After his father dies, Charlie decides to take a job as a runner for infamous gangster Squizzy Taylor. Although his mother objects, Charlie takes the job anyway and in doing so, is introduced to the seedier side of Melbourne. Taylor is preparing to go to war with another gang – and Charlie is not sure things are going to end well. He needs to find a way out of this life – but still be able to support his family.
There are some nice local moments in reading the novel, and Newton has gone to great pains to give it a particular sense of place. I also applaud him for the way in which he creates voice throughout, which although exhausting, he committed to well and I could almost hear the slang of his characters.
This wasn’t a read of choice, but rather one of necessity. Nonetheless, it has some good elements to expose young people to, although also some more adult themes that they might need to bend your ear about. Charlie’s mother is coerced into a relationship with the local wood seller in order to keep the family warm – and we never quite get a clear understanding of exactly what happened here. Only that she is much changed by it. This will be hard for young people to understand, although they will relate to Charlie and his passion for running.