Reviewed by Mark Logie
by Sam North
Paperback: 232 pages, August 1998, ISBN-13: 978-0754400042
Going Indigo is a novel by Sam North (not the same one who wrote “209 Thriller Road”). It tells the story of Oliver, a 12-year-old country boy to whom, it seems, everything bad that could happen has already happened: cancer, a mentally ill mother and a missing father. This, however, is just the start: even worse awaits him when he moves to London to live with his maternal grandmother and her housekeeper.
This novel should be unbearably grim and depressing; the fact that it isn’t is an enormous tribute to Sam North’s writing skills. Oliver is an amazing creation that stayed in my mind long after I first read this novel nearly fifteen years ago: naive, refreshingly innocent for a modern 12-year-old (he still thinks seriously of living in a forest when he realises that his beloved cat isn’t welcome in his new home), tough and — no other word for it — sweet. The author brings vividly to life the culture clash between country and town, focusing on Oliver’s shock at the size of the city and how seamy it can be.
Sam North also achieves the virtually impossible by treating the subject of auras, ghosts and fortune-telling seriously and intelligently. It could all too easily become a shallow ghost story or cliched horror novel. His colloquial, matter-of-fact style is something to do with the reason it isn’t, but it is more than that.
Sometimes he connects with his readers with the force of a well-aimed cruise missile. For instance, on p.182, when a social worker is threatening to take Oliver into care, Grandma Otis responds with “I know what happens to children in care and care isn’t one of the things that happens.”
North is, in my opinion, a gifted and original novelist let down by his now-defunct publisher’s poor proofreading and copyediting. This noticeably reduced my enjoyment of the book, littered, as it is, with grammatical and punctuational mistakes. Otherwise it is a fresh, deeply moving novel which I heartily recommend, although the ending is just a little too pat. It feels wrong, as though stuck on as an afterthought with little consideration of its effect on the book as a whole and whether it fitted in or not.
A final suggestion – no, a plea – for Sam North: please give this novel a thorough copyedit and proofreading, then republish it through a free or low-cost print-on-demand publisher like CreateSpace. It is too good a novel to languish in the secondhand-book websites, as it is doing now. It is also one of the very few novels I have read that I think genuinely deserves a sequel.
About the reviewer: Mark Logie’s first novel for young adults, “Deadfall” (a thriller for 12-year-olds & over about terrorism and computer-hacking), was published in 2012, the Kindle edition reaching the top 60 in Amazon’s bestseller list for teen spy books. Also, Mark Logie’s poetry and short fiction for adults have won awards from CanYouWrite and ABC Tales. Visit his blog here: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6163790.Mark_Logie/blog