Initially, L. J. Hurst worked in the backrooms of the media industry. He now divides his time between work for an international scientific publisher and a rather more British independent bookseller. In years past he was a regular attendee at the Shots on the Page Festivals from whence Shots Mag sprung
Everybody wants to make sense of the world, especially when so many of its disasters and cruelties seem to be purposeless, and sometimes the things that people do to try to bring some order just makes them appear even more mad than they should be.
Reynolds, the taxi driver narrator of Random (he and his wife seem to have no first names) thinks his wife’s actions, filling her day with lobbies of politicians, are mad, but by the time we hear about them we know that he is a grotesque killer, apparently far more mad than she could ever be.
In fact, his choice of victims seems to confirm it, making their deaths a lottery – this one has the same surname as a former girlfriend, that one is the next to disembark from a bus. Contrarily, his consequent actions, because they are so consistent, seem to confirm his insanity: with a pair of secateurs he cuts off a finger from each victim and posts it to the police. It seems that there is madness only in his method.
Reynolds, though, is not an unintelligent man – for many years he was a successful accountant, only in the last four years has he become a Glaswegian Travis Bickle. That is, since his daughter Sarah died. His life having fallen apart, driving a taxi has given him some semblance of normality. Now it does better than that – it comes close to giving him an alibi as the police scour the city in the increasing panic caused by the random killings and cruelties of the man the newspapers call “The Cutter” in their coverage.
What it cannot do – in fact it dumps him further in – is hide him from the wrath of Glasgow’s slimy underworld as one of the random deaths falls on a criminal. In turn, the villain’s godfather becomes intent on discovering the identity of the killer, searching and interrogating without any of the constraints that hold back the police. Police and thieves are both on the hunt and both as ignorant – that is one irony. By his random selection of the criminal Reynolds has put himself a far worse risk than arrest might be – that is another.
However, Reynolds has a purpose all the way through – in fact, in the greatest irony, this is a story about reversal, because it is a story with a purpose. With a bizarre echo of Agatha Christie’s The ABC Murders, the plot of Random lies in discovering how and why he has done what he has done, and to whom. In the telling this becomes a story of grotesque justice, when there is none within the law.