Billy And The Devil – Dean Lilleyman

There are lots of chapters in Billy’s life. They come alive in fragments. Stories by siblings, friends, lovers and abusers. They are his memories and they are others memories. Everyone getting a turn to pop a piece of the jigsaw that may make us all understand why Billy is Billy.  A trouble magnet with a penchant for mucking about. He narrates without knowing, but knows enough to tell all. His voice changing with the years. Like a twisted Adrian Mole. There are blackouts and there are times where he wished he was. We watch him grow up, innocent, and very much loved except Billy doesn’t know it. Typical lad, he can be thick as two planks at times. But memory is a funny thing and one man’s food is another man’s poison. For Billy, alcohol is the hemlock, the key to kill his soul.

CUuNIIkUcAAHmz8Billy grew up in a time of unplanned pregnancies, stigma and a sanctimonious, unforgiving religion. Admission is the first step to absolution, but everyone is too afraid to admit their sins, their crimes, for fear of being made an outcast. A madness of guilt, decades of remorse. Billy is surrounded by strong women. They and a cruel society shape him. In England, the pub is Billy’s church. Blame and a chain of silence, of not knowing what to say, to destroy demons before they take over is what Billy lacks. His psalms are made flesh. The drink oils his demons, it latches onto that part of himself that doesn’t give a fuck, that cannot see consequence. Unbroken cycles, a run of bad luck or simply surviving. He was showing tell tale signs of  chronic alcoholism at school. Hiding the evidence, lying, loss of control, a trail of hurt. Busy with his cocktails at a young age, he was given a choice, and Billy chose the one that was easy. The one that gave him instant relief. From what? That is what Billy needs to find out, and sometimes one just cant find the answer. Deep down everyone could see the best Billy, the questioning billy, the inquisitive, he wanted answers, but in doing so that opens a whole new nest of unbelievable behaviour. Nurture, nature, or both. A life of sorry is a traumatic existence.

Billy has a taste for music, as the pages pass, my compassion grows in paper leaves. The writing and story just gets more intense. I cried and winced, smiled in the undertow. Billy has a wonderful humour to squirm in. An extreme cathartic pleasure. He is the ultimate underdog, I so want Billy to win. The reader is spared no secrets, it is all laid out for us to make our own judgement. His life forever a dichotomy of extremes and as bitter as his pint. Chapters move back and forth, words tick the clock of memories that weave in and out. Billy’s fate is in his hands. Regrets and luck is in the eye of the beholder.

 

Billy And The Devil is my pick of the year.

visit Dean Lilleyman’s brilliant website for links to purchase

published by Urbane Publications

 

 

 

Book Review Dean Lilleyman

Joseph Ridgwell – Burrito Deluxe

There is no better way to escape, than with characters who want to escape. By the time I’d snorted through the pages here I’d almost booked the tickets. Mexico!  Magarita’s salty rim beckoned, daquiris extra icy and enough Dos Equis to kill a donkey.

Easing us through the drug hazed bacchanalia of Joseph Ridgwell’s Burrito Deluxe is a simple back story which anchors all his motives. There’s Stupid the talking cat, crazy friends, love to end and his even crazier partner in all things dodgy, Ronnie. Life for him and Joe has reached that point of no return. Fed up with the fucked up and monotonous trap of life in the city, they need out and will do all they can to achieve it. Though what answers lie in the “thin embroidery of foam cascading across our feet as we walked across dark sand”. Will they find the ‘Lost Elation’, that feeling better than any drug on the planet.

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cover art by Jose Arroyo

The lines blur between reality and fiction. As a writer, this is what Joseph Ridgwell does so well. Exaggeration, so far fetched it becomes real. Like a twisted autobiography, Joe narrates the best bits of his adventures and tells them with truth, lies and style. The humour in the face of drama is pure delight. No bodily function is left ignored. It’s also filled with enough shags and rhyming slang to keep you satiated, to keep it real, to keep it London. Exotic to me but old grass is greener and wins every time and an iguana awaits.

I made so many expressions reading this book that I could’ve won a gurning competition. Strangers wanted to know what I was reading  “Burrito Deluxe of course” Joseph Ridgwell is the new beat in this beaten generation. Ronnie and Joe my favourite freaks. I read some of the funniest breakups, stuff ups and heartfelt conversations. The craziest with the man with the Bowiesque eyes. His banter, questionable morals and energy is infectious. Ronnie is a gangster super hero, 007 with a joint. Joe, his grasshopper. Whenever Ronnie turns up, it’s white knuckle time, adrenalin inking through every chapter. Their adventures beat faster than a paranoid heart.

This is what travel books should be like. These are the adventures we all should seek, maybe not exactly like Joe’s cause at times the word ‘nasty’ would flash in bright lights as I swung smirking in my imaginary hammock. As an adventure dream guide it is perfect. Super smart dialogue, effortless and mucho romantic. Lord Byron’s gentle winds, climes and skies loom close by the sun kissed bare and salty skin of the people Joe meets. This story made me smile large through the sheer cockiness of it’s protagonist, and his infectious lust for life. Joseph is an enigma, his novel’s soundtrack a beautiful timeless cheesy groove with perfect balance. How well do you really know your friends? How far do you follow? Is the grass really greener? Their Carlos Casteneda brush with psychedelics reveals almost a supernatural allure, an awakening. Their altered states on the beach of the dead is brilliant, with it’s rolling horses, the force of nature, the shifting sands, questioning the minuscule part in existence we play.

Technology fatigue is a real syndrome, we should do more sitting back in a breeze and read books like these then stare into screens distracted by facebook notifications. Get your copy here and read more about Joseph Ridgwell via his blog

Book Review Joseph Ridgwell