JT is on the run ‘All Through the Night‘ and there are a lot of long tough nights in this excellent follow-up to Heartman by M P Wright.
First, my great thanks to Laura at Black & White for sending me this review copy and introducing me to JT Ellington and of course M P Wright (MPW).
As soon as I received All Through The Night (ATTN) and realised it was a follow-on I ordered Heartman from that well know online bookstore.
I read most of Heartman on holiday in a sunny and warm climate – not sadly Barbados from where JT Ellington originates in the 1960’s.
He comes to England and Bristol at the height of endemic racism where, as is really well described by MPW, JT can’t enter some bars or pubs without getting looks from the indigenous population because of his colour.
Let me point out before I go too far in this blog that Heartman and ATTN are readable as standalone novels but actually part of a planned trilogy. You don’t have to read them in order but I am a big advocate of reading books in order, not publication chronology but storyline timeline as I love to know the back-story. If you don’t read Heartman first enough of JT’s back-story is explained to not spoil the main plot but it does give away some of the outcomes of Heartman; I will let you decide how you approach this challenge.
I started reading ATTN in the same warm climate, then finished it just this weekend gone in the comfort of my own home in the warmer than I left for holiday south coast of England, but still cold compared to Barbados.
The Book of the Blog
ATTN starts with a prologue in US AirForce transport plane where a suspicious cargo is being transported which ends with two unexpected happenings.
We then switch to Bristol when JT is now an established ‘Enquiry Agent’ doing those things people don’t want the police involved in and naturally he accepts all kinds of work to keep the wolves from the door; in fact, he probably gets a lot of his work from the black community so is surprised when a white female arrives in his office with a lot of money and asks him to find a missing black doctor of dubious morals. He has stolen from her employers and wants JT to ask the doctor ‘for the truth.’ The plot now opens up into the need for JT to go on the run with what he finds. The story takes him away from Bristol and as he moves around he leaves a wake of violence amongst those close to him and those who help him along the way.
ATTN isn’t the typical book I read, usually, I read police procedurals when I’m reading crime. This is a Chandler type novel; I believe ATTN has also been compared to ‘The Thirty-Nine Steps’ which gives you an example of the pace of the narrative. It’s written from JT’s perspective – all through the book – you are dragged along with him in cars, caves, mine shafts and nighttime chases to evade those chasing him.
I have to admit that I had to put ATTN down at some points because the tension in the plot as he races around trying to evade the bad guys and keep them from the Truth was sometimes too much for my blood pressure. I think this boils down very simply to the strength of the narrative – it makes you feel as though you’re there with JT and under the same threat as he is.
I also like the feeling of menace, isolation, and separation in ATTN (and Heartman.) This is also brought about by the strength of the narrative, the attention to detail and also because of the decade in which they are set – there are no mobile phones, no fax machines, no internet, the technology isn’t there although JT and his cousin do get to use an ‘old fashioned’ cassette recorder. Simply finding a telephone and using it can sometimes lead you into unexpected danger.
I can’t wait for the next one The Reckless Coffins I think it’s called which MPW is writing as a write and as with all best-laid plans, there will be a fourth instalment The Rivers of Blood – taking a leaf out of the style of the late lamented Douglas Adams, perhaps?
I love ‘JT’ Ellington as a character – another human being with baggage, a damaged soul with no reason to do what he does but he can’t see wrong being done to people and wants to do the right thing. He is another character that has become part of my psyche.
I highly recommend ATTN to anyone that loves a gritty and bloody, no holds barred novel; a novel for anyone who isn’t squeamish – this is not for the faint-hearted – and despite the trail of destruction ATTN does have a happy ending!
We all love those.
Post script …. I’ve discovered some additional ‘JT’ reading since publication how remiss of me but here they are ….