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A Merciless, Morally Hazy Neo-Noir: The Student by Iain Ryan

July 25, 2017

Student strap line_HIRES[1]In this morally hazy neo-noir, Iain Ryan portrays an immaculate vision of hardboiled regional crime. Ryan is a compelling storyteller who balances stunning prose and a level of suspense that shares the robustness found in top-shelf thrillers. But that’s not all – Ryan has a gift for stylising his angsty protagonist’s voice, echoing a modern Holden Caulfield.

In Queensland 1994, Nate, a sometimes student, sometimes drug dealer, finds himself in a tricky spot when his friend and weed supplier Jesse goes missing. From that point his life is thrown into the hidden darkness of deception and suspense that lies beneath the surface of the otherwise calm and ordinary university campus life. Especially when bikies from a local gang hold a knife to his throat and urge him to get their money. And a girl called Maya Kibby is found dead. And Jesse’s house appears totally abandoned.

After all, people depend on Nate, and their patience (and business) is wearing thin. Things are becoming all too much for young Nate. He can’t even remember whether he’s slept.

In a state of druggy disorientation he stumbles through Thursday and Friday, searching even deeper for the truth, until he finds out far more than he bargained for – realising that secretive things, more than petty weed dealing, are happening in the town’s underbelly.

But has Nate merely developed some good old paranoia from all his recreational habits? Or is something seriously sinister going on around him?

This is an obsessive, neurotic read, easily sliding between psychological distress and page-flicking anticipation. More than anything else, Nate, in classic anti-hero form, is worried about keeping himself safe first – which is increasingly tough with the escalating pressure from the bikies who want a stack of cash from him, and the police who are equally perplexed regarding Jesse’s whereabouts. Tensions skyrocket by Sunday, beginning the third act with the killer sentence, ‘I wake up in my car at dawn and start thinking about where I can buy a gun.’Iain Ryan

Ryan’s debut novel is a cornucopia of disaffected youths, eccentrics, and menacing deadbeats. His writing style is stripped back and poetic, sacrificing embellishment for cutthroat economy.

Iain Ryan grew up in the Brisbane suburbs. At the age of seventeen he moved to Gatton (Qld) to attend university. Following a short stint in property economics, Ryan pursued his interest in music and for a number of chaotic (and fun) years performed as a touring musician. Feeling burnt out and on the advice of his therapist, he started writing fiction. In 2015, his first novel, Four Days was published and in 2016 it was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Fiction. He lives in Melbourne.

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