Nick Glass is a rookie guard in a Scottish prison. He’s been on the job six weeks with bad results. The other guards make trouble for him and he’s not respected by the inmates. At home he has a five year old daughter and a wife. A wife who’s at the tail end of an affair and drinks more than she should.
To make things worse Nick is approached by one of the inmates and asked to mule drugs inside the prison. The inmate gives Nick a couple options: mule the drugs and make an easy buck, or don’t mule the drugs and his little family gets hurt. Nick is in big trouble because neither choice is worth having, and ultimately both his life and his families lives are in danger.
Slammer is the sort of novel that creeps up on you in a hurry. It starts hard and strong and never lets go. Glass is a regular guy caught in a nasty and impossible situation. He doesn’t belong in the prison, as a guard or anything else, because he’s a nice guy; weak and fear-filled. Nick, like his surname, is prone to fracture and Guthrie makes sure he does.
Reminiscent of Guthrie’s first novel Two-Way Split, but Slammer displays a higher skill set with a sharper execution. The prose is hardboiled, lean and smart. The dialogue crisp. The atmosphere weighty and oppressive. A fine example of the new noir: a hopeless, distraught and shameless (in a good way) vision of the human condition.