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.
Billy 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