Today’s team review is from Robbie, she blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/
Robbie has been reading Burntbridge Boys by John. F. Leonard
I enjoy the way John Leonard writes. He uses short, sharp sentence that perfectly suit the length of his novella’s and their dark and terse story lines. The introductory paragraphs into this author’s books have a way of immediately pulling the reader into the story and setting the scene very efficiently.
The opening lines to Burntbridge boys are as follows:
“He stamped at the brake and missed.
Swore vehemently. Cursed to himself and the world in general. At times, both seemed to conspire against him.”
After reading these few short sentences, I immediately knew I was dealing with a main character who feels he has been ill-treated by the world, has a bad temper and is generally looking for trouble. My expectation was also that the main character, Samuel Rafferty, did not see himself as the guilty party in the sorry story of his life, he rather as the victim.
My expectations with regards to Samuel proved to be correct and the author did a terrific job of creating a man who is selfish, self absorbed and greedy. Despite some horrible revelations about Samuel’s past and abusive father, and the fact that he successfully exploits his talent as a footballer to pull himself out of poverty, I was not able to feel anything but dislike for this character. As the story progresses and his womanizing ways and easily corruptible nature become more and more obvious, the author brought me to a point where I felt that the situation that Samuel ends up in is of his own making and the outcome almost seems like poetic justice.
I have read other books by this author and, by comparison, this one is not as obviously bloody or frightening. The supernatural elements creep up on you slowly and subtly and I found this to be disturbing and incredibly chilling. I will hazard a comparison and say that parts of this book were as harrowing for me as The Shining by Stephen King. Some things are far more scary than blood and guts.
I suppose I should point out that this book has an underlying theme about football, but this facilitated the story rather than became the point of it. I am not a soccer or sports fan and, while I appreciated that the author must know a bit about football, I did not feel bored or overwhelmed by sporty facts and information. There was just enough to feed the flow of the story and make it work. A great read for lovers of chilling supernatural fantasy.
It’s 1979 and Sammy Rafferty is on the run. From the past. From the police. And, perhaps more importantly, from some rather unfriendly criminal types.
He thinks his football dreams are over, but that might not be the case. He’s run to Burntbridge Lye. A place where dreams don’t always die.
Sammy “the butcher” Rafferty has long since kissed his playing days goodbye. Never kicking a competitive ball again was a hard pill to swallow and he’s not ready for his managerial career to come to an untimely end. The thought of forever being shut out of football makes his heart sink and feet itch.
There isn’t any choice. The cards have been dealt and you have to play the hand you’re given. Sammy grits his teeth and gets on with it. Life settles into monotony and offers only boredom and frustration …until he comes across an old football ground nestled in the back of beyond.
He can almost hear the roar of the crowd as he parks at the gates of the deserted Burntbridge Palmers, a decaying stadium on the outskirts of Bledbrooke Town.
The club that won’t die could be just the place for a man who still has a gleam in his eye. After all, they’re both ghosts that won’t go away.
Burntbridge Boys is about a lot of things.
Horror, for sure. No doubt there. Old school horror, with a twist. A ghost story where the ghosts aren’t really dead.
A fond reminiscence of football, back before football became completely commercialised? Yes, definitely, soccer plays its part. Although, it has to be said, the beautiful game is sometimes less than beautiful in Burntbridge Boys. It can be somewhat ugly and …disturbing. And often more than a game.
Deceit and double-dealing? Yeah, there’s a fair-sized chunk of that.
It might also be about power passed into hands too fragile for the holding. The darkness hidden in human hearts which is best kept hidden and secrets that are better not revealed. Society and its cruel attitudes, before society became an equally dreadful click-driven social media experiment.
You’ll draw your conclusions – that’s one of the joys of reading.
On a more prosaic level, is there such a thing as a football horror story? Let alone one set in the past which wallows in a darkly imagined history of the game.
Who knows? When the Dead Boxes are involved, anything is possible. Such items have always been scary things.
Even in the swinging Sixties and glam-shock punk revolution of the Seventies, they contained a terrifying mix of horror and salvation. Throw the Scaeth Mythos into the mix and stuff gets decidedly multi-dimensional.
There are different realities and the walls which separate them can be paper thin. The tiniest tear can allow horror and madness to bleed through.