Reviews: White Skin Man
It’s supposed to be a pleasurable day for Katy Madika. She has a new camera and she’s gone to the Hull (UK) town centre to take some photographs. She randomly selects her subjects, this one because of a certain turn to their mouth, that one because of the hook of the nose.
As she’s composing her shots, she is totally unaware that a crime is about to be committed, that in fact, the man she is shooting with her camera is about to be murdered. She snaps several shots, and the killer sees her. He chases Katy and snatches her camera. However, she has stupidly removed the disc with the pictures on it. By doing so, she has inadvertently placed her entire family in terrible danger, far more than she can conceive. The fact of the matter is, Katy is in a mixed marriage; and the killer is a white supremacist. When Katy realizes her mistake, she confides in her best friend, Eve, at her cyber café. It’s telling that she doesn’t feel that she can confide in her husband.
One of Eve’s employees, Stone Lewis, overhears the conversation and becomes involved in trying to help Katy.
Katy’s situation is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a group of skinheads living in the Hull area. They’ve set up a web site and are recruiting members to assist them in racial terrorism activities. Gaz, Mort and Ginner prowl the area looking for vulnerable targets, such as a young black man who has been working with a white teacher or any of a number of people, including Stone’s aunt, who are involved in mixed race relationships. This little trio is responsible for terrorizing the entire area. When they get involved with the killer Katy photographed, the entire situation escalates from isolated incidents to a planned campaign of ethnic cleansing on a much broader scale.
White Skin Man is an incredible book, powerful and absorbing. Its racial theme is disturbing. The horror builds page by page as the reader anticipates what this band of misfits is going to do to its next victims. Baker has done some astonishing work in the development of the characters. First of all, there’s Stone Lewis, who is autistic, and learning how to function in a world that he doesn’t quite understand.
One of the secondary characters, Heartbreak, steals the page every time he’s on it. Even one of the skinheads, Mort, is sympathetically portrayed. Although his principles are reprehensible, he cares for his housebound and disabled mother without complaint.
White Skin Man receives my highest recommendation. It hit me hard when I read it, and it’s stayed with me ever since. Maddy Van Hertbruggen, http://www.iloveamysterynewsletter.com/
Reviewing the Evidence: http://reviewingtheevidence.com/
Set against a background of fear and violence, but with wonderful moments of compassion, love and humour White Skin Man is a powerful novel from one of Britain’s finest.
As is always the case with John Baker, wonderful characters (including the baddies!), emotion, rhythm, tension, a strong sense of place, an overriding sense of fear. White Skin Man is a great read. Whether it’s the current Stone Lewis series, or previously, the superb Sam Turner novels I cannot recommend John Baker highly enough. The fact that he is not more widely known, and read, is just criminal. White Skin Man is a great read. Tony Sutton, Ottakars Magazine, The Verdict.
John Baker is one of those brilliant writers who are so underrated that only long time readers of the genre truly appreciate how well he writes.
White Skin Man is a novel of incredible depth and tension. From the beginning we are lured by the story and the huge passion that it evokes. It is an engrossing and richly written story that is both powerful and poignant. Ayo Onatade, Mystery Women.
Baker shares the story out between several characters and succeeds admirably in getting inside their heads so we can empathise even with the least savoury personalities. A pleasure in Baker’s work is the way that his characters actually talk to each other, whether it’s debates on how to tackle violence or the link between a Dylan song and a Beatles lyric. Philosophy is no dirty word here, people share their thoughts on the way of the world as well as trying to work out what they actually think. Stone, who has autistic traits, is a vulnerable and intriguing character but we are equally captivated by his aunt Nell and friend Heartbreak and the young racist Mort who cares for his disabled mother. The plot moves inexorably towards violence and confrontation and there is the flavour of a modern morality tale in the outcome – though not a happily-ever-after ending for everyone. Cath Staincliffe, Manchester Evening News.
A serious undertone of racism pushes the story in a direction that will have you remembering this book. White Skin Man is an incredible book, powerful and absorbing. Its racial theme is deeply disturbing. (This book) receives a very high recommendation. It hit me hard when I read it, and it’s stayed with me ever since. Benjamin Lancaster, Business First.
