I sat down with Mr Seth Harwood over the weekend for a great chat about his career and his latest book, YOUNG JUNIUS. We recorded the whole thing, so you'll get to hear it soon in the DSD podcast. I prepared for the chat by reading back through the book, and It reminded me that I never put up a full review.
YOUNG JUNIUS delves into the backstory of a character from Harwood's first book, JACK WAKES UP, but don't think of it simply as a prequel. It stands on its own as a confident, muscular and tightly plotted story.
the book rests on the broad shoulders of Junius, caught with one foot in childhood and the other in a turf war. When his brother is gunned down he sets out to find out who owes him blood. But don't be fooled, there may be a body and a murder investigation, but this is no by-the-numbers whodunit. This is about life on the street, where everything is 'part of the game' and everyone's playing an angle.
Don't tell anyone, but the book is really more of an exploration on the escalation of violence, and of the endless cycle that takes in and spits out the people of the Rindge towers. Everything and nothing happens for a reason here, and the murder mystery element is used in a tasty and subversive way to pull us into the deeper issues at play.
Dont let all my fancy talk of "deeper issues," scare you away, though. If what you're looking for is good dialogue, strong characters and a hell of a lot of shooting, then Harwood's got you covered there, too. There are some very confidently handled set pieces, and an extremely tense finale that's as bold and bloody as a Peckinpah western.
Even as the plot hurtles along at breakneck speed, Harwood knows that the trick to making this whole thing work is to take the time to look left and right, to let the reader see the small details and character moments that make a story tick. Whether it's Junius' first experience of holding a gun, or the drug dealer who's willing to gun down anyone in his path, but who wants to keep his dog out of harms way. We also get some interesting female characters, which I still feel is always worth pointing out in a crime novel, who are far more than the token ass kicking cut-out's that we're often given as interesting.
The projects themselves take on life and character in the book, as we get to see all the different sides in the turf war. The story never stops to tell us who is right or wrong, and never talks down to us by moralising on the issues at hand.
If the comparisons to Richard Price's work seem obvious, they're meant as high praise. YOUNG JUNIUS is infused with the same spirit as CLOCKERS and LUSH LIFE, but it moves to a pace and a rhythm all of it's own, never losing sight of the ending that the characters are hurtling towards, and never giving them a way out of the mess.
If you've read JACK WAKES UP, then you already know about Harwood's style and swagger. It's taken up a notch here as a very strong next step in his writing. If you haven't ready any of his work yet, then there's nothing to lose by diving straight in here with YOUNG JUNIUS.
As I said right at the start, you'll be able to hear us talk about the book soon in the podcast. Why not pick up a copy so that you're ready for the discussion? We'll give you sone time to read it.