Wednesday 20 May 2020

Burntbridge Boys by John F Leonard

4 out of 5 stars

On Amazon UK
On Goodreads

How I discovered this book: it was submitted to Rosie's Book Review Team, of which I am a member.

In a Nutshell: Football-themed horror novella

I've read quite a few of John F Leonard's shorter length horror tales, and always enjoy both his original story ideas and characterisation.  Burntbridge boys is set in 1979 and is about Sammy 'the butcher' Rafferty, a former footballer, football club manager and general bad boy, whose glory days are over; he is currently on the run from the police and from unfriendly criminal types.  When Sammy finds himself in the decaying stadium of a defunct club, it seems that his dreams might not be over after all....  

Much of the story includes flashbacks to the 1960s, detailing Sammy's career and how deeply he became involved in the corruption to do with the game: the pay offs, the dodgy transfers, the darker side of life for many of those involved.  Sammy's backstory is as much a part of the whole as the supernatural side, which I liked; in itself, it's something of a horror story.

I very much liked the unravelling of the ghostly mystery in the last 20% of the story, the strongest part; Sammy's meeting with Burntbridge's Chairman Millicent is stunningly good.  I felt that some of the earlier parts would benefit from a bit of fine-tuning, perhaps another draft or the hand of an experienced copy editor to tidy up some over-use of the subordinate clause and to make the delivery more concise.  A little more attention to detail could raise this author's work to the next level.

Having said that, it really is an excellent story, and I love the way Mr Leonard doesn't shy away from the distasteful, and builds tension so well - I think if you have an interest in football, you'll love it, especially if you like your fiction on the dark side, but even if you actively dislike it, as I do, you'll still enjoy!


  1. Mmm... wonder if the author played football? Soccer, I assume. Interesting concept, though!