The singer with one of America's coolest bands, Richmond Fontaine, Willy Vlautin is also one of the country's best new writers, a man who never wastes a word and whose insight and characters can just stop you mid-sentence. He's already written two acclaimed books, 'The Motel Life' and 'Northline', and now 'Lean on Pete' looks set to give him the wider audience he so richly deserves.

Charley Thompson is 15-years-old and has spent his life moving from town to town with his feckless father in the Pacific Northwest. The latest stop is Portland, Oregon, where the smart and athletic Charley has hopes of starting school in September and trying out for the local football team. In the meantime, he's making some money and passing the lonely hours working at the local racetrack, where he becomes friends with Lean on Pete, a horse with only a few paydays left in him and who, through a shocking incident, will become the most important thing in Charley's life.

It's one of reading's great joys to look at the cover of a book and remember where it brought you, and with 'Lean on Pete' you'll want to take that journey again and again. With beautiful, unfussy prose Vlautin tells the story of a boy who has to grow up far too quickly and who encounters the best and worst of people as he tries to put some distance on what has happened to him.

This is an adventure that's rich in social comment and evokes memories of classic American cinema of the 1970s. 'Lean on Pete' would make a great film, too, but it's just so precious that you'd prefer that it never reached the big screen if any of Vlautin's honesty or magic was going to get lost along the way.

This is one horse you won't lose money on.

Harry Guerin