Beastie: A gritty and hard hitting novel set in 1970's Scotland by Jack O'Donnell (ABCTales celticman). Out Now!

I'm very pleased to announce the publication of our very own celticman's new novel Beastie

A gritty and hard hitting novel set in 1970's Scotland.

Decimalization, dole queues and The Troubles in Northern Ireland brought home to a Clydebank tenement. 

Teenage swaggerer:
Chaz Sweeney seizes the chance to get out and make a name for himself as a big man.

Angela, aged four:
Her mum can’t protect her. Her only friends Pizza Face (Chaz’s brother) and Evan are like older brothers, but they can’t protect her either...Chaz is too big and they’re too small. 

In fantasy and fairy tales they look for a way to escape the everyday horrors they face ...To give them hope of a normal life.

Beastie lays bare the brutal reality of Poverty and Social and Economic deprivation of 1970s Scotland

It's available in paperback and on Kindle here:


Here's a review by Mark Burrows:

It’s all in the title really, Beastie. This novel by Jack O’Donnell (celticman on ABC) is about psychological and physical cruelty of every persuasion. A boy is slashed in the face. Pregnant women are beaten and shot. An animal disembowelled. A little girl repeatedly sexually assaulted. The ‘Beastie’ is a child abuser and murderer named Chaz and there’ll be more on him later, but it’s also the evil that annihilates innocence. 

Set in the squalor and poverty of Dalmuir in Glasgow in the 1970s, Beastie describes a war of all against all. It follows the sufferings of different characters, their lives criss-crossing primarily through acts of violence. A young boy named Evan lives with his father, Dermot. They constantly scratch around for money. Dermot may not be a role model of a father, but there are moments of tenderness which convey the love between them and the sadness in their lives since losing their mother / wife to cancer. 

Evan’s friendship with Angela is a central feature of the novel. The two kids play games together and find escape by reading Grimms' Fairy Tales. Throughout the book, the lighter moments come from the children. The dialogue is superbly done, as is the way O’Donnell shows how kids in poverty, left to their own devices, wander around and ease the boredom by getting into various degrees of mischief. The later scenes in the novel, set in a children’s home, are also entirely convincing. There’s one character, a cook, who for a brief period seems to be the only person to demonstrate kindness for its own sake. The cook’s warmth and empathy stand in stark contrast to everyone else. 

There’s something of the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom about this novel. While de Sade’s tome of depravity focussed solely on sex, sadism and masochism, Beastie is fixated on abuse and how it creates its own norms and values which become an accepted feature of everyday life. The beast of the novel is Chaz and he is a vile creation. The scenes of child abuse make for difficult reading. It’s a brave topic to tackle and something of a taboo in literature—but with over 500,000 children in the UK subject to abuse, maybe it does need to be discussed more by authors.

This reader found the evolving plotline of Chaz’s descent into armed robbery and involvement with the Ulster Defence Association slightly distracting. The world of the sectarian gangland is well described and believable, but I personally found it a tad cinematic and it jarred with the child abuse, violence towards women and general violence per se between so-called friends and family. Sometimes I wondered if Chaz was a figure of evil incarnate—Satan manifest, embodying every sin and transgression possible.  

The novel is told in the third person and is comprised of short, punchy chapters. There are fabulous touches of detail and characterisation throughout, demonstrating what many of us have known on ABCtales for a long time—O’Donnell / celticman is a tremendous writer.

Some examples: 

Fog outside, drifting, cotton wool against the window, colours his dreams. It carries hammering harmonies over the shifting tides on the Clyde.  


They parachute off the back step of the bus, timing their jump to when it slows, but before it stops.

O’Donnell dextrously recreates the grimness of the 70s. The descriptions of the radio or ‘tranny’, the clothes, corporal punishment, run-down pubs and incessant smoking are all ultra real. It’s also a reminder that we shouldn’t romanticise the past. Those ‘good ol’ days’ when sexism was standard and racial abuse was rife. The real strength of this novel is in how O’Donnell describes the corrosive nature of poverty. Again, the eye for detail and the discipline in how he gets it down are great, such as when Evan tries to stave off hunger:

He puts a tea bag in a cup and fills it with sugar and runs the cold tap and gulps the mix.

Beastie is realism at its dirtiest. A blunt force trauma of a read. 

And you have to admire a writer who doesn’t flinch when it comes to depicting humanity at its worst. 

It’s great to see him getting published again (Spellbound Books).

As with anything by O’Donnell, I’d urge you to get yourself a copy. 


cheers insert and mark, that's great. 


No problem, Jack, apologies it took a while  -- all the best with it. 


Halfway through it at the moment and it's a great read, challenging and heavy. Chaz reminds me a bit of the Boy in Brighton Rock, which is a book that gets going very quickly, introducing a lot of characters so you have to really be on the ball for the read, just as with Beastie. 


cheers blighters. 


Love the way I-Ponce added " And you have to admire a writer who doesn't flinch when it comes to depicting humanity at its worst".... <may I add>... deep characters brought to vivid life, at times- raw humor, a journey in a culture within a culture... 

Glad to see another 1 >>>  in a cultural complement from my side... "F'n-Awesome Dude! Rock ON" !yesdevil


Kris, that was Mark Burrow who wrote the wonderful review, not me!


I was nodding off @ the helm there, so to speak.... ahhh..sooo bzy surprise

Mark = yesyes... you nailed it describing Jack, Right On.....

Great Review!


cheers Kris, appreciaite the support. 


CM is the best writer on this site.


Great review, Mark.

I have ordered the paperback version. It sounds like a challenging read but I have no doubt at all it is well written and compelling. Congratulations on being published again, CM.

The previous book I read of yours "Lily Poole" is fab.


thanks marinda, as you know writing is the easy part, selling the hard part. Great compliment TJ, but one of many and we all have days when we fall off the hight horse. 


'Good Luck With The Book.' It looks like a hard hitting and powerful write. I don't have access to a credit card anymore so I can't even donate to ABCtales like I wish. Sorry Mate. But all of the best with your great novel. Cheers!



Thanks Baker, I appreciate your words. We're all trying to make a difference. take care.