O'Grady comes home from jail to Kilburn weathering the onset of a harsh new climate. This is Mrs Thatcher's Britain. It is a place he recognises, but he feels lost in it. His estranged wife has moved on and up, out to the suburbs; the daughter he barely knew is living with a wealthy record producer. O'Grady lodges in his spinster sister's dreary hotel. Alcohol and the random chances it brings begin to define his life. The only people who want to know him are aware that he is owed money by those for whom he took the fall. They offer him schemes, fantasies: he is expected to perform some action that will change lives. But O'Grady cannot make a decision and cannot act. Hard Shoulder is an evocation of the grey avenues and pubs of Irish London at its most hopeless, a semi-criminal milieu of the lost: north west London has never been more convincingly portrayed. Using and undermining the conventions of the thriller, Petit has written a book that deserves to stand alongside the best that the city has inspired.
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(222mm x 142mm x mm)
Publisher: Granta Books
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UK Kirkus Review »
After ten years in prison, O'Grady emerges into Thatcher's Britain, a society he barely recognizes. He was once known as a hard man, but since the bank robbery he was involved in went wrong and he ran over a child, he has abandoned his old ways and wants peace and quiet. He tries to buckle down to a life of dull routine, working for his religious, overcritical sister, drinking and visiting his aged mother in a nursing home. Then the mysterious Shaughnessy insinuates himself into his life and O'Grady is drawn back into London Irish subculture and into a web of intrigue centred on the money he is still owed from the robbery. Challenged to step out of his self-imposed limbo and take decisive action, O'Grady goes in search of his socially ambitious wife and daughter and is forced to discover how much of his old violence is still below the surface. As he is wrong-footed by events, he finally discovers whether he can escape the past and become the kind of man he wants to be. Chris Petit, filmmaker and author of three previous novels, including Robinson, sets his story in a lovingly described London in the process of change. As O'Grady revisits the seedy streets, pubs and hotels of his old stamping ground and experiences the exclusive estates, nightclubs and shopping malls of the new order, he sees his family and old friends either beaten down or grabbing their chances in the quest for personal wealth. No-one can be trusted. Everyone seems to be something other than they claim. O'Grady is a man out of time and has to question the very basis of his way of understanding the world. This is a tightly plotted, filmic novel, which belongs as much with Graham Greene's lowlife fictions of guilt and redemption as it does with the British gangster tradition. Atmospheric, sparing, allusive, it is a fine contribution to both genres. (Kirkus UK)
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Author Biography - Christopher Petit
Chris Petit is a novelist and film-maker. His work in film includes 'Radio On', 'Chinese Boxes' and (with lain Sinclair) 'The Cardinal and the Corpse', 'The Falconer and Asylum' and a forthcoming film on the M25. His first novel Robinson is republished by Granta Books. He has also written The Psatm Killer (1997) and Back From the Dead (1999). He lives in London.