Paperback: 304pp

Published: Lightning Books (May 2022)

ISBN: 9781785633027

The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock

Kenny Boyle


Wendy just wants to be a poet. So how comes she’s on the run after an art heist?

‘May well be the best book I’ve read in years’ – Peter May

SEMI-FINALIST: Book Bloggers’ Novel of the Year Award

An aspiring writer from the Southside of Glasgow, Wendy is in a rut. She tries to brighten her call-centre job by shoehorning as many long words as possible into conversations with customers. But her manager isn’t amused by that and, after a public dressing-down, Wendy walks out.

Jobless and depressed, she finds consolation in a surprise friendship with another disgruntled ex-colleague, wild-child painter Cat, who encourages her to live more dangerously. It’s just what Wendy needs and it’s also brilliant for her creative juices. But a black cloud is about to overshadow this new-found liberation, as well as to put Wendy on the wrong side of the law.

Fresh, insightful and funny, as well as unflinchingly honest about the tougher side of life, Kenny Boyle’s debut novel takes us deep into the psyche of a likeable misfit who treads a fine line between reality and fantasy – and just wants the world to see her true self.


Sometimes I worry my mind isn’t on my side.

Ugh. No. Start over.

If you’re reading this, I’m already dead.

Sorry. No. Worst start ever. Cliché. I just always thought if I were going to write something like this then that’s how I’d start. Now that I’ve written it, it sounds a little insensitive given the circumstances.

Then again, she’d probably have laughed.



Sometimes I worry my mind isn’t on my side.

Ugh. No. Start over.

If you’re reading this, I’m already dead.

Sorry. No. Worst start ever. Cliché. I just always thought if I were going to write something like this then that’s how I’d start. Now that I’ve written it, it sounds a little insensitive given the circumstances.

Then again, she’d probably have laughed.

If you’re reading this then the chances are I’m probably not dead.

Although that depends on when you’re reading this. Maybe you’ve found this in an archaeological dig in the year 3020. Just a wad of ancient fossilised paper that survived after all the hard drives and supercomputers of the early twenty-first century were destroyed by an apocalyptic electro-magnetic pulse that ended social media forever.

Focus. Sorry. I’ve got a lot of adrenaline just now.

Start over.

I’m wasting too much time.

We only have so much.

Tick-tock, tick-tock.

My name is Wendy.

Yes. That’s much better.

I’m writing this from my grandmother’s attic in Giffnock, where I’m hiding. I’m frightened, I’m angry, I’ve still got dried blood on my cuff and collar, and mostly, behind all the adrenaline, I’m sad.

Sadness is tingling all over my skin and poking my eyes.

‘Sad’ is such a pathetic-sounding word, there are so many other words for this feeling. I know a lot of them – knowing stupid unnecessary words is a bit of a hobby of mine – but ‘sad’ seems the truest.

You’re probably asking yourself some questions.

‘Why is she hiding? Is she being hunted by someone?’

Yes. And they’ll probably find me.

‘Why is she being hunted?’

I stole a painting. A priceless work of art. I know that doesn’t really show me in the best light, but I had a good reason, I swear.

‘Does she really think she’ll be safe hiding in the attic of her grandmother’s house?’

I live with my gran. It would be ridiculous to steal a priceless painting and go hide in the attic of your own home – so ridiculous that it’d be the last place people would look.

So that probably buys me some time.

Oh God, what am I doing?


‘Very different and engagingly unique. Kenny Boyle is bristling with talent, and this may well be the best book I’ve read in years’

Peter May

‘One of the nation’s best writers’

The Scotsman

‘A charming, funny and unique story that tackles tough issues with a gentleness and poignancy that really resonated with me’

Clare Grogan

‘Funny, intelligent and insightful. Kenny Boyle is a singular voice’

Sanjeev Kohli

‘I absolutely loved this book! It made me hoot with laughter, moved me to tears and wrongfooted me so many times. Audacious, witty and touching. A celebration of the power of words, stories, and of friendship. Beautiful’

Liz Hyder

‘A very, very special book – one of the best I’ve read this year. Engaging and beautifully written, it manages to combine heartbreak and humour. Read it’

Claire Alexander

‘Amazing. A wonderful debut. Go and get yourself a copy!’

Eve Ainsworth

‘Boyle is a fresh, playful new voice on the Scots literary scene. His quirky, unreliable narrator pulls on our heartstrings, takes us by the hand and never lets go. A fun, heart-rending read with a deadly serious undertone’

P.K. Lynch

‘A bittersweet paean to friendship, art and making your mark, with a sharp line in patter and a big heart’

Alan Bissett

‘A wonderful book full of lovely moments that feel like cinema on the page. Wendy, who refuses to grow up, is a brilliant character’

Kirkland Ciccone

‘A witty, honest, powerful tale of friendship, belief, self-care and courage. It’s very difficult to believe Kenny Boyle hasn’t written a trillion novels before. I enjoyed every minute of it and laughed and cried several times. Bloody bravo’

Leah MacRae

‘From the first line, The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock has a kind of gleeful playfulness at its heart, a light sense of humour applied even to heavy material. Immediate and engaging, it will resonate with anyone who ever wanted to escape everyday life’

Rodge Glass

‘Funny, heart-breaking and compassionate. Kenny Boyle deals with difficult subjects with great insight and a light touch. If you have ever dreamed of escape and of living life with no safety harness, this is the book for you’

Catherine Simpson

‘A Thelma & Louise for modern times, where two misfits become something bigger and more forceful when they meet, on a philosophical quest reminiscent of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. A masterful debut novel’

