"An Experiment in Compassion" takes a hard and intimate look at living with alchoholism. The central character is Stevie, who is recently out of prison and trying to rebuild a life free of booze with his girlfriend and his estranged son. But while Stevie may be on the road to a new and different and perhaps better life, his younger brother Danny is still spiralling down towards self inflicted alcohol fuelled destruction. The book explores Stevie's life both as an alcoholic and as a recovering alcoholic as it moves backwards and forwards in time. At the heart of the story is the question of whether Stevie can help Danny find the start of the path to recovery: or whether Danny will drag Stevie back into the life he is trying to leave behind.
It is difficult to read this book without drawing comparisons with "Trainspotting", and it is arguable that "An Experiment in Compassion" does for alcoholism what "Trainspotting" did for hard drugs: allowing those with no direct experience of the problem some insight into lives that are blighted by it. The book also, again like "Trainspotting", gives a remarkable insight into lifestyles that many readers will find chaotic beyond imagination yet which are all too believable. Equally believable is the language in which the book is written, which in the language you hear in the streets and pubs of west central Scotland.
You get a sense while reading this book that the author really knows his subject and deeply understands the lives of the characters he portrays. Des Dillon is a poet, short story writer, novelist and dramatist writing for radio, stage, television and film. He was writer in residence at Castlemilk in Glasgow from 1998 to 2000, and has worked as a teacher of English, a creative writing tutor, and a TV scriptwriter. His novels have been translated into Russian and Italian. His novel, "Me and Ma Gal", first published in 1995, was selected as one of The List/Scottish Book Trust's 100 Best Scottish Books of all time.