Steve Jones, the protagonist in Twelve Hour Shift and not the T4 presenter trying desperately to break into mainstream BBC TV, is an artist, but to fund his muse he works as a concierge in an apartment block for rich old people. It’s not a job he enjoys. Apart from his colleagues being unreliable and untrusting and his clients often being rude and hostile the position requires Jones to leave for work when it’s dark in the morning and return home when it’s dark at night.
Twelve Hour Shift works a little like Curb Your Enthusiasm in that I don’t know how much of the book is true. I know Sean Azzopardi the artist but I couldn’t tell you for certain if the anecdotes he shares are disguised truths or authentic fabrications. I might ask Sean next time I see him but I might not as I think that the ambiguity here is one of the story’s many great strengths.
Sean’s character Steve, who might be Sean himself, lives in a London that is barely awake or just going to sleep or behind a desk in the building foyer where he tries hard to look busy because the boss has a CCTV camera trained on him. Steve seems to be a conscientious worker despite his desire to be sitting at the drawing board but his motivation faces erosion from alcoholic colleagues and demanding customers. Everyone he encounters in his job seems elderly and Steve, not a young man himself, is conscious of life’s opportunities ticking away.
Sean’s artwork on Twelve Hour Shift looks breezy and is clearly drawn by a natural. The line-work is fresh and the grey toning he’s applied make the book feel colourful. Frustrating to me is that Sean is one of those artists that seem able to draw anything. Draw a new character? No problem. A building? Here you are. A car, a bus, a train, a dead bird or a tree? Here you go. He’s an artist who wouldn’t look out of place drawing a Vertigo comic.
In the book’s out-troduction (this is a word I’ve invented. Watch for it in the English Dictionary soon), Sean claims to struggle when it comes to story narrative but it doesn’t show to me. Twelve Hour Shift is a tale about unlikely people that takes place in a ghost London. Just because the story unravels in an untraditional way doesn’t mean that its narrative isn’t strong. There’s a moment in the tale where Steve has an opportunity for romance and he side steps it because, he claims, he finds her talk of wanting children off putting. But it’s thanks to Sean’s subtle story telling skills that I know the real reason Steve avoids romance is because of the demands it would have on his time. I found it to be a heart breaking moment.
Cost; I can’t remember. I think Sean and I did an exchange of goods at Caption. Anyway, the retail is £6.95, which is fantastic value for money, and copies can be purchased directly from the artist here.