Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The king of British crime

Having constantly seen him referenced by David Peace and other people who generally don't suffer fools, I finally read Derek Raymond's He Died With His Eyes Open at the weekend. First published in 1984, it's a near-flawless piece of British noir touching on sex, the suburbs, alcoholism, murder, casual racism and the occult. The novel perfectly conjurs up the shabby, semi-derelict edge of early Eighties London, but avoids slipping into standard hardboiled territory thanks to the very moral (almost tender) core that Raymond gives his protagonist.

Raymond himself was pretty remarkable; an old Etonian who slipped the moorings of his class and upbringing and went into a life as a criminal, pornographer, peasant labourer and sporadic novellist. Predictably enough, he sold almost nothing for most of his career, although achieved a good deal of interest towards the end of his life. I seriously cannot recommend him highly enough to you.

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