Tindal Street Press were an independent publishing house based at the delightful address of the The Custard Factory, Birmingham, with the remit initially of publishing local writers. In the first decade of the Millennium they defied expectations by regularly getting their authors shortlisted for book awards. Perhaps their most notable publication (especially for me who placed it in my Top 5 reads of 2014) was the 2007 “What Was Lost” by Catherine O’Flynn.
In 2012 the company was purchased by Profile Books and sadly the three titles from Paul McDonald are no longer in print. According to Amazon, McDonald is a course leader on Writing at Wolverhampton University who specialises in humour, and this is certainly evident in this novel.
Minty is a 40 year old lollipop man whose life is thrown into further disarray when a television advert for Kentucky Fried Chicken rekindles his youthful interest in Northern Soul. His wife Hazel, a health visitor, is battling with her compulsions to weigh things and constantly look up words in the dictionary as well as coping with her liability of a husband and Kurt Cobain loving teen, Nigel, trading in drugs to boost his reputation. A lot of humour is based on this generation clash and cultural references abound which might have dated this but actually hasn’t. The title refers to perhaps the rarest of all the tracks which became big on the Northern Soul scene by Motown artist/producer Frank Wilson “Do I Love You? (Indeed I Do)” which is the song which provides the catalyst for the comic unravelling of the family.
This is dark comedy with situations that should not be at all funny but occasionally are but where McDonald hits home is his incorporation of music, both the beloved Northern Soul of Minty and his friends’ youth and his son’s grunge tunes into the narrative in a very successful way. Anyone who was into the quirky Wigan Casino centred scene of the 1970’s would get a lot from this affectionate view of rare records and grown men trying to relive their youth. Another great strength is the characterisation who despite some pretty awful mishaps of their own doing manage to remain likeable.
I read this quickly and enthusiastically and would certainly seek out another of McDonald’s titles the Crossroads referencing “Kiss Me Softly Amy Turtle”. For me the humour here did not always hit home but that did not mar my enjoyment of this title.
Do I Love You? was published by Tindal Street Press in 2008 and no longer seems to be currently in print. Used copies can be purchased at a very worthwhile price on Amazon.