Dark and uncompromising stuff. Murder One.
A tense, energetic foray into the nature of racism in England today. Baker has put together a very credible cast of characters, bringing even the least promising of them to life. This is a compelling read, highly politicised at times, but with enough complex issues for any readers’ group to debate. It’s a pleasure to read a writer with a finger firmly on the pulse of the times. Eileen Shaw, New Books Mag.
John Baker, a crime-writing poet. His extraordinary books are much admired for their emotional ambition, their stylistic unusualness and their willingness to deal with unpalatable truths. What shouldn’t be forgotten is that they are also immensely enjoyable. Mat Coward, Morning Star.
Edge-of-your-seat material with a startling twist. Dean Powell, Western mail (Cardiff) Magazine.
John Baker is one of the most respected writers of crime in the UK. Imaginative and compassionate drawing of characters worthy of Dickens. Judith Cutler, Shotsmag.
A chilling contemporary tale. Susanna Yager, Sunday Telegraph.
(White Skin Man) turns into a gripping novel, not a mystery, about contemporary issues, such as racism, tension, fear and loathing. This is probably Baker’s best work to date, and shows the way that the modern crime novel must go. His unlikely hero from The Chinese Girl, the tattooed ex-con Stone Lewis, is a wonderful creation – but it’s Baker’s rich attention to narrative and detail that gives the book its impetus. Yorkshire Post Magazine.
Writer John Baker has, as he has ably demonstrated in previous novels, a highly developed social conscience. Given the quantity of wrongs that need to be righted in the climate of today, he must be frustrated in only being able to tackle bite sized pieces at a time in each of his Sam Turner and Stone Lewis series.
There are some unpleasant concepts and scenes dealt with in this very well told and thoughtful tale. Baker has crafted intriguing and likeable characters – not the least Stone himself as well as his erratic mother Sally, his more conscientious aunt Nell and her whimsical boyfriend Heartbreak. The plight of racial minorities within Britain has been tackled in this novel and some of the abuses to which they are routinely subjected examined. John Baker does not disappoint his readers with this episode in the life of Stone Lewis. Denise Pickles, Mary Martin Bookshop and Reviewing the Evidence.
The true art of storytelling comes through being able to paint a picture of words that doesn’t overburden the canvas of the page. In White Skin Man, author John Baker demonstrates impeccably that he has mastered this art with few being his equal.
An absorbing and compelling read that fluctuates between a murder hunt and the filthy ideology of racism with delicate ease, this is attributable to Baker’s innate ability to carefully select and utilise each word with an exactitude that is awe inspiring and never once allows the pace of the novel to dissipate.
The characters are all too real and the storyline all too credible, which helps to bring real tension to the story’s telling. The pages tumble over as each new dilemma is faced and solved, until the final crashing climax leaves the reader breathless. Chris High, writer. http://www.chrishigh.com/reviews/books/white_skin_man.htm.
John Baker writes so well, and he can put a pretty good plot together as well. Although John writes two series and I intended, in my usual “over-ordered” manner, to buy book one of series one to start with, somehow I managed to buy book two of series two — which I didn’t realise until about one-third of the way through.
No matter, the book is excellent. I’ll certainly read more. White Skin Man is a slow burn, gradually drawing in the reader until you just have to keep reading on. It is as much “social comment” as a crime story, in particular about racism in various aspects and manifestations. I don’t know how this book compares to John Baker’s others in terms of quality but it will be good finding out — he’s very assured on atmosphere, plot and character. This is an author who gets inside everyone’s heads. The book does not end with all loose ends tied up, and the series main character, although mostly tangential to events here, is both sufficiently unusual as a character and within his own developing story, to create reader-demand for the next installment. Maxine at: http://petrona-maxine.blogspot.com/
I’ve just finished White Skin Man and am writing to say how much I enjoyed it. It works on so many levels and in so many ways. Urgent but informed and relevant. Great writing. My congratulations. Richard Madelin, Novelist.