Kill Johnny Glendenning is incredibly, laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, the humour is necessarily dark, and even physically bloody, but it also intelligently reflects our celebrity-fixated times
Giving us the apparent conclusion of the story first might appear an odd decision to make, robbing any second half of dramatic tension. Yet writer D C Jackson clearly knows what he’s doing, neatly and intelligently using this structure to give us more background, provide explanations and heighten the tension during the latter half precisely because we already know the level of violence which the main antagonist —the titular Johnny Glendenning —is capable of committing. If the passage of time is not always clear, this is only a minor irritation.
On the surface, the conflict at the heart of this story is between Glasgow “businessman”Andrew MacPherson (played by Paul Samson, all tumultuous anger suppressed under the thin skin of a business suit) and the former Loyalist terrorist Glendenning (a fine-form David Ireland, who uses the small ‘human’details of the man that only heighten his violent aspects).
The latter’s honour has been hurt by both a failed drugs deal that’s left him — unlike MacPherson —seriously out of pocket, and a Scottish press report labelling him as a ‘grass’. Thanks to the latter, the initial focus of the story is on Daily Reporter journalist Bruce Wilson (played just the right level of increasing frustration by Steven McNicoll), and two of MacPherson’s men initially sent to baby-sit him. These are the inherently good-hearted Dominic (Philip Cairns) and his mate “Skootch”(Josh Whitelaw) who soon finds himself totally out of his depth in a criminal world that doesn’t operate like his favourite video games.
Things have not gone to plan, however, which is why we encounter Dominic and Skootch not in Bruce’s flat but the hellish farm, with the journalist tied up in a cupboard. Matters only continues to unravel as first MacPherson and then a gun-festooned Glendenning arrive on the scene, bringing violence in their wake. Yet there are also other conflicts and machinations going on between the characters, some of which only become clear during the second half. This is a fine piece of tightly-plotted writing, where even the most seemingly innocuous point both helps defines character and pushes the plot forward: MacPherson’s plea for “No more unexpected happenings”isn’t likely to be heard.
Above all else, though, Kill Johnny Glendenning is incredibly, laugh-out-loud funny. Yes, the humour is necessarily dark, and even physically bloody, but it also intelligently reflects our celebrity-fixated times; not least by having a former loyalist paramilitary proud that his self-penned autobiography (also available as a self-read audio-book) just happens to be the most-shop-lifted book from Waterstone’s.