Before The Fire


My second novel, Before The Fire, is published by Picador.


You can buy online from Waterstones, Foyles, Blackwells

The Story

It’s June 2011.  Best friends Stick and Mac are two boys on the verge of becoming men, their sights set on escaping their north Manchester estate for the beaches of southern Spain.  They’ve bought a beaten-up car on eBay, they’ve got a route planned, they’re going to meet girls, work in bars and maybe never come home . . .

But the night before they’re due to leave, Mac ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, and suddenly Stick’s going nowhere.  His mum doesn’t want him to leave the house, his dad’s desperate to be his best friend, and everyone seems to have an opinion on what he should do next – except Stick himself.

Then he meets J and she might just be everything he needs.  But Stick is still burning with rage and grief, and the August riots are just around the corner . . .

Inspired by the riots that swept the UK in the summer of 2011, Before the Fire is a bold, thought-provoking and compassionate take on a piece of our all too recent history.  It’s a novel about friendship and family, the shocking effects of a sudden tragedy, and the enduring power of love.

What people are saying:

‘The book revels in the diversity and mystery of young people. It never tries to imitate the “innit”-ness of other authors who fling out slang as a substitute for character development. Instead, Butler’s prose is microscopic, delicate and honest. […] Instead of trying to condone or condemn all young people, Butler is more interested in telling a human story about grief and how that can manifest itself in unflinching anger, no matter our age.’ Nikesh Shukla, The Independent

‘Butler is brilliant at capturing Stick’s inner teenage turmoil, his anger, his feelings of futility, the terrible depths of his grief and his easy contempt for adults who clumsily try to help.’ Claire Allfree, Daily Mail

‘A brilliant, punchy and utterly contemporary novel which reminds readers of the vitality and resilience of the novel – and the urgency of the issues it explores through its beautifully realised and notably passionate characters. Before the Fire is a novel about what it’s like to live now, created by a writer with an unerring eye and a heart which is both humane and discerning.’ Bidisha, journalist, broadcaster and author of Asylum and Exile

‘The portrait of a young man on the edge, consumed by rage and grief, is beautifully drawn and captivates the reader so well that as the story builds towards the climax the tension is almost unbearable. I liked too the flashes of humour and poignancy in the novel which reads like a bittersweet love letter to Manchester.’ Cath Staincliffe, author of Ruthless

‘To read Before the Fire is to walk several miles in other people’s shoes, such is the empathetic nature of Sarah Butler’s writing . . . It’s a tender, powerful, affecting novel, and one I enjoyed greatly’ Emylia Hall, author of The Book of Summers

‘A moving portrayal of a country in crisis, getting under the skin of both the issues and the people affected by them’ Emma Chapman, author of How To Be A Good Wife

‘Too few novels describe working class lives and the context and reasons for their anger and hopelessness. I found the characters in Before the Fire real and authentic and was rooting for them throughout. I thoroughly enjoyed it.’ Alex Wheatle, author of Brixton Rock

An extraordinary novel, set in a world that isn’t often written about with such a profound sense of understanding and truth.  Stick is a beautifully drawn complex, likeable, understandable  young man, living on the edge and struggling with making sense of it all . . . Brilliant . . . A stirring read’ Mavis Cheek