A Mind Polluted by Martin Geraghty REVIEW

A Mind Polluted

Finding rare forms of art and creative work are ultimately satisfying and worth the hard effort of trying to find them. A Mind Polluted by Martin Geraghty is one novel that any book lover should have. Though it has had a very short life cycle as a published novel, it is a literary gem worth all the time and effort spent looking for it.

A Mind Polluted is a fictional Scottish crime novel that was released in March 2018 and had a short, but good, publishing run, that finished a couple of months ago. The story follows Connor Boyd, as he retells the story of his life, starting from the moment he heard his mother claiming she wanted an abortion instead of giving birth to him. The book itself is split up into three sections: the first section follows Connor as a young boy in Glasgow’s East End going into his troubled past and his youthful crime spree, setting up the troubled character. The second section follows him as a man living in the west end during the happy days of his life, where he embraces his independence and seems to find the happiness he always wanted. The final section wraps up to Connor’s present where everything he worked for crumbles around him.

Though most of the text is written in traditional English, all of the dialogue is written in Scots, creating more realism for Scottish readers, but isn’t so strong as to drive off non-Scottish readers. In particular, perceptive Glaswegian readers will recognise locations in the book and can even somewhat relate to these characters.

The idea for A Mind Polluted was originally conceived in June of 2016. During the lead up to the Brexit vote, this was also the time that Labour MP Jo Cox was murdered, an event that shook the country. Angry and sad with these events, author Martin Geraghty looked more into her murderer Thomas Mair, wondering what could drive someone to do such a hateful act. One of the things he found about Mair’s youth gave him inspiration for the premise of the book: that one event from a person’s childhood could ruin their life, letting it consume them and ultimately lead to their demise. Though a tragic event to be sure, it is nice that something creative and good came from it in some form.

The book, both thematically and narratively, feels very reminiscent of Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh, in how violence begets violence and traumatising past events can shape someone to change for the worst. Despite having its intense moments of darkness and violence, it also has its periods of happiness and even well-written romance. The first and third section of the book serve as the dark periods of time in Connor’s life, while the second is something of a merciful alleviation, giving the reader a cheery break from a dark and depressing tale. Book Two actually is made up of a well fleshed out romance, a nice change to the crime and darkness Connor is used to. However, it can also be argued that this makes Connor Boyd’s eventual downfall all the more tragic. Additionally, the ending of the book, though extreme, is deeply satisfying. Geragthy has a real talent for plucking at the reader’s different heart strings. He also uses language to his advantage and has some creative wordplay. One word that stood out, in particular, was ‘hangxiety’, a playful combination that nails the emotion without going into huge detail.

Geragthy doesn’t fall into the trap of some first-time writers by making his characters too perfect or too weak. Instead, the characters are done really well and fleshed out in a realistic manner. The protagonist himself is very well handled. Throughout the story, readers can’t help but pity him and sympathise with him for being subjected to the events he goes through, liking him at his best. However, there are also moments when the audience can’t help being frustrated with him when he causes easily avoidable conflicts, letting his temper irrationally get in the way of being happy. Though the other characters are seen through Connor’s eyes and their own development may suffer slightly from it, they are equally given loving attention from the author. Greg, Connor’s best friend from college, loves him unconditionally but isn’t afraid to bring him down a peg when he is stepping out of line. Laura, Connor’s first love, is almost perfect to him, but he thinks she is too sheltered and spoiled by her family. There are a couple of characters who come off as purely antagonistic and therefore may not seem as realistic.

While this book is very much worth reading, it sadly isn’t very readily available. Though Geragthy had problems with his publisher throughout the lifecycle of A Mind Polluted, there was one inciting event that changed the book’s fate. After a lack of support and being told by the publishers that they couldn’t stock the book in Waterstones in the UK – a milestone that Geraghty was working towards – because they used Amazon Createspace, an American company, A Mind Polluted only had one publishing run and there are only a few copies that exist now, so keep an eye out for it in second hand bookshops. However, this book is such a worthwhile read, that it is worth looking out for this rare gem of contemporary Scottish literature. If you are a fan of authors like Irvine Welsh, enjoy crime or just love a well-written story, keep an eye out for it and try to get a hold of it however you can, you won’t be disappointed.

Review copy purchased

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A Mind Polluted
A well-crafted crime story with elements of romance, this novel has a cast of interesting and believable characters, with a surreal and emotional plot.