Friday, July 8, 2011


Doug Johnstone

Faber and Faber, 2011

Four thirty-something-year-old friends go to spend the weekend at a remote Scottish island Islay. Adam is obsessed with whiskey snobish loser who wants to show the rest of them the place, which produces the best whiskey in Scotland and the friends all together can taste all whiskeys. However, the purpose of the trip for Adam is not only fun, he also wants to ask his friend Roddy to loan him million pounds to buy a deserted place on Islay to start there the manufacture of whiskey. At the bar four friends meet with Molly and her sister Ash. Molly is a guide there and remembers Adam from his previous visits to the island. Adam would not mind to start a relationship with Molly, but there is one problem - Molly's ex-husband, a psychopath and at the same time policeman Joe, who makes chaos on the island. When Roddy refuses to invest money in Adam’s idea - «Adam, you're one of life's losers, you always have been and you always will be. You're almost forty and still working in a shop, for fuck's sake. You've spent your whole life being petrified of taking a chance on anytning. That doesn't necessarily makes you a bad person, but it sure as shit doesn't make you the kind of person who runs a successful business either. You never take risks, it's that simple, so you'll always be one of the also-rans. You're a beta male through and through», - Adam gets mad and starts to insult Roddy in the car. Adam beats Roddy, and the latter loses control and crashes the car into a ditch. And this accident is only the beginning of the horrors that four friends and Molly will see.

Do not be confused by such a beginning, in which the original part appears only the presence of whiskey, but otherwise - like a mix of two dozen not the best horror movies. This book is the highest grade. It really is a horror without supernatural elements, and brilliant novel of black humor, and an essay on "how I spent the autumn", and 290-page sobering. «Smokeheads» has all the qualities of a good bottle of whiskey. This bottle hits you over the head so that long you can not recover, but at the same time, this bottle is not an empty container, within the novel - burning moisture. Johnston did not write a regular cliched novel with psycho cops, cocaine sniffing, burning people alive, but a book about the people on the edge, about that hangover happens not only from whiskey, that some events in life will not be able to forget, even get drunk in trash. For the loser Adam this trip to the island could become a turning point in his life. It has become to him but not as the way as he expected it. Roddy is more flippant, he is thinking less and doing more. Th most courageous there is Molly, it’s stranger, that Johnston describes her very sparingly, not letting even suggest what she experienced after what had happened.

«Smokeheads» is certainly a page-turner with the brilliant dialogues. Reducing the description to a minimum, Johnston practically with dialogues only reveals the characters. Gallons of black humor help to move rushing story. Convulsive laughing and absorbing «Smokeheads» to the bottom, to the end of the novel you at the same time are getting drunk from pleasure and sobering from what’s happening in the book.

It is recommended to drink this novel at one sitting.

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