Meantime by Frankie Boyle – Review
By Sandra Callard
Frankie Boyle, mainly known for rude comedy and scabrous political satire, has graduated into an extremely fine author with his first novel, Meantime. It’s a tough offering, interwoven with his acute and distinctive style of in-your-face presentation.
Felix McAveety has heard that his ex girlfriend has been found murdered. Living in the lower part of Glasgow, Felix has known violence, but avoids it at all costs, and when he hears of Marina’s murder he decides, along with one of his nefarious friends, Donnie, to solve the murder himself.
The story spins from Felix himself becoming a suspect, to him leading Donnie and himself into dire straits and real danger. This is in no way a comedy read, but throughout the book there are rare and clever inserts that will make the reader smile, or sometimes gasp, as the hapless pair, boosted up by regular top-ups of drugs, ply their way into the deepest parts of criminal Glasgow. The swearing is constant and not for the delicate reader, but the overpowering personalities of the would-be detectives make their language sound almost normal and thus surprisingly acceptable.
Boyle’s ability to throw out a short and pithy sentence that fits easily into the dialogue, so that the reader is hardly aware that a trademark suspect joke has been made, is actually quite a talent – and often very funny. Felix and every one of his friends take drugs profusely and are very knowledgeable about every one of them and what they do. To those of us who do not, it is a fascinating and horrific exposure that surprisingly gets to feel more normal and acceptable as the story continues.
The characters come to life with a clarity that is very solid and quite unusual, especially in a first novel, as they stand beside you as you are reading. All avid readers will know the joy of seeing them moulded in their mind as the clarity of the personalities slowly become clear and adds a great dimension to the story.
The book lays bare the various worlds of Glasgow as Felix and Donnie dig deep to find out who killed Marina, and it slowly becomes that awful word, unputdownable, as the fascinating mixture of violence, drugs and unexpected humour surround the reader. The personality of Felix is beautifully drawn by Boyle. He is very likeable, wishes he did not take the drugs, and cares for his friends, all of which have the reader rooting for him.
Meantime is an unusual novel on many levels, and a triumph for Boyle, who proves he has more strings to his bow than probably anyone expected.
‘Meantime’ by Frankie Boyle is published by Hachette, £14.99 hardback