"Gun". The sharply focused title of Ray Bank's novella deserves a sharply focused description. For this we'll borrow a phrase first coined by Thomas Hobbes in his "Leviathan", published in 1651, though in its original full form rather than its much better known abbreviated version. The world described within Gun is, quite simply, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short". This is not a book to cheer you up on a rainy afternoon: but then its author never intended it to be. Ray Banks' novellas have a remarkable intensity, and "Gun" succeeds admirably in pulling you in, and refusing to let you go until you arrive, feeling just a little grubby for having witnessed the events within it, at the end.
The story revolves around Richie, just out of prison for GBH. Now he is knocking on the door of Goose, the man on whose orders he committed the crime that sent him to prison, looking for a job. Any job. The quest he embarks on as a result has the epic scale and feel of a 19th Century explorer on a mission that crosses continents. Yet what Richie actually sets out to do is to ride the Metro from one side of Newcastle to the other and buy a gun from the local main man, that he can then take back to Goose.
We start out feeling a little sorry for Richie as he makes his way to a housing estate in what, for him, might as well be the heart of the dark continent: a place of hostile natives and different social conventions. As the story builds towards its conclusion we gain steadily more respect for aspects of Richie's character, while at the same time viewing the progress of his quest with steadily increasing horror. Actually, when you come to think about it, Thomas Hobbes didn't get it quite right. To properly describe Richie's story, he'd have needed to slightly adapt his phrase. Adding "and bloody" to the end would have just about covered it.