Stone Cold (Swindells novel)

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Stone Cold
Stone Cold cover.jpg
First edition
AuthorRobert Swindells
Cover artistPaul Hunt
CountryUnited Kingdom
GenreYoung adult fiction, realist novel, horror
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardcover)
Pages132 pp (first edition)

Stone Cold is a realistic young-adult novel by Robert Swindells, published by Heinemann in 1993. Set on the streets of London, the first-person narrative switches between Link, a newly-homeless young man adjusting to his situation, and Shelter, an ex-army officer scorned after being dismissed from his job, supposedly on "medical grounds".

WorldCat-participating libraries report holding Danish, German, Catalan, Vasc, Slovenian and Korean editions.[1]


After Link's father abandons his family for a receptionist, Link's mother finds a new boyfriend. Vince, a rather unappealing character, eventually locks Link out of the house. Link, now homeless, decides to travel to Camden, London. Here he meets Ginger, who takes him under his wing. Link and Ginger work together and become friends. Along all of this, a man named Shelter is busy with his own task. An ex-army member, dismissed for 'medical reasons' he is convinced that he must 'clear' the streets of the homeless. He begins abducting and murdering victims.

One day, Ginger decided to meet his friends. Link, waited for him, yet he never returned. Shelter, had abducted him, telling him that Link was at his apartment, badly injured. Ginger fell for it and was murdered.

Distressed by Ginger's absence, Link finds solace in the company of a mysterious young woman named Gail. They 'dossed' together and began to figure out the strange things that were happening. They eventually traced them to an old man, Shelter. Gail always spent ages in the telephone box, so Link left for a couple of minutes and searched for Shelter. Shelter is pulling off an act, pretending to look for his new cat, Sappho, whom he found on the streets and acquired as a sort of 'prop'. Link believes his 'I'm a softie' act and helps him until they find the cat. Shelter invites him inside and Link, forgetting to be suspicious, follows him. Shelter advances on him while they're inside, and Link realises he killed Ginger and all the other homeless people. Shelter nearly suffocates Link, but Gail has called the police, and they take him away. Gail reveals tearfully she is not a real homeless person, but a journalist undercover, wanting to know how it feels to be homeless. She and the newly arrived cameraman depart after giving Link some money.

The book ends with Link on the streets on his own again, thinking its ironic that Shelter got locked up for life for multiple murders, yet he gets a roof over his head and three meals a day.

Reception and analysis[edit]

The story, set in the late 20th century, is told in chapters that alternate between the perspective of Link, the protagonist and Shelter, antagonist. Shelter's chapters are designated by military-style Daily Routine Orders; Link's are told in a journal- or interview-like fashion. Both characters have aliases by which they prefer to be known and their birth names are not revealed. This and the fact that no perspective other than theirs is ever offered means that they are both unreliable narrators, albeit whilst allowing that Link's side comes across as the more plausible.

Swindells won the annual Carnegie Medal recognising the year's best children's book by a British subject.[2]


In 1997, the novel was adapted for a television series of the same title, starring James Gaddas, Peter Howitt and Elizabeth Rider, and produced by Andy Rowley. It was nominated for a Best Children's Drama Award at BAFTA.[3] The short series was shown on Scene BBC Two.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Formats and Editions of Stone cold". WorldCat. Retrieved 2012-09-10.
  2. ^ Carnegie Winner 1993. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 2018-02-28.
  3. ^ "Stone Cold (1997) on the Internet Movie Database". Retrieved 2010-03-15. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Flour Babies
Carnegie Medal recipient
Succeeded by
Whispers in the Graveyard