Book #51

Cuttin’ Heads by D.A. Watson

Aldo Evans is a desperate man. Fired from his job and deeply in debt, he struggles to balance a broken family life with his passion for music. 

Luce Figura is a troubled woman. A rhythmic perfectionist, she is haunted by childhood trauma and scorned by her religiously devout mother. 
Ross McArthur is a wiseass. Orphaned as an infant and raised by the state, his interests include game shows, home-grown weed, occasional violence and the bass guitar. 
They are Public Alibi. A rock n’ roll band going nowhere fast. 
When the sharp-suited, smooth talking producer Gappa Bale offers them a once in a lifetime chance to make their dreams come true, they are caught up in a maelstrom of fame, obsession, music and murder. 
Soon, Aldo, Luce and Ross must ask themselves: is it really better to burn out than to fade away?

Fuck sake.

Watson asked me to review this some time ago. I was having pre-drinks on the train when I got the email, quickly read the synopsis and decided it was my thing. Having finally gotten around to trying it, I had completely forgotten what the book was about, other than it was Glaswegian. Blame the lapse in time, or blame the gin, I don’t care

It all started innocently enough, with the familiar relatability of three Scottish twenty-somethings working in call centres, as hospital porters, and music tutors, just trying to make ends meet whilst jamming in a band in their spare time. I loved seeing bars, clubs, and venues I know well described as the trio did the rounds to expose their band. A nice, calm novel on trying to make it big. I was pleased.

NO. It quickly became apparent that something wasn’t quite right, and I was quickly overcome by the terror of being clasped in the claws of a horror novel. I need big warnings for this; I’m a shitebag and will see things lunging out of the dark at me if I’m reading any type of horror novel.

Once I’d rationalised that I’d need to read this with the big light on instead of my wee reading lamp, I was able to properly immerse myself in this utter mindbend of a tale. It’ll be difficult to put my thoughts down without taking away the moments of crippling shock and incredulity I felt throughout the pages.

Unless you (unlike my idiot self) carefully read the synopsis before opening the first page, it’s impossible to detect any type of horror in the beginnings of the story. This is an utter masterstroke by Watson – pulling us into these normal as fuck lives of normal as fuck people, kidding you on that you’re reading a normal as fuck book, then revealing one of the most chilling, unthinkable, and unique types of horror you will ever have the fortune to read. Watson’s terror lies in the pure feeling of normalcy permeating the starting pages, and the fact the characters’ descent into an impossible situation began on innocent and acceptable terms.

Watson’s trio themselves are carved out of grit. Each has a troublesome past, demons (HAHAHAHAHA!) and memories they’d like to fade entirely from their consciousness. We’re bound to each of them by their pasts, their personalities, and their families. They’re perfectly flawed protagonists who command respect and understanding.

The skill of writing during the horror sections was unreal. My skin was crawling, I couldn’t look away, I had to peer into the toilet to check for demons any time I went into the bathroom. An absolutely unparalleled use of tension, coupled with that horrible feeling that something is out there.

Finally, there’s a huge sense here of the author’s love of music. As a musical dunce, even I felt swept away by the power of Watson’s characters playing their instruments, and the strategic use of an E minor.

For music fans, this is an absolutely essential novel to add to your collection. For horror fans, it’s a definite. For shitebags, I’d suggest giving it a miss as I’m still checking the toilet.