Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals

  • cRIMINALS E-coverAuthor: Mark Barry
  • Published: April 2015 by CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
  • Category: Contemporary Drama
  • five-stars

Terry Valentine, ex-football hooligan and aging, small-time hood spends his nights driving beautiful young escort, Chloe, to her appointments in the urban inferno of the big city and the opulent manor houses of the countryside. Despite himself, knowing full well the madness, he falls in love with her. Hard. And so does Hope Calder, impossibly rich COE of Calder Phoenix, a multi-national financial conglomerate. Someone who has everything a woman could possibly want. Money, status power. Everything except love. When Chloe declines her advances, her driver knows that a simple polite refusal isn’t going to be enough. With her boss, the cunning Neville, manipulating the situation to his own ends, and Hope’s small army of corporate shills lurking in the shadows, Chloe finds herself in mortal danger. And only one man can protect her. Terry Valentine. Loser. Jailbird. Junkie.

Terry Valentine, a middle-aged ex con with an unsavoury past, and a less than wholesome present, is reduced to debt collection and working for dodgy businessmen. It’s all just a job to Terry, he thinks nothing of threatening people and carrying out those threats if he has a need to. Up to now his life has been a long list of lost opportunities and chances not taken, there’s nothing left for him.

Or so he thinks. Then fate throws him a curve ball in the shape of gorgeous young lesbian prostitute, Chloe. Terry becomes her driver and minder….and falls in love with her despite the obvious difference in age, sexual preference and his unspoken opposition to her chosen occupation.

I must have still been stunned when I agreed to help. I should have walked, especially in the light of how it all turned out for us. But I accepted her proposition (hailed and damned) without thinking twice and she came over and put her hand on my shoulder saying thank you so much Mr Valentine and I said (you always were a dick) no issues, no problem. Not a bother. Any chance of a coffee….

When one of Chloe’s clients, a wealthy and powerful woman who has a gang of thugs at her disposal, decides she wants Chloe for herself, exclusively and permanently, the situation becomes extremely volatile.  Terry relishes the opportunity to clash with an old enemy, now Chloe’s boss. A reckless, nothing to lose attitude, renders him unable to see how his situation could be any worse, whatever the outcome. He and his friend Pike, who is of the same mindset, take drastic action to rescue Chloe, which results in a spectacularly violent and bloody conflict.

The darker side of humanity and life is portrayed vividly and realistically, and is disturbing yet compelling at the same time. The sleazy world of drugs, dealers and the bleak, harsh reality of wrong paths taken. For all his faults I found myself liking Terry and hoping against hope things would work out for him. 

There are lots of great descriptive passages but I really like this quote..

….perhaps the most cynical, disdainful, disrespectful sentence I have ever heard in my entire life and my hackles are so up they’re ripping the collar of my polo neck….

Mark Barry is very skilled at crafting characters who seem, at first glance, to have little or no redeeming qualities, but are actually much deeper and more complex than they appear initially. Terry, despite the life he’s lived, still has the ability to feel emotions and be moved. He is basically a casualty of the society he was born into, although he does little to try and change his lifestyle, rather tries to recreate ‘the good times’. The story is written from his perspective which gives an understanding of his character and how deeply his confusion of feelings for Chloe, and his dislike of her chosen profession, affect him. Despite the dissimilarities, he and Chloe do develop a bond. But his preoccupation with Chloe probably loses him his last chance of a shot of happiness with old flame, Marge. 

The narrative has a unique literary structure, which took a little while to settle into, but is very effective with brilliantly inventive writing and dialogue.

My thanks to Mark Barry for a copy of the book in return for an honest review.

Book links ~ Amazon US Amazon UK

About the author

MarkBarryMark Barry is a multi-genre writer and novelist. His work includes the minor cult hit Ultra Violence about football hooligans at a small Midlands football club and Carla, a quirky, dark, acclaimed romance with shades of Wuthering Heights.  

He is the co-designer of the innovative Brilliant Books project aimed at engaging the many, many reluctant readers amongst young people.

He has one son, Matt, on the brink of University, with whom he shares a passion for Notts County Football Club. Fast food, comics, music, reading, his friends on the Independent scene, and horse racing keep him interested and he detests the English Premier League, selfish, narcissistic people and bullies of all kinds. 

He is based in Nottingham and Southwell, UK, the scene of most of his fiction.

Author links ~ Website, Twitter

8 thoughts on “Once Upon A Time In The City Of Criminals

  1. Oh, I’m so pleased you liked this! It’s definitely in my top 10 for the year, I think it’s a masterpiece. Oddly, I liked Terry at first and then came to like him less – the fact that we discuss him at all is credit to Mark Barry’s enormous talent 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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