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Vinnie Got Blown Away – Review

June 24, 2020

Vinnie Got Blown Away by Jeremy Cameron

Nicky Burkett wants revenge. He finds his childhood friend Vinnie dead at the bottom of a tower block with his feet sawn off. Nicky’s code of conduct says he can’t let that stand. Whether you’re Charles Bronson in Death Wish or a wannabe diamond geezer from Walthamstow (Burkett’s manor in North-East London), every male instinctively wants to return violence with violence. But Burkett has to uncover the reason behind Vinnie’s grisly demise before he can wreak revenge. And that ain’t easy when you’re still in your teens and have got the probation service breathing down your neck.

Jeremy Cameron’s debut novel Vinnie Got Blown Away was released in 1995. Lee Horsley identified the book as one of a number of crime novels which critiqued the ‘failed Thatcherite efforts to bring Britain closer to the market-oriented financial system of the United States’. You might say the Iron Lady met the Iron Genre. Cameron uses his experience working for the Probation Service to critique the system. Everyone is on the make, whether they work for the system or against it. And while that worldview might seem cynical, Burkett’s first-person narration has such brash charm that the reader may feel won over by this world of cockney wideboys and tropical chancers

Here’s an example of Nicky in full-flow after lifting a Ford Sierra:

Me I never knew what to do now so circled out and went home, not far off. Thought if I went quietly no one’d notice, never reckoned on looking upstairs for the chopper. Always thought they were up there for the weather or something only this one was following me twenty minutes. Did me no harm in the district mind, it was like Lethal Weapon. Took the Sierra home, dumped it, tumbled out knackered and there was the Bill in six motors. Gave Mum a turn, kept expecting them to shoot her like they do on the news.

Never had shooters so they just had to give a kicking down the nick. Got tired of that after a bit so they drew up nineteen charges. Did me no harm on the manor either, no one on the estate got more than ten before. Mum came down for the charges and the statement, couldn’t make it earlier on account of she had the tea on.

There was Aggravated Vehicle and Criminal Damage and No Licence and Insurance and Unsupervised and Reckless and No ‘L’ Plates and a few others I never heard of. Then they stuck on Obstructing Police, knew I wouldn’t go not guilty on one out of nineteen. Didn’t give me a Producer, hardly worth it at fifteen. Nor tax evasion nor bullion robbery but enough to be going with. Got my brief in, Mrs Mellow that time, and I made no reply when charged.

They reckoned I ought to get some driving lessons. Not many kids my age couldn’t drive proper when they nicked a motor.

The dialect might be difficult for some readers, but at a brisk 160 pages this is a novel that does not outstay its welcome. Indeed, I’ll be rushing out to buy the four follow-up books in the Nicky Burkett series. Oddly enough, the novel is very American in tone and sometimes reminiscent of an Elmore Leonard caper or George V Higgins’ darkly comical takedowns of the justice system. Which is ironic if, as Horsley suggests, there’s a veiled anger about the Thatcherite Americanisation of Britain.

As our lives ease back into normality after lockdown, support your local bookshop and treat yourself to a copy of Vinnie Got Blown Away.

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