Scottish Review of Books: Missy

This debut novel by award-winning playwright Hannan is about as good as storytelling gets. Missy is the colloquial name for opium in mid nineteenth century California, and heroine Dol, “flash-girl”, has quite a taste for it. When she heads out for Virginia City, with her fellow girls from Mrs. Liberty’s brothel, largely in search of her alcoholic mother (a Scotswoman called Isobel, hailing from Leith), she comes across a pimp, Pontius, who is trying to hang himself. She saves him but he shows gratitude by forcing her to hide a stolen batch of opium in her rooms. Hannan’s protagonist is both irrepressible and vulnerable. Optimistic but not naive, she is the embodiment in many ways of the ‘wild west’: eager for new experiences while well aware of the brutality of life, she wants a better life for herself, but only once she’s stopped having fun. Hannan’s tale touches on the importance of female friendship, as well as the betrayal of a daughter by her mother, without resorting to easy sentimentality. He also has a great gift for voices, capturing Dol’s use of contemporaneous slang without ever making it obvious or clumsy. A beautifully written debut.

  • Cover scan of Missy
    Missy - Chris Hannan - Hardback
    California, 1862. Dol, an irrepressible young girl, hitches a wagon with a gaggle of friends, headed east for new adventures. But on the road an act of kindness saving a man from suicide invites her own destruction. The man is a murderous pimp, who resents being rescued, and decides to take revenge. Dol has problems aplenty.
Scottish Review of Books Vol 4 Number 2