For a fair number of reasons, absolutely everybody should buy this book. Number one reason might as well be because all of the authors are giving their money to charity. It's for the kids.
There are another 32 excellent reasons collected between the covers, so the warm glow of generosity is not the only good feeling you'll be getting out of your purchase. Editor Paul Brazill has gathered 32 of the most exciting young (in author years) talent that the UK has to offer.
If that seems like a lot, don't worry, there's no let up in quality. It literally hums and buzzes from every page, like a chippy sign on a wet Saturday night. The gritty rain-soaked back streets of Britain also give enough of a common thread to hold the whole thing together while allowing an astonishing array of talent to share the same pages.
Some of my absolute favourites are from familiar names like Nigel Bird, Richard Godwin, Luca Veste, Charlie Wade, Fiona Johnson, Gerard Brennan, and, of course, there's the editor's own contribution. That's a lot of genuine noir talent pulled together.
And while we're on familiar names, Hard Times by Ian Ayris is the sort of dark little tale that exemplifies the best of British. It twists under your skin and then smacks you where it hurts, nothing overblown, not a word wasted, but with such texture that you can feel the dirt getting under your fingernails.
Let's be honest, you'd pay a coupla quid just for that little lot. Even it wasn't for kids. But there's plenty more. One of the delights is coming across new authors (new to me, that is, 'cause I'm not the quickest on the uptake) and getting completely blown away by them.
Andy Rivers' superb Geraldine comes immediately to mind. A twisted tale of football fans and murder, told with real sympathy (underneath the macho exterior) and a genuine voice. The narrator honestly feels like somebody I've met and forgotten. Iain Rowan and Luke Block's respective contributions - amongst others - will also have me looking out for their names.
All in all, this feels like a snapshot of a nation: a dank, musty, blackly-humorous, rain-sodden little nation where everybody's going to hell but a lot of people can really write. Frankly, you should buy it even if you hate kids. It's that good.