Free Form - Jack Dickson

Ladymol's review:††† †††††††††††

Word of warning: do not read the back cover of this book until youíre finished. It gives the entire plot away.† And youíll want to come to this raw, as I did. Itís well worth it.

Jas is a Glasgow cop, tough as they come. Heís gay, but this is a part of his life kept separate from that of being a cop. He lives for his work and for his lover, Leigh. These two elements give him balance, one bringing him the hard, but satisfying life as a Detective Sergeant, the other giving him the release from the pressures of the job in a deeply satisfying relationship.

One day, however, his worlds collide.

This novel has an incredibly authentic voice. Itís gritty, unrelenting and moves with an incredible pace. I was pretty impressed that I didnít see the twists and turns coming.

Jas is an extremely likable guy, despite being the antitheses of a hero. Heís a deeply troubled man, evidenced in the domination he likes to practise over (the willing) Leigh. But then how can you not be deeply troubled in a world where, when you scratch the surface, the good are actually evil, but those that are supposed to be bad can have hearts of gold, and everyone is out to condemn you for crimes you havenít committed, but cover up for those you have!

I think some people might find some of the scenes in the book disturbing. Weíre talking of a world of crime: razor blades and baseball bats often used instead of words.† The sex is graphic, but very well written and in context and didnít come over as porn in any way.

The book gives a hugely unflattering view of the police force. Homophobia hardly describes it. But itís interesting to see this admitted in black and white and a useful reminder that we arenít living the tolerant society some of these gay novels weíve been reading would have us think.

I couldnít put it down and Iím eagerly awaiting the sequel.

Cerisaye's Review:

I havenít been so wrong-footed by a book for a long time.† You know how it is, youíve seen/read so many thrillers you can practically write the story.† Well, not this novel.† The plot has more twists than a corkscrew.† I worked out a few; certainly not the important ones.† Yet itís so well crafted when you know how it ends you canít believe you didnít guess before.

James Anderson, known as Jas, is a hard-bitten Glasgow policeman.† Itís a running joke heís Taggart, except better looking, considerably younger and a lot taller.† This is gritty, grimy Glasgow- No Mean City not City of Culture.† Itís a city of hard men and tough cops.† A place of great contrasts: desirable West End sandstone houses for the affluent, and damp, dismal tower blocks crumbling to ruin for the underclass.†

Jas is a working class boy-made-good.† He reacts with shocking violence to the aftermath of a sex attack against a 12 year old boy, beating one of the perpetrators, Jimmy Mygo, to a bloody pulp.† Itís a disturbing scene, graphically violent, stark and raw.† Jas is suspended for this assault on the low-life whoís destroyed the life of a child, but he doesnít care.† This is personal.† Jas has a secret: heís gay, living quietly with a beautiful young lover, Leigh.

Jas is a troubled man, his abbreviated name a clue- a man with no middle.† Unable to come out at work, due to institutionalised police homophobia thatís sickening to read, heís struggling to maintain control.† Jas canít help it.† Repression of emotion and sexuality is part of the hard man culture Jas grew up with.† Itís no coincidence heís called ĎBig Maní by friends like Marie, prostitute and former snout.† Marieís scars are visible.† Jas carries his inside.† He has a brother, Dougie, whoís so homophobic he wouldnít share his room, and turns an innocent wrestling game with his 5 year-old son into something perverted.† Does he punch Jas rather than confront his own sexuality?† A police shrink gets nowhere with Jas.† Men like him just donít talk about their feelings. The one area of life Jas commands is his private world, at home behind closed doors with Leigh.

I was drawn to the moral ambiguity of the novel and its antihero.† Jas is quick to anger, and, like many Glaswegian males of his background, violence is his answer to every difficult situation.† In one disturbing scene Jas picks up a boy in a London bar and comes close to rape..† The writer uses expectations and assumptions to make us think about characters and their motivations. Can we ever truly know anyone?† Although a crime novel, gay themes weave seamlessly into the narrative.† Jas is man then cop, living and loving in a hostile environment.† When he opens his body for Leigh, itís moving, and very sexy.† The end of isolation and denial?

Itís a dark, angsty thriller, with searingly erotic passages of hard male sex thatíll have you begging for more.† Good to see writing thatís sexually explicit but more than porn.† A word of warning, the sex is heavy on violence and sadomasochism. The horrific details of the boyís gang-rape inform the rest of the story.† What was done against his will isnít too far removed from the SM sex Game Jas and Leigh play to prop up Jasí divided existence.†

I got so absorbed in the story I shut myself away for an afternoon to read it all.† I live near Glasgow, so local colour was an added bonus. Sense of place definitely is a strong point of the novel.† Dialogue is in dialect, but itís not difficult, nothing like Irvine Welsh.† Itís a dark tale, the first in a series.† Not many books feature attractive Scottish men, juicy plot and good sex scenes.† Highly recommended.†

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