The Killing Pool – Kevin Sampson: Gear & Loathing in Liverpool L8

Liverpool’s master storyteller returns with a foray into the crime genre…
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Liverpool’s master storyteller returns with a foray into the crime genre…


Gangs, clubbers, football casuals and rock bands with hilarious sexual peccadilloes have all spilt from the imagination of Kevin Sampson since he smashed onto the literary scene with Awaydays in 1998. Returning after a seven-year hiatus, it will come as no surprise that his native Liverpool is again the setting for his latest novel, The Killing Pool. What is surprising though is that he’s chosen to enter the saturated world of crime thrillers.

Split between 1984, 1997 and the present day, the basic story arc revolves around police commissioner Hubert Hodgson and his attempts to rid Liverpool of the thriving drug industry that has switched from smack to coke and back to smack again over the past 30 years.

As with all good crime thrillers, that story arc is nothing more than a skeleton that gets filled with all sorts of rotten meat across the 300 pages. Vengeful coppers, lissome beauties, failed footballers turned coke mules, eloquent smack heads, a schmutter-obsessed Detective with a drug problem and a secret, Somali, Persian and Scouse gangs hell-bent on domination and a sharp-dressing, Shakespeare quoting career criminal are just a handful of the characters who leap off the page and make this an easy and enjoyable romp.

With snatches of social commentary about Liverpool and the futility of the drug war that echo The Wire’s creator David Simon, on the money descriptions of the city as it changes immeasurably over the passage of time and enough dirty laughs and gruesome scenes to fulfill even the darkest of imaginations, The Killing Pool should appeal to a wide spectrum. You could just sit and turn pages and be entertained by this slice of escapism, or you could stop a minute and think further on some of the themes.

A successful first effort in this genre, the main feeling I was left with after The Killing Pool is that, with some adaptation, a slight change of pace and a further insight into some of the characters and their doings and this would make an ace TV drama.

The Killing Pool is published on March 21 2013 by Jonathan Cape. Follow the link below to buy a copy…

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