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  (Jonathan Cape/Random House Publishing ) by Kevin Sampson.  Fiction, 2002.  250 Pages.  I envy all you mofos who havenít read this book, and itís prequel, Outlaws, yet because youíve got some fine reading ahead of you, my friends.  Clubland picks up a few days after Outlaws leaves off, and many of the same characters are revisited here.  Itís got a twisting, turning plot that happily reunites us with lovable bad guys Ged Brennan and his cousin Moby, and it introduces us to a few new interesting schemers as well.  The story centers on bull dyke Liverpool public official Shelagh Cormackís plan to turn her fair city into a newer, improved sex trade/drug-filled version of Amsterdam.  Clubland, like Outlaws, is told in a series of first person narratives and you learn early on that with the exception of Ged at times, every one of Ďem is a self-centered, often fascinatingly conniving SOB.  And like Outlaws, this book builds up to a satisfying explosion of violence in the end.  
     The strength of Clubland, as with all of Kevin Sampsonís books, is the development of the characters.  Number one on this list is Ged, a moralistic thug who truly believes that his activities, despite often being on the wrong side of the law, are contributing to the greater good of his community.  I have to say that so far this millennium I havenít found a character Iíve liked as much as olí Ged.  Heís a wonderful mixture of righteousness, violence, street smarts and an often hilarious-yet-endearing sense of self-doubt, and his narratives are far and away the best in the book.  Moby, who is called Moby because of the size of his johnson, is another favorite from the last book who continues to entertain in this one.  On the outside, heís an easygoing brute whose main desires are to have a bit of respect from his peers and to get as much sex as he possibly can.  In Clubland, Sampson introduces us to the really, REALLY depraved side of Moby Brennan, and oh, what fun that is!  At this point in my life Iíve read hundreds of books, and I can honestly say that in Clubland, Moby is involved in the most disgusting, filthy-ass sex scene Iíve ever read.  A friend of mine asked me if it was worse than when the cop in Irvine Welshís Filth forces the girl to give him a blow job and then blasts a horribly vile-smelling fart while sheís servicing him, causing her to gag in more ways than one.  My reply was that Mobyís shenanigans here make that scene look romantic.

     While Kevin Sampson writes Ged, Moby, and a few other male characters (most notably Paul the Hom, the gay hard case whoís trying to make a name for himself in the Liverpool underworld) extremely well, his female characters arenít quite as good.  I certainly liked reading their narratives, but characters such as Shelagh Cormack, brainy young sex worker Jade, and the gorgeous, intelligent, scheming Haitian/English ice princess Margueritte just werenít as compelling as his male characters.  In comparison they were a bit stiff and didnít display the intriguing complexities of their opposite gender counterparts.  Itís one of the few criticisms I have of this book, and itís a slight one.  
     You could enjoyably read Clubland without having read Outlaws, but I wouldnít recommend it.  Not only does reading Outlaws give you a lot more insight into the characters in Clubland, but itís a great book in its own right.  And while I must admit that I liked Outlaws a tiny bit more than this book, Iíd still have to put Clubland in my top three new books this year. ĖBen Hunter



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