Charlie Six is a unique coming-of-age novel, set in the seedy pubs and back-alleys of 1960s London. Charlie is a rebellious boy ready to embrace the musical and cultural revolution of the times, cheeky in his Beatle boots and shaggy hairstyle. Raised by a collection of gangsters, alcoholics, shysters, and generally big-hearted miscreants, Charlie has to learn to define his own lines of right and wrong from an early age—his definition of “right” far more mischievous than his schoolmasters would like.
The cast of characters painted by British-born author Brixton Key is colorful—to say the least. Were they to actually be expressed on canvas, this crew would splatter across its surface in a mesmerizing tie-dyed spiral, with plenty of elusive black splotches. The author offers this effect beautifully, using language that is vivid without being long-winded. He displays a cast of immoral hooligans we can’t help but love, root for, and miss… as some, inevitably, are lost or left behind.
Despite Key’s fluency at painting each scene, the book leaves a bit to be desired. The novel would have benefited greatly from more aggressive editing—both to tighten up the storyline and to do away with consistent grammar and punctuation issues. While these are inevitable in any book, the frequency of typos and errors in this novel distracted from what is otherwise very skilled writing.
The characters are absolutely the novel’s saving grace. Even with the story’s structural issues, each page of dialogue between characters and the colorful observations by Charlie made me want to keep reading. Key’s clever manipulation of language alone is enough to push the reader forward.
The Cockney slang and accent employed by both the characters and the narrator of the novel were difficult to follow at first, but with time the words fall into a rhythm reminiscent of the sounds of an English pub—ruckus all around, pints being poured and drunk and slammed to the bar. This is not a novel to be read in short spurts but one to devote time to, so that you can fall into this rhythm and be carried across the page into the world of Charlie Six.
I recommend that the reader first flip to the back of the book and read the author’s bio before diving into the novel itself. The story of Charlie Six has an autobiographical twist throughout, and knowing the man behind it will make the reader much more inclined to love the story. Any artistically-inclined reader will undoubtedly recognize the skills of this wordsmith, and those who can appreciate his raucous upbringing will surely love the book even more.