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Untorn Tickets – Paul Burke

Untorn Tickets - Paul Burke

Flame 2003 , 352 pages , £6.99 , PB
Bitesize: The (Reasonably) Majestic.

For those of us not old enough to remember, there was a time before popcorn multiplex movie theatres, when cinemas were very different. Some were grand theatres, some were seedy fleapits, most were smoke filled, with the light of the projector picking out wisps of smoke in the darkened auditorium. Strips of paper tickets, those tiny rectangular passes to the film, were dispensed at great rapidity through a tiny slot in aluminium machines. Cinemas would show a variety of films, often double features and porn too, before it became confined to the anonymous world of the video recorder in the living room. And far too many cinemas were closed down and converted into bingo halls. Speaking personally, as those who did lose their local cinemas, which selfishly turned to the heady commercial world of bingo and deprived our one-horse towns of the silver screen, Untorn Tickets brings a certain degree of wistful nostalgia.

Essentially a coming of age tale, the story focuses on Andy and Dave, classmates who’d never had much to do with each other, but who co-incidentally take summer jobs at their local cinema, the Gaumont. As with most teenagers, both are slightly awkward and each have a variety of issues to deal with in their lives. They become friends and together develop a scam whereby they can resell cinema tickets and pocket the profits. This changes their lives in more ways than they can possibly imagine. Running in parallel is the story of the adult world as their Catholic school clings desperately to its independent status to avoid becoming a comprehensive. Inevitably it succumbs. The Gaumont itself become threatened with the dreaded bingo. And technology was aiming to outsmart everyone. Modernisation is a word that is gaining an increasing profile in the media today – it’s a fact that in most workplaces employees’ terms and conditions have been changed to cut costs, create efficiencies and generate profit. However nostalgic one feels looking back to older days, it was happening in the 70s too.

Untorn Tickets is an easy read, and entertaining. Burke has a knack of introducing some of his subjects in a slightly roundabout way, which keeps the pages turning, and the book’s filled with a variety of characters that help create a real sense of community.

Any Cop?: Engaging and very funny for a book that deals with society over 20 years ago, it’s frightening how little both teenage and corporate attitudes have changed.