The Dirty South
Set in Brixton, 20 years after the race riots, The Dirty South follows the adventures of Bricky teenager Dennis Huggins as he drifts into the easy, dangerous life of the shotta - or drug dealer - and discovers that, hard as the struggle for respect on the streets is, the struggle for love is harder still.
Serpent’s Tail UK
Edizioni Spartaco Italy
Film option - Heroes film.
'The plot moves quickly, and even though the story is clearly location specific, race seems light years from the agenda. Instead, the author seems keen to detail an urban blight that could affect anyone, from any city. The power of love is evident in every grimy chapter, whether at home or on the streets. Many of the novel's relationships are strong and true. Wheatle is a sharp-eyed observer of the modes of behaviour and language that make up his fictional world. As such, he can't help but fill every page with hard-boiled authenticity. Clever links with previous works mean that former characters are either referred to, or turn up in unexpected cameos, making The Dirty South a welcome treat for fans of his oeuvre.'
Courttia Newland, Guardian
'This is a thoughtful novel. Part love story, part social commentary. Wheatle depicts a much-changed Brixton to that of his earlier novel East of Acre Lane. Where once the soundtrack was reggae now lives are lived to a hip-hop beat. Where Rastafarianism was once the religion of rebellion now black Muslims attempt to claim that mantle. But as Wheatle skilfully shows, for a variety of reasons, the options for young black men are as limited as ever.'
'Wheatle is a man with a mission. He believes that truth has to be articulated. Good stuff.'
'Authentic, witty and gritty'
'Wheatle has written a compelling novel that does not disappoint. It highlights the temptations of thug life on offer for young black men growing up in Brixton, and disaffected youth culture, as well as engaging with issues of our times.'
'The Dirty South has many points to make about the black urban youth experience in Britain, but it makes them without bitter recrimination. It’s told with wit, verve and style… I laughed far more than I cried. But I did cry too. Like Shane Meadows in the film world, Wheatle shows that every life has moments of beauty – even lives right at the bottom of the pile. There’s also a deep understanding of the social milieu at work, and although the book is written in a casual style, with patois and slang dialogue, themes of alienation, lack of opportunity, failing education, family cohesion and social history are crafted seamlessly in.'
The Book Bag (Five star review)
'Brilliant... Often brutal but always compassionate, a galvanizing piece of work by someone who obviously knows these mean streets.'
'Wheatle has the ability to describe Brixton and its transformations with a clear, lively and ironic style, which raises his works over so much literature… THE DIRTY SOUTH and EAST OF ACRE LANE are dynamic texts impregnated with strong evocative power, building to real insight into the life of the neighbourhood.'
Il Fatto Quotidiano