Today’s team review is from Terry, she blogs here https://terrytylerbookreviews.blogspot.co.uk/
Terry has been reading Burntbridge Boys by John F. Leonard
I’ve read quite a few of John F Leonard’s shorter length horror tales, and always enjoy both his original story ideas and characterisation. Burntbridge boys is set in 1979 and is about Sammy ‘the butcher’ Rafferty, a former footballer, football club manager and general bad boy, whose glory days are over; he is currently on the run from the police and from unfriendly criminal types. When Sammy finds himself in the decaying stadium of a defunct club, it seems that his dreams might not be over after all….
Much of the story includes flashbacks to the 1960s, detailing Sammy’s career and how deeply he became involved in the corruption to do with the game: the pay offs, the dodgy transfers, the darker side of life for many of those involved. Sammy’s backstory is as much a part of the whole as the supernatural side, which I liked; in itself, it’s something of a horror story.
I very much liked the unravelling of the ghostly mystery in the last 20% of the story, the strongest part; Sammy’s meeting with Burntbridge’s Chairman Millicent is stunningly good. I felt that some of the earlier parts would benefit from a bit of fine-tuning, perhaps another draft or the hand of an experienced copy editor to tidy up some over-use of the subordinate clause and to make the delivery more concise. A little more attention to detail could raise this author’s work to the next level.
Having said that, it really is an excellent story, and I love the way Mr Leonard doesn’t shy away from the distasteful, and builds tension so well – I think if you have an interest in football, you’ll love it, especially if you like your fiction on the dark side, but even if you actively dislike it, as I do, you’ll still enjoy!
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.