Thursday, 19 December 2013

One Man's Opinion: THE BANK MANAGER AND THE BUM by DARREN SANT


Before starting in on this treat of a book, I'm hoping to ask a favour. Yes, again (sorry).

My novella Smoke ('Grim, but really good' - Ian Rankin), ISBN - 9781908688293 and published by Blasted Heath, is now available for libraries via OverDrive. If you're a member of a library, would you please consider sparing 5 minutes or so of your time and requesting a copy (usually done online at your libraries site) so that they'll consider buying one? The reward for you is only a small glow of having helped out, but I'd really appreciate your kindness.

Big thanks on that.

Now to today's big read.

I’ve really enjoyed Darren Sant’s short fiction as it has a heart in the middle of all its sharp edges. I’d heard that The Bank Manager And The Bum was magical realism and that meant I didn’t really know what to expect from this one, even though I was looking forward to it. I think Bicycle Thieves was all I could picture in the genre.
What I found was that it is magic and it is realistic, so I guess that the tag was right.

A homeless man and his dog spend the night by a bank and take a kicking from a gang of thugs. It’s a serious beating and there’s some of that Darren Sant hardness in the description. Next day, along comes the bank manager,
Giles, to open up. He spots the damaged pair and calls for an ambulance. While doing this, he witnesses the curing of the dog as the bum of the title lays on his hands and emits a light, healing energy that does the job.
As the dog gets better, the bum’s condition gets worse; that’s part of the healer’s dilemma.

It turns out that Giles also has a problem. More of a catastrophe, really. He finds out his young son is dying and this causes a domestic crisis. As time goes on, the idea that the bum Giles had helped might be able to save his boy grows and takes root and, eventually, it’s the path Giles and his wife decide to take.

The slight problem for them is that there’s a gangster in the vicinity who also wants the bum’s healing powers and he’s prepared to go to any length to make sure he gets what he wants.

There’s a seedy underbelly that’s cut into, scalpel like, by Sant, but for me it’s the magic that wins.

How realistic does it feel? At the point when my first question arose, it was to do with the bank manager’s taste in music rather than the healing, which should say a lot about how well the whole thing is handled. As for that musical taste, it exposed more about my own musical snobbery and my speed at putting the guy into a pigeon hole because of his profession, more than anything else.

It being Christmas, I felt it was the perfect time to be reading this book. It has a festive joy to in, in spite of the difficult sections. I’d recommend that, if you’ve been thinking about this one, you take the plunge over the holidays ahead. It’ll be more than fitting.

I also have a thought for the author. I’d really love to see this story adapted for older children – same plot with less sinister action – as I think that would really work wonderfully and bring him a whole new audience. If it happens, I’ll be banging the drum.

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