While this is the second book to feature anti-hero drug dealer Kilo from MY Alam, the great beauty of it is that it works as a stand-alone piece, yet you can almost feel the predecessor adding weight to the story. Red Laal is a fine novel, that stands tall on its own, but even if you haven’t read the previous book, Kilo, you can sense this latest book exists in a greater universe than the one you see on the page in front of you.
MY Alam is the pen name of Bradford university lecturer Yunis Alam. That he grew up in Bradford and knows the city like the back of his hand is enormously evident in Red Laal. A previously published academic work by Alam, Made in Bradford, in which he conducted no-holds-barred interviews with some of the city’s young Asian men is also evidenced in the book, so rich and deep is the texture of the world Kilo inhabits. Sometimes it feels as though you can touch the fabric of the world Alam has created.
Kilo is a drug dealer who has a conflict at his centre. He has a strong moral backbone that makes selling drugs troublesome for him. He doesn’t live in opulence with the earnings from his trade – which he clearly could do with more rigour and efficiency if he wanted to – but just earns enough to get by.
With a reputation for being a man who can ‘fix things’ he is called upon to help an ‘uncle’ rescue his daughter who has been led into a life of vice. Kilo taking on the job of helping the girl is the story’s first hint that the drug dealer may have something good at heart.
Helping the girl sets off a series of events that lead Kilo into ever more dangerous territory and a voyage of discovery.
A story that absolutely races along and grips like a vice, Pontefract-based publishers Route deserve credit for publishing this book so handsomely and Alam for creating a piece of work that is utterly shot through with authenticity.
Review by Nick Ahad in Yorkshire Post