Des Dillon

‘A brilliant, big-hearted book about art, friendship, mental illness and the power of poetry and storytelling’

Mandy Haggith

‘A fresh and fascinating debut novel, full of vivacity and wit. Kenny Boyle is a born storyteller. Prepare to be unsettled and surprised’

Donald S Murray

‘Playful, witty and poignant – a refreshing new voice in Scottish literature’

Kevin MacNeil

‘I fell in love with this book and its main character without even noticing. I loved spending time with Wendy. When it was over, I just wanted to start again because I didn’t want to be parted from her. A cracking read’

Karen Bartke

‘Takes you on an emotional rollercoaster and never lets go. A modern Scottish version of Thelma & Louise that tackles mental health with humour, care and consideration’

Colin Burnett


‘A quirky and honest portrayal of early twenties friendship. Disarmingly intimate… A sweet, sad and funny book’

Scotland on Sunday

‘Few novels have wrong-footed me in the manner of this one. I initially thought it was going to be a buddy comedy/drama, but something more interesting was going on [too]. To say the final chapters are moving is a huge understatement. They blindside you with their power and honesty’

Snack Magazine

‘It started life on stage and has the dialogue and pace you’d expect from a really intense play, but the novel form has allowed Boyle to flesh out his characters and explore themes in much more depth. For a debut, it’s quite spectacular’

Westender Magazine

‘By turns funny, charming and thought-provoking. Different, memorable, outstanding’

Undiscovered Scotland

‘Kenny Boyle’s prose and control of the narrative and plot are perfect. His characters never feel forced. His skill as a writer means you laugh with Cat and Wendy, but you also feel their pain and want them to find the happiness they both deserve. It’s brilliant’

Two Fond of Books

‘Amusing, original and thoroughly entertaining. This is a mystery unlike any other, as some of the mystery lies with what is real and what is part of Wendy’s imagination. I loved it’

Reading Goals *****

‘So much fun to read. Would 100% recommend. The final chapters blew me away’

Bookish Soph *****

‘Clever, relatable, quirky, insightful, poignant. I flew threw through this stunning book in one sitting’

The Abundant Word *****

‘Wonderfully charming, witty, engaging and totally addictive! I loved every minute of this little gem’

The Bookish Hermit *****

‘What a beautiful, brilliant book. Equal parts funny and bittersweet, it’s delightful, witty, and profound. I have little doubt that it will end up as one of my favourites for the year’

Cobweb Shelves

‘It’s fast-paced and funny. It deals with quite serious issues, but really sensitively, and plays with the form and structure of the novel. A really hopeful and beautiful read, it's so wonderfully written. I want people to know about it’

Clare Reynolds, Years of Reading Selfishly

‘I really loved this book. It’s hard to believe it’s a debut. It was nice to see a book set in Scotland with realistic characters and none of the stereotypes. I could really relate to their struggles with growing up and figuring life out. Very real and relatable’

Books Let Us Escape

‘If you want a fun read, to laugh out loud, yet to highlight heavy important topics. Get yourself this book. It is SO WORTH IT’

What Aimee Reads *****

‘The humour was joyous but I found this book incredibly moving too. I devoured it in an evening, crying with laughter, reading parts out to my husband and missing the characters when I closed it’

Fi’s Bibliofiles *****

‘Bookworms, get your hands on this clever, quirky and very relatable book. It truly was a joy to read and it made my Scottish heart very full’

Pages of Tea

‘An adorably quirky book. It is subtly funny, and if you skim you will miss so much of the amazing humour. It is also heartbreaking, which caught me off guard’

We Break for Books

‘Refreshing and a little wild. I enjoyed the mystery of it, and the unexpected prose. Definitely an author to look out for’

Rhi Eleri

‘This book took me on a rollercoaster of emotions from the very first page — I honestly didn’t know if I should laugh or cry! I loved every minute’

Forever A Word Away

‘A hard book to put down. The story was wonderful with so many thought-provoking moments. I’ve not seen a book before that can be serious with some extremely heavy and important topics but also so funny. I genuinely can’t recommend it enough’

Becca’s Library


Kenny Boyle is profiled in The Scotsman.

The Daily Record reports Kenny’s top tips for American writers portraying Scottish characters.

Kenny talks to the Press and Journal about the inspiration for The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock.

Kenny’s social media search for his inspirational primary school teacher makes the TES, the Glasgow Evening Times and Glasgow Live. And here he is on Good Morning Scotland and The Nine. And here he is as the answer to a quiz-show question on BBC Scotland’s Breaking the News.

Kenny discusses The Tick and The Tock of The Crocodile Clock with Grant Stott on BBC Radio Scotland’s The Afternoon Show.

‘Men can still write women, but if the women in your life tell you you’re doing it wrong, listen to them. It’ll make your writing better.’ Kenny in The Bookseller on why men can – and must – write women.


Kenny Boyle

Kenny Boyle is a writer and actor born on the Isle of Lewis.

He trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and holds a masters in classical and contemporary text, as well as an honours degree in English, literature and theatre studies from the University of Strathclyde.

He is the star, alongside Natalie Clark, of the multi-award winning short film Perfect Strangers (2015) and of the feature-film follow-up Lost at Christmas (2020).

His plays include Playthrough and An Isolated Incident, and in 2021 he received a New Playwrights Award from the Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland. The Tick and the Tock of the Crocodile Clock is his debut novel.

Having grown up equally in both the bustling city of Glasgow and the tiny crofting village of Cromore, he likes to write about mental health, isolation, identity and – most of all – hope. He spends way too much time reading comics and playing video games.

Author photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

selected works

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