Sam Marsdyke has already earned comparisons to Anthony Burgess's Singin'-in-the-Rain Alex, among other esteemed psychopaths. But Out Backward more convincingly registers the internal logic of unredeemable delinquency, a dangerous subjectivity that perverts compassion and sees everything as an extension of itself.
The Washington Post
In this creepy, lyrical debut, Raisin explores the fine line between sanity and insanity with Sam Marsdyke, an awkward late teenager who was thrown out of school after being accused of attempting to rape a schoolmate. Sam now works his family's farm along with his father, and there he notices Josephine Reeves, a 15-year-old whose family has moved from London to the Yorkshire village where Sam resides. After an inauspicious beginning, Sam and Josephine strike up a friendship that culminates with them running away together. Soon, Sam's tenuous grip on reality slips, giving the reader a frightening glimpse into the mind of a psychopath. What happens next will shock readers, yet compel them to read faster to learn the outcome. Although the author's liberal use of the Yorkshire dialect and a stream-of-consciousness narration ("Sackless article the wether kept indoors, as Father went and in the pen and fastened the tupping harness around the ram's neck, and the gate was unsnecked"), it's true to the protagonists roots and lends an air of authority to this tightly plotted and disturbing effort. (July)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Prior to the opening of this story, teenager Sam Marsdyke was dogged by accusations of rape, forcing him to leave school and work on his family's farm in Yorkshire, England. When a new family with a 15-year-old daughter moves in next door, Sam's father orders his son to keep his distance. But Sam's obsession with the forbidden drives him to stalk Jo, and the two eventually meet. A friendship develops, and it doesn't take long for the attraction to turn physical. They run away together, and all goes well until Jo decides she wants to return home to her family. Sam's tenuous hold on reality slips as events careen out of his control. While the story often points toward Sam and his psychopathic tendencies, Raisin plays with the lines of power in the relationship by suggesting that Jo knew all about the rumors of Sam's past and sought him out. This echo of themes from Nabokov's Lolita questions who really is the victim. The story is plotted more along the lines of a literary novel than a thriller, and the focus rests on the deep examination of the characters and what drives them. Because it is written in Yorkshire dialect, which recalls the visceral lyricism of Irvine Welsh, some readers might be put off by the prose, but those able to soak into it will find a rewarding-if somewhat disturbing-tale of fear, obsession, and sexuality.-Matthew L. Moffett, Pohick Regional Library, Burke, VA
London-resident Raisin's first novel is a chilling-at times terrifying-narrative set in rural Yorkshire. Sam Marsdyke is 19 and no longer in school, primarily because he'd been accused of rape when caught in a compromising position with a girl in his classroom, so he now works on his father's farm. Farm life depicted here is gritty and grimy and includes sheep-dipping and dog-whelping. Sam's life has a certain order determined by the flow of the seasons, but things change when a neighboring farm is bought by "towns" (i.e., rich city-folk), allowing Sam to come in contact with 15-year-old Jo Reeves. Given Sam's past, it's obviously not advisable to get these two together, but they're brought together by boredom and by an alienation from modern culture. Eventually things get so bad for Jo at home that she decides to run away, and she persuades Sam to accompany her. What starts as something of a lark, scampering on the Moors a la Cathy and Heathcliff, becomes ominous. After sating themselves in the dining car of a local train, they're dropped off near Whitby and soon find themselves needing to forage for food. They collude in stealing canned goods from a grocer but are recognized and then become fugitives on the lam. While Jo is ready to return to her cushier life, Sam becomes more controlling, more dominant and more threatening. Because the novel is told through Sam's eyes, we're seduced into his way of seeing, and we sense the growing threat posed to Jo but can do nothing about it. Sam's speech has a quaint, rural quality, part Yorkshire poetry and (seemingly) part Anthony Burgess: "my senses were daffled and out of kilter"; "we were powfagged after our adventures"; "he glegged at hischarver but he didn't know what to do neither."A novel successful in creating a mood of menace. Agent: Peter Straus/Rogers, Coleridge & White
“Ross Raisin’s story of how a disturbed but basically well-intentioned rural youngster turns into a malevolent sociopath is both chilling in its effect and convincing in its execution.”