Beetles, Top of the Pops, Locarno, teen magazines, gangs

How many popular pastimes from the sixties can you identify?

Small Fish Big Fish

- A Young Adult Thriller -

the villain in the young adult thriller, Small Fish Big Fish.

Archie has been a victim of fate all his life. Now, it’s time for payback.

Born into an abusive family, and on the wrong side of the tracks, the nineteen-year-old gang leader will do whatever it takes to survive.

His neighbor, Jamie, seems to have had everything handed to him on a plate: caring parents, close friends, and a rosy future. Envy eats at Archie, and when he discovers a lapse in Jamie's integrity, he targets him for revenge.

A gripping psychological thriller, Small Fish Big Fish, tell of the lives and loves of teenage boys and girls in Scotland during the sixties. It is a true-to-life drama, written through the eyes of several characters. If you enjoy stories filled with compelling characters, suspenseful mystery and a touch of young romance, then you'll love PJ McDermott's twist on the traditional coming of age story.


  • Jamie McCarthy. Doing his best to avoid becoming a target of the criminal elements in his neighborhood. So far, the seventeen-year-old has been lucky. That's about to change...
  • Archie Stewart. The gang leader with big ideas. He comes from an abusive family. His father is an alcoholic who beats his wife and children, his mother is a trollop and his sister, Trish, hates him. He's not a happy man...
  • Tianyi Chi. Archie's innocent girlfriend. A fifteen year old refugee from China whose family perished in a tragic accident at sea. Archie wants to keep the relationship secret, fearful of how it might affect his reputation. Tragedy follows Tianyi around...
  • Sandy Morrison. Stephen’s violet-eyed, fun-loving, dream girl has a secret. Her brother, Daniel, is serving nine months in Barlinnie prison for assault. Every cloud has its silver lining...


K. Kumar Amazon

"Small Fish Big Fish is an absorbing, well crafted novel that follows Stephen as he navigates through a series of difficult obstacles placed before him. There are a number of memorable characters that enter the story: D, Julie, Archie, and many others, and I found that as the story moved along I became more invested in the outcome of the plot and the fate of the characters."

Kayne Milhomme, Goodreads

"Small Fish Big Fish meticulously, deliberately, and powerfully describes the chain of events that the decisions and actions of both the protagonist and the antagonist—whether made for the right reasons or wrong—have on themselves, on their neighbors, friends, and those they love. The reader is brought along the journey, and left to confront the gut-wrenching question—what would I do, given their situation? 

Excerpts from the Book:


Archie turned towards them, his face flushed with anger. ‘Where’s the rest of it? This can’t be all you took this week. Fifty-three lousy quid!’ His voice broke as he grasped McIntyre by his shirt. ‘C’mon, tell me, where’s the rest of it?’  He slapped the barely conscious man across the face.

Jamie grabbed hold of Archie’s arm as he swung it backwards for a second hit. ‘No!’ He struggled to hold Archie back and looked defiantly into his eyes. ‘Can’t you see he’s had enough? There isn’t any more. He would have told you by now.’

Archie pulled free of Jamie’s grasp and his fist struck McIntyre like a sledgehammer. As the shopkeeper’s head hit the floor, Archie grabbed his shirtfront and shook him violently. Jamie wrapped his arms around Archie and struggled to drag him backwards. Archie lashed out with his boot at McIntyre’s inert body. ‘Enough, for God’s sake! He’s an old man. You’ll kill him,’ Jamie screamed. Archie swatted him away and Jamie careened across the small room, crashed into the corner of the safe and sank to the floor. Spasms of pain wracked his back.


Archie’s jaw twitched when he heard this. He hated his parents, but as he listened to Tianyi, it dawned on him he had been denied something special. It made him angry - enough to want to strike out, hurt, and make someone pay. ‘My mother’s a bleeding sot. Do you know what that means? She abandoned us when I was just a kid, eight or nine years old. Oh, I know she had it hard with the old man, but did she think Trish and I had it bloody easy? Every time Dad got pissed he took it out on us. He mostly beat up on me—he just ignored Trish. I know he hates me. I didn’t understand it back then, but later I realized he blamed me for every rotten thing that ever happened to him. 

‘Why? I forced it out of him one night when I was old enough to stand up to him, and he was drunk enough not to care. He says he’s not my father. At least, he thinks he’s not my father.’ Archie’s face was expressionless as he continued. ‘He told me Judy, that’s my mum, gave it out to just about anybody when she was young. That was the only reason he fancied her―the sex. A real whore she was, and she didn’t stop after they were married.’ He laughed bitterly. “I wish he wasn’t my father. I told him to look in the mirror—stupid sod.’


Julie caressed the back of his neck and Jamie’s nervousness disappeared, replaced by a sense of contentment, of being in the right place at the right time, and with the right person. He was filled with delight when she put both arms around his neck and laid her head against his shoulder. He responded by holding her so tightly, they found it difficult to move.

She laughed in his ear.

Jamie felt as though he had discovered the secret to happiness. Her laugh filled him with unfamiliar but agreeable sensations, but the strength of his feelings both delighted and frightened him. In the back of his mind, a small voice insisted he didn’t deserve this. There was no way someone as beautiful as Julie could feel that way about him.


Tianyi's mother had protested the vessel was too small, little more than a wooden fishing trawler, but her father replied she knew nothing of the sea, and the captain had assured him he had made the journey many times without incident. ‘We have no choice in any case,’ he had said. ‘I have paid the money. Either we go now or we stay and starve.’

Her mother gripped Tianyi’s hand so tightly she squirmed. Her younger brother Shiou was hanging onto his father’s coat, wiping the tears from his eyes, and trying to appear brave. Tianyi thought she would always remember that moment: the despair of her mother, and the resolution that shone from her father’s eyes. 

About the Author: PJ McDermott

PJ McDermott lived in Ferguslie Park, the setting for his debut novel, Small Fish Big Fish, until he was fifteen. At twenty-one he went back to study full-time at Langside College, and from there to Glasgow University, graduating Bachelor of Science. 

A regular on the Scottish Folk Club circuit, PJ played guitar and sang with his friends and cousins for pocket money. He lived in Paisley until, at the age of twenty-six, he met and married Sue, who convinced him to return with her to Australia, a move he has never regretted. 

PJ lives with his wife on the Surf Coast of Australia. They have two beautiful daughters, and three seriously cheeky grandchildren.

Small Fish Big Fish


The thrilling and thought-provoking story that echoes the uncertainties and hopes of youth. Set in 1965 Scotland.

E-Book Version