By day, he’s Gabriel, an average university student studying the world from the safe distance of higher education. But by night, he’s Snoopz, a hard-living member of a London gang well-acquainted with drugs, guns, stabbings, and robbery. This unforgettable protagonist must navigate these dual sides of his life and come to terms with his present and his future.
Gabriel a.k.a. Snoopz narrates Gabriel Krauze’s Who They Was, a thought-provoking debut novel long-listed for the Booker Prize about inner cities everywhere and the lost boys within them. Krauze discussed his new book and his craft with colleague Nico Walker, author of bestselling novel Cherry. Cherry was adapted into a feature film starring Tom Holland and directed by the Russo brothers earlier this year.
Who They Was
By Gabriel Krauze
Published by Bloomsbury Publishing
Who They Was by Gabriel Krauze, is an electrifying autobiographical debut that was longlisted for the Booker Prize in 2020 and called by Douglas Stuart in the Guardian “a wild ride from the very first page. An astonishing telling of a young man’s search for belonging.” The Booker Prize Judges called the novel, “Magnificent in its relentless intensity and searing honesty, this is a new voice arriving fully formed and raring to go.”
Gabriel Krauze came of age among the high rises and back streets of South Kilburn. He was not an observer on the periphery of violence. He was personally involved in gangs, drugs, guns, stabbing and robbery—all while completing an English degree at Queen Mary’s University. Who They Was comes directly from that experience and as such it is confronting, exhilarating, morally complex, and utterly unique.
The unforgettable narrator of this debut goes by two names in his two worlds. At university, he’s Gabriel, a seemingly ordinary, partying student learning about morality from a distance. But in his life outside the classroom, he’s Snoopz, a member of London’s gangs. Navigating these sides of himself, dealing with loving but inattentive parents at the same time as treacherous friends and the looming threat of prison, he is forced to come to terms with who he really is and the life he’s chosen for himself.
In a distinct, lyrical urban slang all his own, Krauze brings to vivid life the underworld of London and the destructive impact of toxic masculinity. Who They Was is a disturbing yet tender and perspective-altering account of the thrill of violence and the trauma it leaves behind. It’s the story of inner cities everywhere, and of the lost boys who must find themselves in their tower blocks.