a sort of working relationship. It goes without saying that they don't trust each other, and Lennox often finds himself caught up in the middle. But Lennox is one of those lone-wolf; act first, think later; never take a step backwards sort of characters - somehow perfect for post-war, gloomy and complicated Glasgow.
Of course there's lots of lone wolf style characters in crime fiction and it's hard to avoid stereotypes, although Lennox does add his own particular flavour to things. A little unlucky in love, it's more that he doesn't really try that hard - rather than constantly being used and abused. Okay, so when he's deep in act first, think later mode he's very inclined to get beaten up - and to hand out a few thumpings of his own. Often he's dancing that fine line between the law enforcers and the law forcers, but with Lennox is less Quick Step and more The Stomp. And he does have a tendency to bite off a bit more than he can chew - in this case too many simultaneous investigations. He's been hired to look for a missing brother, heavied into working out what's going on with a prominent boxer and sort of "johnny on the spotted" into searching for the killer of Jimmy MacFarlane - father of his current, well girlfriend's probably too strong a word for the sort of relationship they have.
In order to pull off this workload Lennox uses an interesting combination of help on the side from all sides, a bit of adroit juggling of time and focus, a bit of luck, and a lot of his favourite method of investigation - the "poke something with a very big stick" and see what bites back method. And that's part of the reason why I really like these Lennox books. There's an absolute honesty to the way that Lennox works - part who you know / part what you know / part knowing who knows what you don't know / part who you can annoy until they spit the dummy and reveal more than they intended. He works the streets, the people, his friends and his foes with adroitness, but at the same time there's a basic decency and loyalty about the man that really fits not just his persona but the time and place. A fundamental loyalty that sits well on the shoulders of a man with a past, who is struggling a lot with what his future will be.
Because of the timeframe of the books you can forget computers and mobile phones. We're talking shoe leather and phone boxes. Because of the location we're talking dark, and gloomy. Glasgow is still very much in the thrall of the Second World War, partially because so many of its denizens are also still struggling with the reality of war, and the deprivations afterwards. We are also given a glimpse into a future of drugs and international influences which don't bode well for anyone. Now I'm waiting patiently for the next book because you just can't help wondering what's going to happen to the kingdom of the Three Kings, and where Lennox goes from here.
LENNOX - Craig Russell
Private investigator Lennox stands somewhere between legal and illegal, honour and greed, crims and cops. The one clear thing about Lennox is his certainty that only the toughest and most ruthless survive in his home town of Glasgow.
Craig Russell is best known for his series of novels featuring Hamburg based detective Jan Fabel, but LENNOX is (it is reported) the first in a series of neo-noir styled novels, this one set in Glasgow, post World War II. Lennox is a Canadian ex-soldier who bears the psychological and physical scars of a brutal war, left with a skill set that makes him an ideal player in post-war, corrupt, grimy, dirty, mucky, violent Glasgow. Organised crime is establishing itself and at the centre of machinations are identical twins, Tam and Frankie McGahern. When Tam is murdered Lennox is "hired" by Frankie to find his killer. Now Tam, it seems, was the brains of the twins operation, and Frankie mostly muscle, as Lennox finds when he tries to sidestep Frankie's request. But when Frankie quickly turns up dead himself, and Lennox finds himself in the frame for his murder, he doesn't have much choice but to solve the mystery of both murders himself.
Lennox is one of those lone-wolf, fixer, cynical, wisecracking, dark and troubled traditional noir characters. Not a cliché however, he sits within the timeframe of 1950's Glasgow and the place and circumstances. Damaged by a brutal war, Lennox, and Glasgow, the crime figures, the cops, everyone fits within the expectations of time and place. Interestingly enough I was a little into the novel before I sorted out the timeframe, the era and the resulting factors that were driving the characters - which was actually a good thing. There is a real feeling of reality and actuality about the book, that make the wise-cracks, the dangerous (but a little thick) men, the dangerous (not necessarily thick) women, all delivered with a Glasgow-Scottish tweak just fit together very seamlessly.
The best part of LENNOX is undoubtedly the great story-telling, the tale is told in the first person - Lennox is hard-bitten, driven, yet funny and honourable. The sense of place, the gloom and the ever-present outfall from a brutal war is palpable. The only downside of the book that remained is that I didn't find anything in it particularly memorable - it hasn't really stayed with me since completing reading it. But I did enjoy the actual reading of it immensely.