Excerpt: Paul Kennedy's The Carpet King of Texas

The Excerpt Reader occasionally snoops outside its haughty literary realm of high-and-fine literature and lends a hand to a fellow Twitter or Facebook buddy in need of a break, usually in the form of a quick book excerpt review (for what else does the Excerpt Reader know to do?!)

Thus it was with Derek Haines' Milo Moon; & so it shall be with Paul Kennedy's The Carpet King of Texas (See, also, the Official Site).

Hailed as a "Trainspotting for the Viagra generation" (not sure what it means except for the illusion to drugs, Irvine Welsh and foul mouthed Scots), Paul Kennedy's is a "shocking debut novel from an award-winning journalist" from Liverpool (the novel's title actually reminds me more of DBC Pierre's choice of titles - Pierre's new novel Lights out in Wonderland was reviewed by the Excerpt Reader not long ago - than anything of Irvine Welsh's)

The Carpet King of Texas tells the twisted tales of "three lives a million miles apart as they come crashing together with disastrous consequences:" Drug-addicted-teenager Jade Thompson who prostitutes for her 'fixes'; Self proclaimed "Carpet King of Texas" Dirk McVee, who "prowls Liverpool's underbelly to quench his thirst for sexual kicks;" and finally  John Jones Junior, small-boy-with-a-grown-up-face who, "with a drug addicted father, no motherly love, no hope and no future, has no chance at all."

The novel's first chapter is basically a long (too-long) description of Jade's endeavors as a drug-addict/prostitute on a typical 'night out/in", and it starts thus:

"The needle on the floor wasn’t really that dirty. And any dirt in it, belonged to Jade in the first place. It was her dirt. Without giving it much thought, she picked it up and rinsed it under the tap, not bothering to clean the dishes in the sink. Blood, her blood, washed away down the plug hole along with the remains of a Chinese take-away she couldn’t remember ordering or for that matter eating.

Jade didn’t eat much anyway. Her tiny frame was testimony to that. She had always been a slim girl but never this slim, never six stone. She was probably less, it had been a while since she last weighed herself. It was one of the drawbacks of heroin abuse, not eating, along with not remembering.

There was no tea-towel in the flat. Maybe at some point there had been one, but Jade couldn’t remember owning a tea-towel, or ever buying one. She used her tee shirt to dry the syringe before sitting back down on a scruffy red couch.

Her room was sparse, there was nothing in it of value. A television, DVD and stereo system had long been pawned, along with her collection of CDs. She didn’t really miss any of them, except maybe Take That’s Greatest Hits, the first one. Her mother bought her that when she passed six GCSEs three years before.

"You’ll go to University one day, luv,” her mum told her and anyone who would listen. “She’s a bright girl, our Jade.”

The wallpaper in the flat was tired, stained with years of cigarette smoke by previous tenants and worn out at the corners but Jade didn’t care too much for the decor, it was a place to sleep, get her head down. A place to bring punters back to."

* You can read the first chapter in its entirety here.

As an Excerpt Reader (well, as any reader for that matter), I have a general problem with novels starting out in this manner. 

Readers should not be bored to death with long and repetitive Balzacian descriptive passages right smack in the beginning of a novel, where the voice of the narrator (or is it the writer?) is heard over too loudly, mopping away all hope of a genuine character, with stereotyped and cliched protagonists.

This goes on to even worser places; the tedious narrative tone hastily makes way to a gruesome description of Jade's affliction:

"Jade lifted her left leg up, bringing her knee to her chin. Her left leg was the better of the two. Although she only had three of her five toes on her left foot, at least she had a left foot. Her right one had been amputated after the gangrene had set in. Then she lost the bottom of her right leg below the knee. She had tried injecting into the stump, but it didn’t work.

The veins on her arms were well and truly out of bounds. Constant abuse had taken its toll, leaving Jade to resort to her legs to get the desired kick. She took off her faux-leather boot and tapped away at one of the three remaining toes.


Truth of the matter was there was no right foot and most of her right leg was missing. Her prosthetic one was hidden by the thigh high boots she wore every time she went out on the block. Most of the time she got away with it. No one really noticed that she was an amputee when she was sucking them off and calling them “daddy”."

O.K. You might justly point out that this is the serious topic of drug addiction we're dealing with here, and that these types of afflictions ought to be discussed in length, and I'd totally agree with you in most cases.. 

Exposing the potential reader to the perils of drug addiction (even today; even after The Basketball DiariesTrainspotting or Requiem for a Dream, for that matter) is important.

However, I seem to lack any sympathy or what-have-you from Kennedy, and this lack of 'engagement' makes the narration in Carpet King very dry and pale. 

All this is not to say that Carpet King displays bad writing. 

The topic discussed, as well as the way its presented are interesting enough to make you want to flip the old page and turn over to read the next, but the techniques employed by Kennedy to make your reading 'enjoyable' (as reading Welsh's Trainspotting is, for that matter, quite enjoyable) are not advanced enough. 

The reader is hence 'stuck' with a dragging story which seems to prance back and forward (in time, as well as in themes) between one stream-of-thought to the other. 

The second chapter leaves poor old Jade and jumps right off to tell the tale of Dirk McVee, the Carpet King of Texas.

I've had enough at this stage, sorry.. 

If you feel like reading some more you're welcome to it right here 

VERDICT: DON'T BUY (unless you're a drug addict, from Liverpool or just plain bored)


  1. "Readers should not be bored to death with long and repetitive Balzacian descriptive passages right smack in the beginning of a novel"
    I never go to demonstrations but I would consider carrying such a sign!

  2. I read it in spite of your review and found the opposite I couldnt put it down and Im neither a drug addict, from Liverpool or bored, try it and make your own mind up would be my advice

  3. Tx for the counter-opinion annhoey!
    My review was based on reading an excerpt of the book, namely its first chapter.
    I too hope that by reading more of the book my opinion should be reversed..
    Best, ER

  4. I read this book and thought it was top class. Really of it's time. It's hardcore, no doubt about it, but excellent. Couldn't put it down. I found it addictive - just like the subject matter contained within it.

  5. I really couldn't disagree more with this review. I've taken advice and bought books after reading comments from this site before but never again. The Carpet King of Texas is one of the best books I've read in a long time. It's original, funny, disturbing and extremely well written. This is a great book. You be the judge - I promise you wont be disappointed.

  6. Thanks for your comment Peter.
    First of all let me thank you for trusting my opinion enough to buy books based upon it.
    Although the Excerpt Reader attempts to write well balanced book reviews, they are almost never without a very subjective undertone.
    Myself I haven't found Paul Kennedy's The Carpet King of Texas very appealing but like I told Annhoey here above, that was my own personal opinion, and it was one formed after reading only an excerpt from the book.
    Perhaps I would have been more inclined to buy the book had I read a larger portion of it, but hey, that's the point of this blog - to give a verdict upon a book after reading solely a small excerpt from it..
    I remain faithfully yours (in this and in future book reviews),

  7. Well maybe A-Z you should change the way you review books because you've got this one totally wrong.

  8. One out of fifteen i decree a success ;)

  9. People only remember the mistakes. I won't be buying any more books on your recommendations. This one was excellent and I'm not bored, a junkie or from Liverpool. Maybe you should read the whole thing.