Putnam, Oct 14 2010, $16.99
In New Zealand, fourteen year old Hamish Graham is brilliant but believes the easiest best solution to any problem is attack. He does so logically not out of impulse or temper and knows the consequences of being caught as well as right and wrong. His heroes are those who comprehend what violence can do; for instance Alexander the Great understood the basics of Violence 101 when he conquered the world as the Conqueror overwhelmed the opponents with force and guile while also making examples of these losers. Hamish uses Alexander’s philosophy as his own though he adapted it to modern times.
His latest violent act leads to Hamish being locked up at the Manukau New Horizons Boys’ Institute. The facility’s manager Helen Greenville directs Hamish to write a journal focusing on his life. He picks a fight with the inmates top dog Victor, earning respect for challenging the champ and for busting his opponent’s nose with a fork. Hamish's journal looks deep at his three idols Alexander the Great, New Zealand Captain Charles Upham and Maori warrior Te Rauparaha. He surprises himself when he begins to respect Terry the counselor and not shocking himself with his admiration of Toko the PE instructor who understands violence in sports. However, as he begins to comprehend his obsession, Hamish needs to be careful because others want to become the lead dog.
This is an amusing profound hyperbole that condemns society which encourages winning at all costs (steroids comes to mind) in sports, but also condemns those who take it beyond what is “acceptable”, which conveniently changes to defend an end justifying the mean. Told mostly through Hamish’s journals, readers will be spellbound by his belief in violence as this places H. Rap’s Brown’s commentary “Violence is as American (though in this case new Zealand) as cherry pie” with a nod to Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange.