The Hard Shoulder
O’Grady comes home from jail to Kilburn weathering the onset of a harsh new climate. This is Mrs Thatcher’s Britain. It is a place he recognizes, but he feels lost in it. His estranged wife has moved on and up, out to the suburbs; the daughter he barely knew is living with a wealthy record producer. O’Grady lodges in his spinster sister’s dreary hotel. Alcohol and the random chances it brings begin to define his life. The only people who want to know him are aware that he is owed money by those for whom he took the fall. They offer him schemes, fantasies: he is expected to perform some action that will change lives. But O’Grady cannot make a decision and cannot act. The Hard Shoulder is an evocation of the grey avenues and pubs of Irish London at its most hopeless, a semi-criminal milieu of the lost: north-west London has never been more convincingly portrayed. Using and undermining the conventions of the thriller, Petit has written a book that deserves to stand alongside the best that the city has inspired.