Box and _____ are a pair of toughs in a hard-boiled city ripped straight from the pulps—
they go where they’re told and break things when they get there. But something bigger than either of them is looming. It might be a mystery, a senseless maze of corpses or an inextricable fever dream, but no dumb muscle is getting out alive.
Muscle is a noir novel in wild collapse: violence jostles with boredom, thugs try to cut off an already-missing ear, and a mind is possessed by either time travel or insanity... Ceaselessly imaginative, drunk on cinematic and literary influence, this is a blackly comic debut from a writer of singular style and invention.
Most of Muscle passed in a daze of pure reading pleasure. There are descriptions here that not only fit their emotional moment to perfection but seem to convey an action, a thing, as well as it’s ever been done.
As with the best pulp fiction, there’s serious existential heft here. The force of the melancholy can catch you off guard. “This is always the thing, this is the tide we cannot swim against – that we always have to find somewhere to be. You chew down the tiredness until it chokes you, you keep finding somewhere to be until you’re excused, finally.” Trotter is a very fine writer, and Muscle is an unadulterated ultraviolent delight.
Alan Trotter is a writer based in Edinburgh.
Muscle is his debut novel.