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Colin Burnett – Who’s Aldo (book review)

Colin Burnett’s previous book, the 2021 short story collection A Working Class State of Mind, introduced readers not only to the lives and times of Leith residents Aldo, Dougie, and Craig, but to a new and visceral voice in Scottish writing.

Comparisons to Irvine Welsh were not just inevitable; they were entirely warranted.

Burnett’s new novel, Who’s Aldo?: Dugs, Drugs & Class, sees his writing raised to another level, taking those returning characters and developing them into fully rounded individuals rather than the snapshots we had in the previous publication.

The longer form writing allows space for individual characters to reveal their complexity and humanity, both good and bad – and everything in between. This particularly applies to Aldo, who emerges as an often conflicted and confused individual, despite his apparently impenetrable armour of gallus bravado.

This is due in no small part to his love for his Staffordshire bull terrier, Bruce, who he often refers to as his son (leading to some comic misunderstandings) but who is, to all intents and purposes, his familiar – the physical manifestation of Aldo’s conscience and morality.

Where Who’s Aldo? really shines is in Burnett’s use of language. It’s one thing to have an ear for the way people speak, quite another to render it authentically on the page. This is where this writer comes into his own, lending everyone a distinct voice and therefore identity, and that includes characters both old and new.

Who’s Aldo? is a fast-paced, blackly comic read which doesn’t shy away from the nasty and brutish sides of life. While it will be interesting to see where Colin Burnett goes next, it feels as if he is not finished with Aldo and his gang yet.

What’s undeniable is that Who’s Aldo? confirms Colin Burnett is a writer to take note of – few writers detail working class experiences, both the walk and the talk, with the style and understanding he does.

Who’s Aldo?: Dugs, Drugs & Class is published by Tippermuir Books

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