Liam Murray Bell - The Busker
Enjoyable enough tale of well-observed characters and locations, despite unsympathetic protagonist
The Busker follows singer-songwriter Rab Dillon from his origins in Glasgow, through his attempts to crack the music industry in London to eventual homelessness in Brighton. This isn’t a spoiler: we first meet Rab on the streets, scrounging for food and drugs, busking for change on a battered harmonica.
Bell’s decision to dispense with suspense is a bold one; by making plot of secondary importance, the likes of characterisation, setting and narrative voice come to the fore. It’s in these first two categories that Bell excels: Rab’s acquaintances are believable, well-rounded figures, while the varied settings – from the grubby woodlands of Hyndland to the clammy, insidious coldness of Brighton’s beachfront – are very well observed.
Unfortunately, Bell hits a bum note with Rab; naïve and egotistical, he’s an unsympathetic protagonist, and the author’s own clear love of language – the text abounds with metaphors and alliteration – often sits at odds with his inarticulate narrator. The Busker delivers a solid performance overall, but you may think twice before throwing your change in his hat.