Wild Thing by Joolz Denby
Ignite Books, £8.99

Few cities in Britain could claim to hold such a strong relationship as Bradford with the untamed wilderness lying close to the heart of the city.

Despite it being positioned in a densely-populated part of the country, follow any number of arterial roads from the city centre, and you more often than not find yourself faced with unrestrained nature – moorlands stretched taut to the horizon.

And while there are many works of fiction and artistry inspired by the vast moors which the city nestles among, not all scrutinise the conflict between civilisation and the undomesticated, feral even, as the latest offering from Bradford writer and artist Joolz Denby.

A love story at its heart, Wild Thing is Joolz’s second novel with independent publisher Ignite Books.

The novel investigates, from an impressive number of angles, the idea of how a mainstream, or ‘civilised’, society relates to those that are different, to say the least.

The novel begins with its protagonist Annie Winter reminiscing on the reasons for leaving her abusive Bradford home as a student, as she returns to her home city several years later following a stint in London where she forged a successful career with a global record company.

After a number of years enjoying the rock ’n’ roll party high life in the capital, Annie falls in love with her “wild thing” Johnny X, the young lead singer with soon-to-be international megastars Velvet Shank.

But it is what Annie encounters during her years living back in Bradford as a social worker which ultimately forces her to confront the very nature of humanity, love and what it means to be different.

Throughout the book, Joolz’s descriptive writing pulls the story along; descriptions of Bradford are often particularly poignant and point us to the themes of the book: “Bradford, you couldn’t invent it. What a weird, secret puzzle-box of a place it was. Ten minutes drive out along Thornton Road, and after a final scrubby fringe of run-down houses flouncing tattily by the roadside, you were as near as dammit in the country and hills rolled away into infinity. Or Manchester, which was nearly the same thing.”

Joolz skilfully illustrates to the reader the humanity in the uncivilised and the unchecked ferocity which can often masquerade as the moral majority.

When one of her clients becomes the centre of a media circus after her child goes missing, a chain of events is set in place which eventually leads to an unsettling discovery up on an isolated farm in the Bradford moorland, appropriately named Wuthering Heights.

It is this discovery of a woman kept from the world and a feral child which allows Joolz to truly delve into the complex matter: “Sarah and Adam were links in an old binding chain, worn and patinated, turning in and around each other in a kind of blissful ignorance that rose above the morality of the day like a hawk soaring above the fells, riding thermals we couldn’t even see, never mind imagine – their humanity only a frail mask, the primitive simplicity of their natures neither good nor evil.”

This elegantly-written and fast-paced novel successfully reveals the humanity in all of us and the necessity of love and understanding in society.