In writing Just Duffy, a novel set amidst the urban decay of Lanarkshire, Robin Jenkins has created a modern-day Confession of a Justified Sinner. Convinced of his own rectitude, appalled at the moral squalor around him, Duffy declares war on society. Ridiculous, yet horrifying at the same time, his campaign builds to a terrifying conclusion. Beset with ambiguity, Duffy is a ferocious indictment of Calvinistic moral certainty, of a struggle for good which results in only evil and destruction. The deeply ironic title bears witness to the mismatch of Duffy’s aspiration against his own insignificance.
The themes of this novel are central to all Jenkins’ work. In its stark simplicity Just Duffy lays claim to being one of his most significant and powerful novels. Its inexorable drive and power bear witness to a modern Greek tragedy played out on a Scottish stage.
“Challenging and absorbing … a powerful and mordant irony”
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“Stark and hypnotically well written”
the Irish Independent
“Robin Jenkins is the most outstanding novelist that Scotland has produced since the war.”
Robin Jenkins was born in Cambuslang in 1912 and spent his childhood in Lanarkshire. He was educated at Hamilton Academy and Glasgow University, graduating in 1935 with an Honours degree in English. He married in 1937 and worked as a school teacher in Glasgow and Dunoon for a number of years. He had three children. His first novel, So Gaily Sang the Lark, was published in 1950 and 23 other books of fiction have followed, including a collection of short stories, A Far Cry from Bowmore (1973). The Cone-Gatherers (1955) received the Frederick Niven Award in 1956, and Gusts of War (1956) and The Changeling (1958), were highly praise by many critics.
Robin Jenkins left Scotland for Afghanistan in 1957, teaching for three years in Kabul. From then until his retirement in 1968 he lived abroad, working for the British Institute in Barcelona and teaching in Sabah (North Borneo) in what was once part of colonial Malaysia. Afghanistan and Malaysia became the settings for six further novels, most notably Dust on the Paw (1961), and The Holly Tree (1969). He returned to Scotland and so did the settings of his later novels, such as the Arts Council Award-winning Fergus Lamont (1979) and the much praised Willie Hogg (1979). By the time of his death in 2005, over thirty of his novels were in print.