THE WHITE ROOM
A Guardian Book of the Year
Newcastle, 1946. 19-year-old Jack Smeaton returns from the trenches, his hair turned white by the trauma of WWII. He seeks solace in socialism, falling under the spell of the young T. Dan Smith, visionary future leader of the city council, architect of tower blocks and sculpted concrete. Meanwhile, the future of Monica Blacklock, victim of a childhood of abuse, seems unremittingly bleak. A chance encounter with a handsome young man on the banks of the river Tyne looks set to change her life for the better. But handsome, psychopathic Brian Mooney has plans for Monica. In fact, Brian has plans for lots of people... A masterfully contrived fusion of fiction and real life crime, THE WHITE ROOM is a gripping tale of passion and violence, desire and revenge, spanning four tumultuous decades.
This was the other book I became a writer to write.
My dad used to work with T Dan Smith in the Sixties and I grew up just down the road from where Mary Bell killed those children, literally in the shadows of Dan Smith's new tower blocks. This brave new future destroyed before it had already been built. It was such a powerful image and metaphor that I had to use it. I carried it around for years before attempting to write it down.
It wasn't what the publishers were expecting and consequently they didn't know what to do with it. However, it's the book people always want to talk to me about, it's the one that most got under people's skins and into their heads and, I hope, hearts.
It's a dark book but, I think, not without a redemptive ending. Because there has to be redemption. Otherwise what's the point?
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'A novel that grips and squeezes and won't let go. Lean, exhilarating prose from the heart and from the guts and that's exactly where it hits you.'
'Brutal, mesmerizing stuff.'
'A reckless energy which demands attention and respect.'
'A pacy narrative and sharp, staccato dialogue. The no-nonsense near-mute charisma of Get Carter or Point Blank. Brutal drama.'
'The anger and passion of someone who really cares for his subject.'
'A cleverly plotted, taut thriller.'
'Ambitious, tautly plotted. An impressive novel in which he reveals huge talent.'
'Dark, threatening and brilliantly ambitious.'
'Lean and taut. A vivid immediacy.'
'A superb, frenetically paced thriller. A great read.'
'Ambitious, uncompromising and raw. Extremely impressive.'
Pocket Books, UK paperback, March 2005, ISBN: 9780743449526
Mysterious Press/Open Road Media, US ebook, December 2011, ISBN: 9781453237571