Skid by Roland Watson-Grant

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Skid by Roland Watson-Grant

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The witty, touching and warming sequel to the marvellously original Sketcher hits the high notes again. Those remaining in the Beaumont family, driven out of the Louisiana swamps, try to make it in the city; just as dangerously mysterious mainly because the rules have changed.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 300 Date: June 2014
Publisher: Alma Books
ISBN: 978-1846883194

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Things have changed in the Beaumont household since they lived in the Louisiana swampland. Skid (or Terence when he's bad), his mother Valerie and brother Frico have moved to an apartment in the city. The two older brothers have left home and the lads' father is still missing, presumed dead, after he disappeared beneath the alligator-filled water back home. The city is a weird place for our hero as he becomes 16. It's just as dangerous as the swamp ever was as gangs that roam the streets seeking outsiders like Skid. Skid is realising that girls can be a problem too, although neighbourly Claire may be a bit different. She worries about him though; it seems that Skid isn't so much a name as a curse.

Roland Watson-Grant is an advertising creative director by day, weaving dreams and ideas. This comes in handy for his alter-ego: writer and weaver of stories. It all started when the beautifully quirky Sketcher was upgraded from award nominated short story to novel. Now we fans have been given what we asked for after meeting the Beaumont family for that first time – a sequel. (It works as a standalone by the way, but you'd miss so, so much if you read it in isolation.)

The voice throughout is still the unmistakable Skid, older and perhaps a little wiser but with a new status of fish out of water. He knew his way around the bayou but this new life in the city is as strange a territory as the adulthood of which he's on the threshold.

Having driven his girlfriend of the first book into a nunnery (or so say the less kind around him) he's single and living in hope. However danger still lurks and not all of it locally made. He's haunted by his nemeses from the swamp and one of them is a lot closer to the family than he would wish! There's also the reappearance of the wonderfully eccentric Ma Campbell who has brought Pa Campbell with her. (And why wouldn't she?)

It may be written in Skid's wonderful, totally understandable, dialect once again but there are touches of Roland's lexicographic wizardry throughout. Skid makes an elicit visit back to their old house behind God's back and, at one point, his mother suggests that he may be sleeping on a layer of hard work and worries; descriptive, original and adding a charming unconventionality that delivers more than at first sight.

Although not a fantasy book as such, Roland seasons it with a dash of folkloric eeriness. Last time the mystery was shaped around Frico's drawing abilities possibly being imbued with something odd. This time the uncertainty comes from wishing.

Do Skid's thoughts have an effect on events? We are left to decide for ourselves but this crafted whimsy also has real-world tie-ins. Younger teenagers do feel the centre of the universe and I remember wondering whether my thoughts were accidentally potent (they aren't!) but without the 'hoodoo' connection. This isn't all that rings true in teenage experience. Skid has an alien accent and is trying to make it in an alien environment; an allegory for that migration from the childish to the grown-up. In fact this is the sort of novel that those aged 16 and up will enjoy and identify with.

There's giggles, sadness, moments of peril and surprises that make young Terence a captivating companion. As for that final surprise, I had been anticipating it for the entire novel but Roland's ultimate timing is perfect. It makes an excellent cliff hanger for our next instalment.

Oh yes, these Characters (note the capital 'c') have another outing in the pipeline, ensuring we don't need to beg this time, although I believe we would if we had to!

(Thanks to the good folks at Alma for providing us with a copy for review.)

Further Reading: Do read Sketcher if you haven't caught up with it yet. If you have and would like to read more of the mysterious world lurking beneath the surface of the southern states, try the very eerie Eden Moore – Four and Twenty Blackbirds by Cherie Priest.

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