Strange Affairs, Ginger Hairs by Arthur Grimestead – Review
By Sarah Morgan
Hull, 1998. It doesn’t have quite the same ring to it as London, 1966 or San Francisco, 1967.
Instead, things were rather more mundane. This was the period in which the Princes Quay Shopping Centre was still relatively new, local MP and deputy prime minister John Prescott had a jug of iced water thrown over his head by Chumbawamba’s singer at the Brit Awards, Kingston Communications was preparing to hit the stock exchange and Hull City faced the prospect of dropping out of the Football League.
It’s also the year in which Arthur Grimestead’s intriguing and offbeat novel is set. Grimestead himself is something of a mystery man; his biography on publisher Troubador’s website states he was born in Hull and lives with a woman, a dog and a cat. And that’s it.
I’d hazard a guess that he was around the same age as the central character was in 1998, which would make him in his late thirties or early forties. Hopefully Grimestead didn’t, however, have the same experiences – if Strange Affairs, Ginger Hairs turns out to be an autobiography, well… words escape me.
The tale focuses on Lloyd ‘Ginger’ Jones, a disillusioned, disaffected and bored 18-year-old living with his equally bored parents in a flat on a Hull council estate. They barely register their son’s existence, apart from when they need money.
After flirting with the local underworld, Ginger lands a job in the office at a fish factory, where he meets Ms Fish, his boss’s sexy but, it must be said, slightly psychotic daughter. She embroils him in a plot to steal thousands of pounds from the company safe, bringing him to the attention of the police.
But it’s a jewel-encrusted ring belonging to a mobster that really causes him trouble. It accidentally finds its way into Ginger’s possession, setting in motions a series of bizarre, tragic and, at times, genuinely amusing events.
Grimestead’s book is peppered with weird and wonderful characters who really bring the tale to life. Ginger is the most ordinary of the lot, with a surprisingly strong moral compass.
Initially, I wasn’t sure I liked him, and therefore found it difficult to empathise with his situation, but by the end, was rooting for him to succeed.
It’s certainly a lively story, well written with a strong sense of place and time, which augers well for Grimestead’s future writing career. There’s also an accompanying album featuring songs by the author available via iTunes, Amazon and Google Play.
‘Strange Affairs, Ginger Hairs’ by Arthur Grimestead is published by Troubador, £8.99 paperback