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The bad and the ugly

SMASH!. Robert Swindells. Hamish Hamilton Pounds 10.99.

The prolific author Robert Swindells is right on the button again with his latest book, a gripping tale of two young men (one Asian, one white) whose friendship turns to animosity when they get involved on opposite sides of the race war.

This being fiction, the steam is taken out of an extremelyugly situation when the sisters of the boys' uncover the dirty doings of businessmen funding the riots and brawls in the run-down mill town of Shadderton. The author is particularly convincing in his empathywith young lads skidding into an initiation intomanhood through the thrillof associating with older, violent males.

Where he is least credible, however, is in his depiction of the arch headbanger, who is overcome with remorse when his firebombing leads to the death of a toddler: a lot of unpleasant statistics suggest that this is simply not likely. And how many racist thugs end up going to university?

Still, we live in hope.

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