The Fall of Billy Hitchings, is the debut novel by American Author Kirkus MacGowan. A stay at home dad looking after a couple of kids, I connected with Kirkus through Twitter and clearly knew that he was on the verge of publishing but I did not investigate or ask what the book was about. But when it was published in late November I thought I would give it a go.
It starts with an explosive episode with John, clearly not the character of the title, in a vehicle with a couple of civilian bodyguard colleagues transporting their client, Khalid, to the airport when they are suddenly attacked. Good, the kind of book I like. But then it got a bit confusing.
John, although hurt, manages to retrieve the client from the overturned vehicle as it is sprayed by bullets and is shot, while Khalid suffers a broken leg in the crash. The two of them manage to get into an old abandoned mill building and John phones the mysterious Rachel who is at home, we assume, watching a movie with Katy. John tells her that he is in a, “bit of a pinch” which results in Rachel leaving Katy to watch the movie on her own while she disappears to another room and fires up her computer and on being giving the location of where John is immediately informs him that he is in an abandoned mill and she proceeds to pull up the floor plans to direct him on the safest route to safety!
I could live with all that, let’s face it, when reading a book or watching a movie the reader/viewer has to suspend some belief, so I was there and believing what was happening and thinking this was going to be a fast paced thriller..................
Chapter one ends and chapter two begins entitled ‘Billy’.
We have no idea who John was and how he got Khalid out of the situation, although we did briefly find out that Rachel was multi tasking and while giving directions she had also called the local law enforcement and then we got ‘Billy’. ‘Billy’ we discover is 19, works in Borks Burger Palace, lives with his gran and has an asshole for a manager along with an assortment of deadbeats as colleagues, oh, and a friend who does not work in the Burger Palace, but who smells of fish!
During the course of the introduction to our ‘hero’ we discover that his parents died a few years ago and that while he should have moved out of his gran’s, who had taken him in, a long time ago, he felt guilty every time he thought about it as she had broken a hip and he worried if he were not there, what would happen if she did so again? He is also an insomniac with bad dreams and is attending a shrink....
I was nearly booking myself into one by the end of chapter two, especially as when we move on we are introduced into what is seemingly more random characters, characters who are given a bit of a back story, but back stories that did not seem to fit anywhere, it all seemed rather disjointed and not going anywhere......
We suddenly turn up in bar with ‘John’ from the beginning of the book, who clearly has survived his ordeal/mission and we therefore assume so too did the client Khalid, where ‘John’ is getting hammered and about to commit the ultimate sin of having a one night stand while his fiancé is away... confused yes, well so was I.
The book continues like that for the next couple short chapters and it is quite confusing as you cannot really see where it is going....
BUT right out of left field MacGowan makes the book explode, literally and in your face, no spoilers here, but clearly he has been watching some horror movies and I suspect he is a big fan of Carrie and The Exorcist, and he has taken inspiration from that genre for his book.
From here on in things begin to become clearer and the characters that seemed to be haphazardly appearing: suddenly their back stories began to make more sense, than they had in the previous chapters.
What we ended up with was a book that began with a forgettable stroll around the park, jumped over the railing onto the running track and into a gentle jog and then burst into a sprint as the story progressed.
It was a tale of an ancient Cherokee Indian legend that had been protected and hidden for over 500 years, which had been discovered but not understood. It was a tale of a 19 year old youth who was full of anger and despair at losing his parents and who drew power from the legend that he did not understand or control. And as the book built to a climax it ended in the most unexpected way ..........
It is difficult not to give spoilers, but buy the book, take the stroll and be patient. Stick with it to the jog and you will become as intrigued as I became and then when you start the sprint in the last quarter of the book, you will be turning pages to find out what happens next and I guarantee you will be as surprised as I was by the ending. It will not be what you expect, but you will, I think, like me, say to yourself, “Yes, that was a good ending”
This was Mr MacGowan’s first book and he clearly took a lot of time over it. He needs to be less disjointed in character and story development at the beginning to keep the reader interested but on this first outing I suppose it is to be expected and as the book progressed, so too did his writing style making it a good and worthwhile read. Some people may not get past the first three chapters as it does seem a bit disjointed but as the book progresses, so too does his clarity and cohesion of bringing it all together, so from my early thoughts of maybe giving it 2 or 3 stars I have no hesitation in giving it a final 5 out of 5 stars.