Peter May is a versatile writer and, in my opinion, is at his best when he delves into the past and has a good rummage around to tell a contemporary story within the context of it’s past. Runaway is a perfect example of this.
In 1965 a group of five 17 year old lads run away to London in search of fame and fortune in the music business – a few months later three of them return home to Glasgow with a heavy load of experiences under their belts. Now 50 years later it is 2015 and Maurie, on his deathbed, enlists the help of fellow runaways Jack and Dave (and Jacks disaffected grandson Ricky) to retrace their youthful journey in order to solve a 50 year old murder.
As usual May delivers a wonderful story backed up by some hard core research. One of the things I loved most about Runaway was the ‘Forrest Gumpesque’ way he grounds us in 1965 by having the characters brush shoulders with John Lennon at a recording studio and witnessing first hand Bob Dylans iconic Subterranean Homesick Blues video recorded behind The Savoy Hotel London – brilliant in setting the mood of the era!
The boy’s journey from Glasgow, through South Lanarkshire,down the M74, through the Lake District and then across to Leeds (before finally heading to London from York station) was very personal to me, having made that journey repeatedly over the year to Leeds sister city Bradford. I loved the way the men retraced their steps giving the reader a ‘before and after view’ of the area. The boys visit to the The Quarry Hills flats (a social architectural experiment in Leeds city centre) was described beautifully.
Runaway delivers a convincing portrayal of the wistfulness, regrets and occasional satisfaction of elderly men looking back over their lives. The characters are intriguing, the plot enduring and gripping and the research excellent.
So, who would I recommend this book to… well the long answer is – crime fiction fans, Dylan fans, Beatles fans, residents of Leeds Scotland & London, those who lived in or are interested in the 60’s, those who loved The Lewis Trilogy, those who like substance in their reading material …
The short answer is anybody who likes a cracking good read!
by Liz Mistry