Chris Hannan - Missy (2 stars)

Chris Hannan - Missy

(Chatto & Windus)


Missy is the first novel by award-winning Scottish playwright Chris Hannan but on this evidence, he should most definitely return to the theatre. Set in 1860s California, we follow the trials and tribulations of Dol, a young prostitute working out of saloons in the old Wild West. While heading east looking for a new start, Dol interrupts the attempted suicide of Pontius, an act which will set in motion numerous unfortunate and unpleasant events.

It’s an uneven novel and one that feels not a little self-indulgent. Early on Dol refers to herself as having enough self-pity ‘ballooning up inside her to refloat Ophelia’ and it’s this incongruity of language from its central character, coupled with a failure to evoke the atmosphere of 19th century American mining settlements, that stops the reader from immersing themselves in the character. Delving into Dol’s world ultimately makes for a somewhat lacklustre experience.


1. Will Reily10 Apr 2008, 2:34pm Report

On this evidence I'd most definitely return to reviewing stand-up if I were you Gordon.

Here's a proper Review of Missy from Kirkus on-line in the US.

Missy by Chris Hannan
UK publisher: Chatto (17th April)
US publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux (17th June)

"Don't miss it"

A feisty 19-year-old prostitute narrates--and dominates--Scottish playwright Hannan's adventurous first novel: a tale of America's Wild West during the late-19th-century Silver Rush.

Dol McQueen is one of the "flash-girls" who forsake the fleshpots of San Francisco to ply their trade in Nevada's Virginia City, where men are rumored to be newly rich and ripe for plucking. Dol is herself seduced by a blissful hit of liquid opium, illicitly acquired by a pimp named Pontius, who impulsively entrusts his stash to Dol for safekeeping. Gangs of hired thugs keep materialising, engaged to retrieve the fugitive opium and return it to the Chinese gang boss from whom Pontius stole it. The efforts of Dol and her cohorts to elude their pursuers suggest a black-comic gloss on Cormac McCarthy's doom-laden No Country for Old Men.

A rib-tickling picaresque romp with a heart of gold that even a hellfire-and-damnation preacher would warm to.

2. S Davey27 Apr 2008, 10:54pm Report

I'm with you Will. I've read MISSY and I can't praise it highly enough. Hannan has written a fascinating book and the characters are well drawn. Dol is intelligent and quick witted when not gonged on missy and I find the reference to Ophelia, not only funny but poignant. An excellent read. This is a book heading for the best seller list.

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