Friday 24 November 2023

Review by Gus Gresham of "The Mad Road" by Laurie Cusack

As reviewer Alexandros Plasatis says on the back cover, "The Mad Road is a hooligan of a book.” It’s easy to see why as you dive headlong into these riveting, gutsy tales. If you like your fiction cosy and fluffy and all wrapped up with a pink bow, stay clear!

In the opening story, "The Bottle and the Trowel," a man walks out along a soggy rotten board on a scaffold, falls to his near-doom and ends up on life support. "You’ve got to hear this, Gerry!" his friend says at the bedside as he begins to narrate the harrowing circumstances that plague their lives. And this story could be a metaphor for the whole collection. Reading these stories feels like walking along a dodgy scaffold, hoping that the next step you take won’t send you plummeting to the ground where unknown horrors await.

"A Doc Marten boot met the crack of Desmond O’Hara’s arse" is the opening line to "Ghost Estate" in which our anti-hero faces retribution for his exploitative dealings during the years of the Celtic Tiger economy. What will become of him? 

Whether the stories are set in Ireland itself or amid London Irish communities, Cusack serves up a smorgasbord of characters who are as contrary as the day is long. In The Mad Road, we get an up-close-and-intimate perspective on these fallible lives. Lovable smooth-tongued travellers; a young man new to London whose rites of passage bring him face to face with the menacing Zen-like character known as "The Bear"; a woman on the edge making a passionate stand against social injustice; a father who will give anything to get his girl through dancing school.

What will become of any of them? As Oscar Wilde once said, "Work is the curse of the drinking classes." So if you like your fiction gritty, turbulent and off-the-leash, this is the book for you. It has heart, it has soul, it has guts. It will mess with your head.

One thing’s for sure, I’ll probably never be able to look at a building site or a coin-operated laundrette in quite the same way again.

About the Reviewer
Gus Gresham has a Master’s degree in Creative Writing (NTU) and has worked variously as a mechanical engineer, construction worker, fruit picker, community activist for Greenpeace, writer, English tutor, audio-book producer, medical-scenario simulator and facilitator, and building surveyor. He’s had short stories published in literary magazines including Brittle Star and Under the Radar, and his most recent novel, Kyiv Trance – a dark, twisty love story and crime thriller – is available on Amazon. You can read more about Kyiv Trance on Creative Writing at Leicester here

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