Friday, September 30, 2011


I finished Allan Guthrie's Slammer last night.

I'm glad I finished it in the evening rather than saving it for the start of my Friday off. To end one day in a contemplative mood feeling sombre is better than to begin the next feeling sombre before even getting out of bed. I think so anyway.

That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy reading Slammer. Far from it. In the usual books I read, a crime is committed at the start and is solved at the end by a crumpled hero and that's it; the world is put to rights again and we can all rest easy. I am almost complacent as I switch off the light, the next book already lined up, the one just read not dwelling long enough in the mind to cause a problem.

Mr. Guthrie doesn't do flowery stories about crime, featuring characters with straightforward lives touched by misfortune. There are no 'goodies' or 'baddies'. Slammer is the third of his books I have read. With this, like the others, I felt uncomfortable when I finished reading, once again shown the frailties of human nature. Nick Glass is introduced to us as a nervous, young man with a family to provide for - something he did not choose but made the best of - which is why he became a prison warden. Like many of us, he turns up at work each day and goes through the motions until it's time to return home, only to repeat the same routine again the next day.

I don't think I liked poor Nick much even before his troubles began. He doesn't get any more appealing as the book goes on but I was dragged along through the shadows, until it was too late; there was no escape. I watched with dismay wondering how things could get so out of control. Nick was conquered by his demons and so was I, the reader, in a way. It was with grisly fascination that I followed Nick along his path to self destruction.

It's a very sad, disturbing book. It demonstrates how easy it is to be led astray. It makes you wonder if we really aren't all creatures of circumstance. Life isn't meant to be predetermined. We have choice, don't we?

Read this book, as unsettling as it is, it's a great read. Don't expect a happy ending though.