Iain Banks Stonemouth is an excellent confection of gangsters, violence, love and romance. I enjoyed it.
Banks has set the novel in a fictional, provincial Scottish town run by two rival gangs in collaboration with an acquiescent police force. It’s a first person narrative, and Banks uses this method to drip feed the reader with an intriguing account of the history of the protagonist, Stewart Gilmour, and the reasons why he is no longer welcome in his home town.
The novel begins, aptly enough for its genre, in the dark, on the misty bridge that guards the approach to the town of Stonemouth. Here Gilmour is met by Powell Imrie, gangster and thug, who lays down the law about Gilmour’s three day visit to the town from which he has been exiled. As the long weekend progresses and we meet more of Gilmour’s friends and acquaintances we learn about the personal and business relationships that led to his rapid exit several years ago. We meet a range of interesting characters, and encounter a fair amount of drunken revelry and violence.
In the end Gilmour turns out to be somewhat of an idealised hero figure – good looking, intelligent and fortunate in equal measure. By this point, the novel is more of a romance than a thriller, though the action and excitement continues.
Banks is a prolific writer: of his other works I have only read The Wasp Factory. This is something of a classic now, though I found it bleak and harsh.
I would certainly recommend Stonemouth. It’s never dull, and an easy read.