Monday, 31 December 2018

BAD PENNIES by John F Leonard @john_f_leonard

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: Twitter

In a Nutshell: Lad Lit meets Supernatural/Horror.

Chris Carlisle is an ordinary guy doing an ordinary sales job that he hates, with a couple of mates that he sometimes loves and sometimes loves to hate, and a gorgeous girlfriend: the nauseating Becca.  She was meant to be nauseating, I think; something about the way she calls Chris 'special fellow' and 'my special man' all the time.  Chris is always skint, a typical lad lit hero who doesn't bother to clean up unless he's likely to have company.  He's a nice guy; you can't fail to like him, with all his flaws.  The scene-setting was quite long and fully sketched, which I liked; I'm not one who needs to be plunged into action on page one.  

At the end of most chapters are hints that danger is around the corner, in a 'little did she know this was the last time she would see him' sort of way.  I liked this; I thought it added to the suspense and made me want to keep turning the pages, and it worked along with the slightly comic book tone of the novel.  

Chris's life changes when he discovers a bulging wallet, the property of a man he saw run over.  It's not just an ordinary wallet...and Chris little understands that, by claiming it as his own, he has opened doors that should have remained shut.   There are some good dark and dingy descriptive pieces in the book, particularly a scene featuring a detective in the home of the repulsive Ronald Hodge, in the bleak and mysterious Empire Road.  

I enjoyed the 'real life' elements of this book most, and the darkly comedic side.  I liked the whole 'totally ordinary guy in super-weird extraordinary circumstances' thing.  John F Leonard has a witty, easy-to-read writing style, with some good turns of phrase: 

'No milkman in his right mind would have delivered to Brabham Building, Ashton High Street.  Even the postmen wanted stunt doubles and danger money.'

'...tall wide and ugly in every way you could imagine.  He looked like he ate BMWs for breakfast'

'My source of income, other than my shit job at the ISWS misery factory?  Well, you see, I found, sort of stole I suppose you could say if you wanted to get pedantic about it, an enchanted wallet.  Yeah, yeah, I know, it's shag me in the ass without lube mental, isn't it?' 

My general feel about the novel as a whole was that it needs another tidying-up draft, and perhaps the intervention of a more experienced copy editor/proofreader, to sort out the lack of vocative commas and the few editorial errors, and cut some of the funnies that need a bit of fine-tuning.  All of this would have made it the book it deserves to be; there is no doubt that Mr Leonard is a talented writer, and I enjoyed it.  I did guess the twist, from early on, but it's well done and was in no way obvious; my mind jumps ahead when I'm watching TV shows, too.  I especially appreciated the well-thought out last chapter and a great epilogue that definitely makes you want to see what happens next!


  1. Sounds like this could be added to my ever growing tbr list. Thanks for the review.

  2. This sounds like a fun but challenging book, Terry. I love the way you dissected it!

    1. Not 'challenging' really, Noelle - but yes, I am a terrible 'dissecter'!!