Alright, Reader. DEADFOLK sure played with me Swede.
The story follows Blake, "Royston Blake, head doorman," as he often states, through his attempt to 'get his bottle back' in the British town of Mangel. The Mangel dialect really threw me for a loop, and it took me fifty pages or so to wrap my head around the slang well enough to keep the reading fluid. BUT, be patient and give it some time. I almost put the book away at a couple points, but I'm glad I continued to slog through, as it was well worth it in the end.
And it is a slog - the inhabitants of Mangel are an ugly crowd. Blake is a thug who spent his early years robbing houses and hurting innocent people with his two mates, Legs and Fin. The atmosphere is full of lager, spit, blood, fried gut-busting-food, sex and farts. Williams plants you right in the seedy town. In fact, Mangel holds such a presence throughout the story that it really is a character itself. It's the small town where everyone knows each other (hilarious moments when Blake puts on his 'disguise'), no one talks and no one leaves (many references to characters being stuck.) There isn't mob crime - just the assholes down the street that vandalize property, pick fights and/or maybe rumor-has-it kill people.
You get to know Blake's routine (food, bar, alcohol, women, doorman, walking, driving the Capri,etc) as he wanders from one mess to the next in such haphazard fashion that I had no idea where the story was heading - other than a bad place. Blake's rough and mundane life is slow but rife with excellent bits of character. And just when the 'everyday' parts suck you in, Williams' minimalist violence sparks and jabs you in the side with a shot of adrenaline. It is executed very well and kept me turning the pages.
Blake is not a likeable character, but there are small threads throughout that make him sympathetic enough to keep me interested/caring about his life. Blake's internal struggle is well done but to say anymore would spoil the story. The black humor is also great fun but I don't want to spoil too much of that either (Blake's dream near the end and chasing an old man on a moped for example.)
I'm not without my complaints - It was a bit long for me (adding to the slow-burn effect) and the dialect/slang was difficult at first. I also wanted to know a little more about the Muntons earlier, but overall, I highly recommend DEADFOLK. It's a monkey wrench to the swede that will leave you wanting more dark and dirty British noir.
Royston Blake is head doorman at Hoppers Wine Bar & Bistro in the backwater English town of Mangel. He drives a Ford Capri 2.8i and can walk the streets of his town knowing he's respected by one and all—until a rumour begins to circulate that Blake's “lost his bottle.” Even his sharp-tongued girl, Sal, has overheard the talk that the formerly fearsome bloke has gone soft, lost his edge, and become a pushover in a town where he can ill afford it. To make matters worse, the violent Munton brothers are after him, and the thought of ending up in the back of their bloody Meat Wagon is almost too much to bear. Something's gotta give, but it sure as hell won’t be Blake. Following advice from his best mate, Legsy, Blake embarks on a plan to re-establish his reputation as a hard man, ensure his appeal to the women of Mangel, and seal his future with the new owner of Hoppers. The logic of the plan is sound: knock around Baz Munton a bit and regain the respect of Mangel's populace. But sound logic never really took off in Mangel, and Blake finds he’s got his work cut out for him. This brutal black comedy introduces a wholly original voice to the ranks of contemporary literature’s most memorable protagonists.