PRICK: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist by Ashley LittleI’m not sure what initially drew me to this short novel (probably the tattoos), but I remember my friend/colleague (and author) Cathleen With was reading at the book launch last autumn at The FALL Tattoo & Piercing (side note: I’ve been pierced there and they’re great).

PRICK is narrated by 21 year old Anthony “Ant” Young: an artist, an asshole, and an anti-hero. After fleeing a violent home life in Calgary, Ant moves to Victoria, BC, where he earns his tattooing apprenticeship under Hank the Tank, a founding member of the powerful Lucifer’s Choice motorcycle gang. Under Hank’s guidance, Ant learns the craft and business of tattoo, but he is also exposed to a vicious and frightening criminal underworld.

Written in intense, rapid-fire bursts, PRICK explores themes of addiction, desire, and remorse. As Ant’s life stumbles out of control, he struggles to hold on to the one thing he really cares about.

From the publisher, Tightrope Books

I read this book basically in two sittings, I couldn’t put it down one night and discovered I was nearly done. It’s a short tale (138 pages, paperback) but Ashley Little’s writing really grips you. PRICK is an interesting character study into the world of tattoo art, youth, and eventually crime—begging the question, was it just an occupational hazard or coincidence?

“Anti-hero” is an apt description for Ant, who seems to just slip into corruption, despite continually regretting his transgressions and vowing not to slip again. As a reader, you are holding out hope that Ant will find his way back up to the surface, rooting for the underdog. Written in first person like a tell-all diary, allowed us an unfiltered view of Ant’s thoughts. Unfortunately this also tinted the portrayal of all the secondary characters.

I found myself hoping that Ant found redemption or revival, unlike the reviewer for the Quill & Quire who stated that, “By the end of the book […] the only real uncertainty is whether, by the end, Anthony will find one last chance at redemption. By that point, however, the reader has very little reason to care.” I completely disagree with this critique, and although the novel isn’t heavily based in plot, you see that underneath Ant is not a totally bad guy, he’s just made some shitty choices and been around some badly influential people.

PRICK: Confessions of a Tattoo Artist takes place in Victoria, BC and is written by local(ish) author Ashley Little. It was also recently shortlisted for the 2012 ReLit Awards.