Last night I finished Michael Stewart's debut novel, King Crow (2011). The biggest wonder is how on earth the big publishers missed out on it; although that assumes Stewart even approached them. Northern based Bluemoose is the lucky publisher of this gem, and I am reliably informed that it is a publisher to watch, having also published Ben Myers's Pig Iron. Narrated in present first person one would think it wouldn't lend itself to the alienation of protagonist Paul Cooper. Yet it does - remarkably well. Sixteen-year-old Cooper is obsessed with birds and carries a list of those he has seen. Each chapter is headed with a type of bird, setting the tone for the next stage of Cooper's journey, from Salford to Helvellyn and back again. No sentence can be faulted; the prose is focussed yet poignant for it. The journey features death of another outcast and we learn of Cooper's homelife with a lesbian mum who has her own demons to constantly fight. For those who have the ear for the Salford dialect Stewart is 'bang on'. I figured out what was really happening just after halfway through and it then takes on added poignancy. What I hadn't bargained on is learning so much about birds as I read it. It is a beautiful book and if there is any justice should win every prize going.
Location:Train from London to Manchester