There was a very revealing and self-aware exchange during a brief Q&A feature that the author of this splendid little book completed for the publisher’s website recently, in which he responded to a question about which type of books he preferred writing as follows:
If I have a preference it’s for surreal, gross-out tragi-comedies, like Hellbent, Henry Tumour and Hello Darkness. That way of writing comes very easily to me. I’ve had to make myself write in a more simple, grittily realistic way, for The Knife that Killed Me, Brock and Pike. Strangely, I think this has forced me to produce my best work. Sometimes you find that going against your own grain makes you a better writer.
Pike is another story about Nicky and Kenny, two characters reminiscent of Steinbeck’s George and Lennie from Of Mice And Men. McGowan first wrote about them in the earlier, highly-popular Brock, and this second tale about them indeed shows Nicky and Kenny bringing the best out of McGowan.
The action takes place mainly around Bacon Pond, a small lake next to a derelict food-processing plant. The atmosphere created is superbly tense and claustrophobic – very different, it has to be said, from the rurally idyllic illustrations that somewhat incongruously decorate the page footers. But that’s beside the point, because it’s the words that make this little story sing and soar, used as they are to create memorable characters and incidents in a manner suggestive that McGowan’s work as a YA writer will become more widely regarded, successful and appreciated in direct proportion to the degree of ‘going against the grain’ future full-length novels share with their little siblings, Brock and Pike.