Highbridge by Phil Redmond – Review
By Sarah Morgan
Mention the name Phil Redmond, and those who have followed the British TV industry during the past 40 years will probably immediately think of Grange Hill, Brookside and Hollyoaks.
The quantity surveyor-turned-Les Dawson’s gag writer created all three, transforming children’s drama and British soaps in the process. He even had a stint as ‘programme consultant’ on Yorkshire’s own Emmerdale, turning it from a rundown cosy rural soap to the ratings-winner we know and love today.
In recent years Redmond has been less in the limelight. It seems that he has, however, been keeping himself busy, and the crime novel Highbridge is the fruit of his most recent labours.
It’s meant to be a hard-hitting, state-of-the-nation tale about brothers traumatised by the drug-related murder of their sister. While one, a grammar school boy, is trying to make sure no other families go through the same nightmare by working with the authorities on various schemes, the other, who went to the local comprehensive, is bankrolling his ex-squaddie brother-in-law so that he can wipe out the local drug lords in an SAS-style operation.
“Opportunity for a far more tragic and gripping ending”
Redmond is presumably attempting to get across some sort of social message about education here. But it’s rather ham-fisted as well as stereotyped. And it’s not the only problem with the book – the author gives away his scriptwriting roots by delivering short, staccato sentences that would work well to get a message across quickly in a screenplay, but are merely jarring here.
Plus, he pays far too much attention to the brands used and worn by the main protagonists – it almost feels as if he’s being paid commission for product placement!
The denouement also feels a little rushed, and a bit of a cop-out too. There is an opportunity for a far more tragic and gripping ending, but Redmond opts to tie things up neatly in a big red bow instead. Odd, when you consider some of the astonishing storylines he has been behind over the years.
What makes these shortcomings particularly annoying is that there is a good story here, with something important to say about the country we live in and what is being done to combat drug problems in small communities where there is little hope or scope for young people.
In fact, if this was a school report, Highbridge would receive a C-minus written in red, with the statement “Must do better next time” scrawled underneath.
‘Highbridge’ by Phil Redmond is published by Arrow, paperback, £6.99