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Bri Thai
02-04-2004, 12:27 PM
Review of Geoff Thompson’s best selling novel – Red Mist

Background

Geoff Thompson is well known in the Martial Arts world. He is a man who came from, and then transcended Traditional Martial Arts, and then went onto explore very different areas of self expression. He has written extensively about fighting techniques, his own experiences working the doors of Coventry, and how to overcome fear. He also now works in film, and has received BAFTA nominations on two occasions. This is a review of his first novel - Red Mist.

Introduction

Red Mist is the story of one man’s struggle to survive – both his present predicament (finding himself the target of a drugs baron), and also his traumatic past. It is comparatively short at about90,000 words. The last novel I read (a novel by Frederick Forsyth) was approximately 235,000, so it is fair to say that Red Mist is on the modest side as regards size. But as regards entertainment, there was no comparison between them. Red Mist wins hands down.

Though I have never read Geoff’s autobiographical works (beyond the odd chapter available on his web site) I do see how this work also reflects Geoff’s experiences.

Themes

This is a dark tale about a dark world. A world of violence, drug abuse and paedophilia. The characters barely manage to exist, let alone actually live, in this underclass of physical and emotional poverty. Fear, despair, hate and betrayal are explored thoroughly. But it is also about the success of the human spirit overcoming immense adversity. This is not a story for the faint hearted. It can be but, without the low points, how could we appreciate the high? It can be funny, tragic and rather evil. All at once.

A constant in the book is about controlling fear. I know that this is a specialisation for Geoff, and reflects many of his own troubles as a growing person. I have been asked whether or not it is biographical. Well, yes and no. You can certainly see parallels between the main character and Geoff himself, even to the extent that some of the occurrences in the book mirror those Geoff has had in real life. But there are too many key differences. Martin (the “hero” of sorts) is not Geoff. He has not had the same upbringing, and has not coped with the same trials and tribulations.

Geoff Thompson has had success writing books about martial arts, as well as auto biographical works about his days working as a doorman. But this is a work of fiction and, as such, is a new venture for him. I can see the beginnings of great writings here. I put good old Frederick Forsyth down to read Red Mist, and suddenly remembered what it was like to be kept on the edge of my seat again (no offence Fred).

Critical Feedback

I am hard to please. I consider myself to be a very fair person, but I find fault everywhere. This is both one of my greatest strengths and greatest weaknesses. So here goes.

The book could have been a little longer. Not just for the sake of length itself, but in order to develop the characters more. Martin gets under your skin. By the end of the book you know him inside out. But this cannot be said for the others. Ginger’s character, for example, could have been explored much more thoroughly, and the relationship between Martin and Ginger developed more also. I still felt her to be a stranger when Martin lost her. I didn’t know her, so I didn’t really care for her. Major significant events also happened a little quickly. I had barely sat down before Martin was in a fight for his life. Again more could be done next time to allow the reader to both know and care about the characters before the main action commences.

Many know that Geoff understands fear more than most. But I opine that explaining the chemical reactions going on inside Martin’s body would have been best served by doing it only once during his first battle, not almost every time he fought. The actual terror could still be potrayed of course, but without the accompanying scientific references.

I do not mind the use of profanity, and a book like this would have been all the poorer without it. But I feel it was used so often that its potential shock effect was diminished. I would recommend that it stays in the actual dialogue of the characters when appropriate but, for example, kept out of the hero’s private thoughts. That way its’ use would be more targeted, and hit home on the reader with more “punch” (pardon the pun).

I have heard the opinion that the work is too closely related to his auto biographical writings, and that it becomes a little predictable. I purposefully came at this book from the perspective of the man in W.H. Smith’s as far as I could. The man who appreciates the reading above and beyond any interest in fear control or fighting techniques etc. This is quite possibly the best target audience for Geoff to aim for. This new audience will have to be captivated in order for him to win real critical acclaim. This man at the book shelf would not be adversely affected by this potential criticism. It would probably be the first time he had read any of Geoff’s work. And he will be more than satisfied with his purchase. The rest of us will have to accept that it is perfectly natural that he writes about what he knows, so some information will be repeated.

Positive Feedback

This book is an excellent read. The story is a good one, and it is hard to put the book down. Both fighting arts students and normal people (ha ha) can appreciate and learn about the brutality of real, “in your face” combat from Red Mist. It excited me and gave me a taste of life on the wrong side of happiness.

There were many great one liners and truisms in the piece. Many a time I found myself both laughing and nodding my head in agreement. This guy knows his stuff when it comes to the down side of life, and he has a great way of expressing it.

Passion, hatred, envy, violence, love and action. They’re all here, and reading it is a bit like being on an emotional roller coaster. One particular revelation (I can’t say which one without giving the plot away) literally shocked me. Even though I knew it was only pretend. It caught me totally by surprise and I was left aghast.

The novel is very “British” insofar as the language used and the physical scenes depicted. But its’ appeal will be apparent across other shores also. Its’ humanity transcends cultural differences.

This book will not be proclaimed a literary classic. It will not be studied in schools and colleges at some time in the future. But it is an excellent book and a fantastic read. And it is doubly so for those with an interest in the shadowy world of physical combat.

But, one day, the same author may well produce that classic. The ingredients are there for all to see. A little more practice in the mixing of them will refine the writings of Geoff Thompson, and I predict that he will continue to get better and better.

I highly recommend this book. It is in the best tradition of what writing is all about. It is about people and the lives they struggle through, and it takes you with them on their journey.

It is available, along with all his products, on his site www.geoffthompson.com