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In this, the second volume of a projected Manchester trilogy, the young writer takes a zero-hours job in a mail-sorting depot but struggles to cope with the demands of menial work and the attitudes of his colleagues. Only after rescuing and acquiring a pet tortoise does he realise what is most lacking in his life: intimacy. Embarking on a handful of sexual misadventures, he continues to struggle as a writer. He sees the city in which he was born and brought up changing all around him and, when he gets sacked from the sorting office, some hard choices lie ahead.
A powerful indictment of austerity politics and Brexit Britain, the novel never loses sight of its working-class characters’ dignity and humanity, and Campbell’s mordantly witty dialogue ensures that the next laugh is never far away. Gripping in its fascination with the everyday, Zero Hours is keenly observed, blackly funny and ultimately uplifting.
‘An iconoclast of the first order. Searing prose and caustic humour from a tramping Mancunian flâneur.’ —Peter Kalu
‘Neil Campbell’s Zero Hours is a poetic, emotionally-charged reflection of what it means to live and work in the city today. Its Mancunian voice is so distinct it’s not like reading a novel at all but like having a conversation with modernity itself. Zero Hours is sharp, funny and moving – a wonderful evocation of Manchester life.’ —Lee Rourke
‘A 21st century Mancunian take on Post Office by Charles Bukowski. If you liked Post Office then you'll almost certainly like this.’ —Scott Pack
‘Campbell’s narrator is a young working-class man from Manchester. Throughout the novel he works a number of zero hours jobs, first at a mail-sorting depot, later at a number of libraries. There is nearly always something to dishearten our man, be it his duties, colleagues, managers, or just the constant uncertainty that comes with this kind of employment. Besides work, the narrator has a number of unsuccessful attempts at relationships, and sees the face of his city change, losing its character to gentrification. There’s a stop-start feel to reading the novel itself: as with zero hours work, the present moment is all, and even the immediate future uncertain.’ —David Hebblethwaite, David’s Book World
‘Campbell is a realist writer, and Zero Hours is probably even more true to life and purposefully undramatic than its predecessor. And this is no bad thing, because he is a poet with a knack for describing ordinary episodes that strike an expectedly emotional chord. He is also deeply concerned with place and the indelible imprint left on a person by the sites that represent lodestones of their past.’ —Ronnie McCluskey, Storgy
‘Zero Hours is the second volume of Neil Campbell’s Manchester trilogy. Honestly, if ever a novel deserved literary accolades and bouquets it’s this one. Zero Hours possesses more energy, grind and determination than a decade of Bookers. If there was any justice it should be jumping off the bookshelves.’ —Joe Phelan, Bookmunch
‘Surely already a regional classic of some sort … This book has its nearest equivalent in Mark Hodkinson’s northern writing. It is unpretentious and powerful, cuttingly honest … It tightens its grip on you by loosening its hold. It achieves high results by not trying … It silently slides its tentacles around you, showing you how life in structural poverty feels … All of this is achieved through very workaday description, interior monologue and dialogue … The author has mastered the art of tiny details that do massive amounts of work. It should be given to creative writing undergraduates for exactly that reason.’ —Manchester Review of Books