Released: May 2014
Fallout is set in the 1970’s and focusses on the life of a young writer, Luke Kanowski. After a chance meeting with Paul Driscoll, an aspiring producer and his colleague Leigh Radley, Luke decides to leave behind his awkward start to life and goes to London hoping to change his fortunes. He meets up with Paul again and together with Leigh, they join a small theatre company. Whilst there they work hard and manage to learn enough about the business to go independent. While Paul and Leigh settle into a solid relationship, Luke is happy to lurch from one relationship to another. The three-way relationship works well with Luke living in Paul’s flat and working to pay the bills whilst they all make the right connections to pursue their careers. That is until Luke meets a fragile actress, Nina. He is then torn between doing the right thing by his friends and doing what will benefit his girlfriend. The dynamics of the group begin to disintegrate and Luke seems likely to lose everything he has worked so hard for, including his integrity.
The book has rather a slow pace in the beginning which I think could put a lot of people off and that is unfortunate. This slow start is due in part to the enormous amount of time given to charting the formative years of Luke and Nina, and the chance meetings with others that eventually cause their paths to cross. Ordinarily a lot of this history would be slotted in throughout a novel as backstory which always makes for a faster pace, however in this novel the early exploration of the characters does work well by weaving a strong bond between the reader and character.
Luke isn’t always a very likeable person but the connection with his story is so great that you are prepared to forgive him almost anything. Nina is equally tragic but where Luke rallies and fights against what life seems to have ordained for him, Nina simply acquiesces, choosing the option of following her mother’s advice and not fighting back, until she meets Luke. Luke and Nina threaten to cause chaos to everyone around them. Although it seems logical that a relationship like theirs could work well in theory, a nagging doubt always remains that, in practice, Luke could do better. Some of Luke’s decisions threaten to ruin everyone’s lives but that early immersion into Luke’s formative years makes those decisions completely understandable.
In addition to the main protagonists of Luke and Nina, the secondary characters of Paul, Leigh and Nina’s controlling manipulative husband Tony Moore, the book contains some truly great minor characters – Luke’s unlikeable father, his helpless mother, Nina’s merciless mother. There are few bit parts in this novel.
Apart from the immersive plot and characters the most enjoyable part of the book for me was the attention to detail. The cultural signifiers like chip shops that closed before the pubs did, red telephone boxes that threaten to cut people off mid conversation, the way theatre worked in the early 70’s, and I suspect still does. In fact once you have worked past that difficult first third of the novel it really is an entrancing and insightful read that is so fast moving that it really is difficult to put down. So much has happened by the end of the novel that it’s hard to believe that only four years have passed. Overall I found this a great read and although it’s a shame about the slow start, I don’t think the story would have been quite the same without it.