The Gallows Pole’s ultra-violence turns reading into a kind of dare
Author Benjamin Myers’s capacity for the grotesque is constantly threatening to breach your tolerance of it.
By Sarah Ditum
Here is a tip for the squeamish when reading a Ben Myers novel. Imagine the worst thing that could happen to the characters, and then drop the book, because whatever Myers has imagined will definitely be worse than your version. The Gallows Pole is Myers’s sixth novel, and its territory is recognisably his own.
A northern, rural setting: here, the Yorkshire moors. An inspired-by-true-events story: this time, the Cragg Vale Coiners, a notorious late-18th-century gang of forgers. And a profane lyricism punctuated by the kind of ultra-violence that turns reading into a kind of dare. As in Ted Hughes’s Crow poems or David Peace’s Red Riding sequence, Myers’s capacity for the grotesque is constantly threatening to breach your tolerance of it…