A guest review by Jenre
Matthew’s at a place in his life where he’s got nowhere to go but up.
Reckless, he walks into the heart of Kingsoak, the most dangerous tangle in the urban jungle – where instead of robbers, rogues and criminals, he finds a community where the outcasts take care of their own, graffiti is a stunning art form, and a rakish street-fighter waits to transform Matthew’s life from the ordinary to the legendary. But will Matthew have the courage to stay with Gale, or will he return to his familiar world at the break of day?
This short story takes the premise of the preppy young man who wanders into a potentially dangerous situation and gets a taste of the other side of the tracks.
The story begins with two men making out, as things get heated, one of the heroes, Matthew, muses on how lucky he is and how he could have chosen a very different path. The story then flips back a year. Matthew has a pretty dull life, but things get interesting when his car breaks down just outside of the infamous Kingsoak, a part of town known for its rough residents. When his car is attacked and mobile phone broken by thugs, Matthew takes off into the heart of Kingsoak where things are not quite what he was expecting, especially the cocky and handsome street fighter, Gale.
My reason for picking up this story was that one of the heroes, Gale, is British. Between the two characters I have say I liked Gale best. He’s originally from Manchester and has a rough charm and direct manner which categorises men from that part of Britain. Although the story is taken from Matthew’s point of view, he pales rather when next to the more interesting Gale and I could immediately see why Matthew would be willing to throw his lot in with Gale, even at such a short acquaintance. Matthew is your typical middle class hero. He has a job he enjoys but is taken advantage of because he’s a ‘nice guy’. I liked that he felt a certain amount of exhilaration at casting off that image as he ventured into Kingsoak:
Rebellion burned bright within Matthew, pushing him dangerously close to an edge he hadn’t known he treaded. I’ve broken my back to be a good, upright, decent, law-abiding kind of guy, and this is where it gets me. Kingsoak.
Fine. You know what? I quit. Just for one night, I want to see if it’s true that bad boys do have more fun. After this, what’s the worst that could happen? They can’t steal my wallet.
I was applauding Matthew at this point and pleased that he did have some backbone to his character.
The story isn’t perfect though. The men know each other for only a short time (overnight) and yet Gale insists that Matthew is the man he’s been looking for with his heart. This ‘instant love’ seemed rather forced, even with the story being bracketed with a present day proof that the relationship has survived. I was also left with a number of questions – mostly about Gale and his role within Kingsoak – which were never answered and I wished I could have got to know that side of him a little better. There were a number of what could have been interesting and unusual secondary characters but they weren’t given the space to be more than just snapshots of people, which was a great shame.
Having said that, this story is still worth reading if you are looking for something short with an opposites attract theme and an unusual hero in Gale.