IT WAS 20 years ago that the Queen of London gangland fiction, Martina Cole, first released The Runaway, and I’ve only just got around to reading it. Crikey! It’s one hell of a tome. Covering several decades it follows the fortunes of prostitute's daughter Cathy Connor and drunkard's son Eamonn Docherty.
Having been brought up together as kids while their parents shared a combustible relationship, eventually they are forced apart due to Eamonn’s dad’s roving eye.
Their lives already infected by violence, worse is to follow as Eamonn has to flee the country after committing a particularly violent crime while Cathy is left to the mercy of a sadistic paedophile and his cohorts at a home for wayward girls.
Eventually the two of them come out on top, Eamonn running with gangs in New York while Cathy stays closer to home in the Soho club scene.
The links between them are too strong to break, even though they are on different continents, and their dangerous relationship ends up costing them both dearly.
Brutal in its telling, The Runaway nevertheless is a riveting read with characters that come to life on the page and it is easy to see how Martina has created such a huge following.
Many try to emulate her recipe for success but few manage to get anywhere near.
For me it was compelling not just because of the action but for the fact it doubles up as a history book for the seedier areas of London, touching on subjects like the IRA bombing campaign, police corruption and child cruelty.
Downsides? Well, I suppose with a book of 700-odd pages it’s inevitable that some things will seem slightly repetitive and the attitudes of the characters towards certain things had a tendency to flip-flop a bit more than they might do in real life.
Still, she’s been doing this for a quarter of a century, so who am I to argue with her style and methods?