Pig Iron

The cover of 'Pig Iron' by Benjamin Myers.

John-John wants to escape his past. But the legacy of brutality left by his bare-knuckle boxer father, King of Gypsies, Mac Wisdom, overshadows his life. His new job as an ice cream man should offer freedom, but instead pulls him into the dark recesses of a northern town where his family name is mud.

As he attempts to trade prejudice, parole officers and local gangs for his ‘green cathedral’ – the rural landscape in which he seeks solace – Mac’s rise and bloody downfall threatens to engulf John-John present. PIG IRON is the story of a traveler who hasn’t traveled; a young man fighting for his surname and his very survival.


Pig Iron is a novel of consequences. It’s the story of John-John Wisdom, just released from a young offender’s institute, and living in a run-down flat on the outskirts of Durham. He’s got a job selling ice-creams, and a dream of following his Traveler’s blood out of this place. It’s also the story of his father, Mac, legendary bare-knuckle boxer, and the life he led on the clandestine circuit; related in tandem by John-John’s mother, the daughter of sea-coalers, from “when the coal washed up on the beach … Back before it all changed”. John-John’s job takes him into an impoverished estate “where the air is tight. High tensile. Mega-para”. Here he meets Maria, insolent, gum-snapping beauty. Fascinated by their mutual otherness, they tentatively fall in love – and Maria’s transgression from the brutal codes of her insular world costs them both dear. At the same time, Mac’s transgressions and their shattering consequences are revealed. Myers’s poetic vernacular brims with that quality most sadly lost in the Thatcher years – humanity. -- Cathi Unsworth in the Guardian

In Pig Iron, Ben has managed the tricky task of weaving some incredibly tricky and often shocking themes into a beautifully poetic narrative. -- Sue Denim on Amazon

May 2012