Book review

Warehouse by Keith Gray (2002)

'I know a place you can go.'

It's a derelict dockside warehouse.

'You look like crap.' Fact.

Robbie's in a state. He's been beaten by his brother, again. He's bruised and bleeding, rain-soaked, tearful, embarrassed, and at a loss what to do next. He's just sitting in the gutter.

'I can take you somewhere you can clean yourself up a bit.'

Robbie overcomes his distrust. It's an offer he can't refuse. And anyway, what has he got to lose?

Canner's got a shelter, that he shares with anyone who needs it.

It was a shanty town. ... Shabby curtains hung from the roof beams to hide worn mattresses and sleeping bags. A couple of tepees were made out of roughly stitched bed sheets with the long supports nailed to the floor. There was even a little kid's Wendy house ...

And once you're invited in you can stay as long as you like, or as long as you need to. It's a self-support group. No questions asked. If you need anything, Canner's your man.

'That's why they call me the Can Man. If you want it, I can get it.'

Robbie settles in. After a few days it feels like home. It's home to Amy too, for now. She wants a guitar. She wants to go busking.

'Are you the Can-I Man?'
He jumped up from his chair. 'Close enough,' he said, with a huge face-splitting smile that actually made Amy take a small step backwards.

It's strange then, isn't it, that Canner didn't make The Rule, and he doesn't reckon to be in charge:

'You're going to meet a guy called Lem. He's one of the good guys. He's not the boss exactly, but what he says usually goes ...'

Want to meet Lem? You'll have to read the book. He's a man with a past, just like the rest of them. Perhaps that's why Crap Palace works so well. Everyone there understands about having problems, and needing a little time and space to work them out for yourself.

'Why d'you call it the Crap Palace?'
'Well, it's not a very good one, is it?'

Brilliant book though.

What can I read next?

What an incisive book. The reality of isolation, and togetherness. The sheer hard work of losing your grip, and finding it again. I sat up late reading this one. If you like Keith Gray's work, you might like to have a look at this:

Or you might be interested to look at this one about life on heroin by Melvin Burgess:

I think you would also enjoy this superb read by David Klass:

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