February’s Son by Alan Parks ~ a Punk Noir Book Review by Scott Cumming

Punk Noir Magazine

Alan Parks is the kind of author who makes me tired. Tired from staying up way too late reading his work. Inspector Harry McCoy is back from three weeks leave only for the body of a Celtic FC star to turn up on the top floor of an office building under construction. The victim’s footballing exploits are, however, not the most notable aspect of his life, but the fact he was soon to be gang boss, Jake Scobie’s son in law.

It’s not often I wallop through a couple of books in a series in a week, but after taking in the sample chapter for this one there was no turning back. The combination of Parks’ writing and the character of McCoy have lit the touchpaper on a series I am sure to be caught up with in a matter of weeks. 

The highest praise I can heap upon the books is that they’re as close as I’ve gotten to the quality of series writing as the Matt Scudder books by Lawrence Block. Parks unashamedly lathers his opening book of the series, Bloody January, with tropes of the genre in order to build a fully fledged cast and environment around McCoy, which pays off in this sequel as it allows Parks to raise the stakes with minimum fuss and still maintain the tone and quality.

The supporting cast are as distinct as McCoy and you’re as excited for what lays in store for them as much as McCoy. Murray is simultaneously McCoy’s boss and father figure with the Chief Inspector prone to expletive filled rants in Harry’s direction. Wattie is the junior detective brought in to learn from McCoy who brings lightheartedness to the story. Stevie Cooper brings the opposite. Cooper is a gangster, but McCoy is loyal to him for the protection and friendship he offered while the two were under the “care” of the Catholic Church.

There’s drink, blood and drugs galore as McCoy rides the line between doing right and casting himself into oblivion because of the things he’s seen and been victim to. He’s heroic and he’s not and for all the bravado there is a tenderness to him that does not always exist in the genre.

Frankly, I should have read these a long time ago, but I have found myself neglecting Scottish noir in favour of more transatlantic efforts. This is classic noir in all its shades that’ll make Parks a must read for years to come.