My Name is Hardly by Martin Crosbie

Martin Crosbie

You already know I tend to review  non-fiction; apart from the fact that it’s what I write, it’s also frequently passed over by ‘proper’ book blogs. But I set myself a rule last year that I could do whatever the hell I liked really and you are visiting the blog of a person with an ‘ooh shiny’ approach to most things in life. So, a spot of fiction today. Why? It’s a terrific book, it’s by a bit of a writing superstar who happens to be a fellow Indies Unlimited staffer and because I can.

A bit about the chap himself…Martin Crosbie’s website says

“In a press release, Amazon referred to Martin Crosbie as one of their success stories of 2012. His self-publishing journey has been chronicled in Publisher’s Weekly, Forbes Online, and Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper. Martin’s debut novel, MY TEMPORARY LIFE, has been downloaded over one hundred thousand times and became an Amazon bestseller. MY NAME IS HARDLY, his second book, was written following reader requests to hear more about Hardly, the beloved character from MY TEMPORARY LIFE.”

His story interests me particularly because I’ve been opining since 2004 that the current self-publishing boom allows great writing to stand or fall on its own merits. You can be sure of an interesting conversation next week, but for now, here’s my current all-time fave book. The purchase link is over in the right sidebar.

When I posted a review on Amazon it needed a title. I called it,

There are different types of strength.

I came to this book via its subject matter, rather than from the 1st in this trilogy, and read it as a standalone novel. I will, of course, now go back and read My Temporary Life to fill in the background but if coming of age tales don’t work for you, read My Name is Hardly first…to be introduced to these magnificent, quietly sturdy lives.

A character from My Temporary Life survives a tough childhood and, as so many lost young men do, joined the army. A small chap, he finds his niche as a ‘loft sitter’ in Northern Ireland during the height of The Troubles.

Perhaps the book appealed to me because I have some tangential connections with The Troubles. What with one thing and another and my wacky background I’ve met, worked with and trained more than a few squaddies who could have been Hardly. Although I am not Irish and was never in Ireland or the army I know people who have and I was immediately drawn to this meticulously researched tale of little-talked about aspects of the times.

Amid personal pain and growth, memories and powerful relationships, this book conveys the baffled doggedness of outsiders to the bitter divide. As Hardly and co get on with the job, accepting that the fear, violence and control are someone else’s normal, to be taken all in a day’s work rather than understood and engaged with, we all learn a little about the world’s pain. There are things about people and their choices that just are, sometimes all outsiders can do is their best. We learn and grow with Hardly as he comes to terms with his past, accepts responsibility for change, and ultimately triumphs more over himself than the IRA.

I was fascinated from page one, with characters who forced me to care despite their failings. The army provides a surrogate family for so many lost youngsters and this little ‘family’ suffered and laughed and grew as I read. The book ends satisfactorily enough for the last page of an episode, but it leaves a few questions open.

I will follow the rest of the My Temporary Life trilogy, albeit in the wrong order, because the people are real to me now. I want to find out how they became who they are and what happens next. I am glad that I care enough about them all to read more and am not at all surprised that the series has become such a huge success.

One of the reasons that I wanted to feature Martin Crosbie on this blog is because, like David Antrobus (whose interview is here) and, in fact, like me, Martin is an emigrant from Britain to Canada. And as I look at the roll call of Indies Unlimited staffers, I see a lot of emigrants. We will talk a bit about whether that influences people to become writers in next week’s interview. I think I might have the makings of a whole new series!


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