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Soldier Boy, By Danny Rhodes

Author of the touching and memorable Asboville, Danny Rhodes returns with a soldier's tale that delivers a late, and startling, ricochet. Short on hope and love alike, young Glaswegian Scottie takes a well-trodden local path and enlists.

Rhodes does the urban listlessness that drives his naïve hero to the colours with an unaffected grace and low-key empathy. When Scottie finds himself (inevitably) shipped out to the desert, sweating and shaking in an unfathomable war, the horror and confusion call up Rhodes's strongest prose.

Soon Scottie has crossed a hideous threshold – "He was 18 years old and he had killed another human being". Then, shockingly, he becomes a casualty himself. With his solitary retreat to Glasgow comes a drastic lurch in genre and tone. This shift will divide critics, but may endear a grittily lyrical story of squandered youth to readers of its hapless hero's age.