Archive for Derek Raymond

Quote of the Day: More ears

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , on June 13, 2008 by dcairns

The Crust on its Uppers by Derek Raymond is a tale of upper-class lads mixed up in the early sixties London underworld ~

“The Admiral, as everybody knows, is a dreadful little gaff, which is why everyone never goes there, because it’s as square as the dear old Admiral himself (Admiral Teitelbaum of the Whitechapel Navy, I shouldn’t wonder). It’s off behind upper Regent Street and like a bank-clerk’s notion of a winter cruise gone sour in a blob of aspic; and the reek of stale middle-aged slag, wet macintoshes and beer contrast oddly with the burnt-pokerwork observations stuck about which tell you that the loo is on the midshipman’s deck — in a nutshell, it’s the one place where the law wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb, which makes it O.K. for biz, as the law seems to think that biz is never done anywhere except in the Hautboy or the Tealeaf, and those two gaffs have more ears stuck around the walls than a Cocteau film.”


Good book! The constant rhyming slang and argot (and amorality) give it some of the feel of A Clockwork Orange, and of being allowed a priveleged glimpse of a “private little world”. And the fact that the protags are upper class drop-outs wallowing in the underworld (where their old school ties make a useful shield of respectability), plus the fact that this aspect of the story is drawn from the author’s own life, makes it a bit different from your standard mockney antics.

Plus plus plus the setting, 1961, catches Soho right in that glamorously-seedy EXPRESSO BONGO / BEAT GIRL phase.


Peculiar Crimes and Unexplained Deaths

Posted in FILM, literature with tags , , , , , , , , , , on May 24, 2008 by dcairns

dead cool

I’ve got an alternating thing going on with my reading at the moment — first I read one of Derek Raymond’s frazzled pulp nasties featuring his nameless police sergeant investigating horrific cases for department A14, Unexplained Deaths, the crappiest, least respected division of London’s Metropolitan Police (“the Met”) —

— then I read one of Christopher Fowler’s warmly elegiac, highly imaginative and thoroughly researched crime shockers featuring octogenarian detectives Arthur Bryant and John May, investigating bizarre crimes for the Peculiar Crimes Unit, a crappy and little-respected offshoot of London’s Metropolitan Police.

It seems to provide the variety I need.

While Raymond’s relentlessly downbeat policiers can put you into a bit of a suicidal depression, staved off only by the shameless purple-noir vivacity of his prose, (“He gave me one look, one of the straight kind, turned and got into the back of the Rover. It took off in a puff of rubber fury.”) and hilariously dated yet brilliant dialogue, Fowler’s more gentle work combines lashings of noir grimness and evil with the warmer Agatha Christie tradition in which crime-solving is a civilized, intellectual pursuit. It’s a lovely blend. White Corridors features a classic John Dickson Carr type locked room mystery, as well as a more psychological plot in which the readers perceptions are cunningly twisted around.

It was Carr who created The Department of Queer Complaints to solve Impossible Crimes, and in some respects Fowler’s Peculiar Crimes Unit is a descendant of this august body. Both writers eschew the supernatural while simultaneously evoking it: crimes and settings redolent of the unearthly are shown to have rational explanations, but in Fowler there’s little sense of the paranormal being “explained away” — an eeriness still lingers. His books are also crammed to rupturing with obscure lore and local history, much of which I’m filing away in the drawer of my brain labelled “Useless Information That Makes Life Worthwhile.”

Apparently there’s a movie/TV option on the Fowler books, while I’m trying to interest anybody I can find in films from the Raymonds (Chabrol has already done one — Raymond was always more welcome in mainland Europe, even writing a Parisian policier specifically for the French market) so this post isn’t entirely off-topic.

I feel I should intensify this London crime mood with some suitable film viewing — the wonderful DEATHLINE (known as RAW MEAT in the US — how dreadfully vulgar!) would seem to form a sort of stylistic link between the two series of books. In that sensational ’70s horror cult classic, Donald Pleasance’s irascible Inspector Calhoun manages to royally piss off everyone he meets, much like Raymond’s Sgt. or Fowler’s cantankerous fossil Bryant, while tracking down a cannibal navvie on the Underground.

It’s a film I’ve enjoyed numerous times, particularly for the irrepressible chemistry between Pleasence and his subordinate, Norman Rossington (the Beatles’ manager in A HARD DAY’S NIGHT). But I hope soon to have the DVD in my sweaty mitts so I’ll be unable to resist giving it a spin. (If only they’d made a whole series with Pleasence as Calhoun, tackling a modern Spring-Heeled Jack, hippie satanists and the Highgate Vampire. Calhoun is the true embodiment of the British copper’s particular brand of sarcasm. Are all policemen sarky? Our Johnny Hoppers seem particularly good at it.)

Norman Rossington story: when screenwriter Charles Wood spotted Rossington, playing an enlisted man, up front with the officers in the preparation for the final CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE, he asked why Rossington wasn’t with the rest of the troops. “Because *I* am a highly-paid featured player,” retorted Rossington. Quite right.

Well, there are only five of Raymond’s series and six of Fowler’s, so this ecstasy can’t last, but while it does I’ll be steeped in London pea-soupers and cockney rhyming slang.

Here is some Cinephile’s Rhyming Slang, which will allow you to discuss movies without The Law getting wise to you:

Apples and stairs = featured players. (As in, “Who are the apples in that new Soderbergh?”)

Hoochy-coochy = Bertolucci.

Dirty Den = mise-en-scene.

La Dolce Vita = Cinecitta. (Also works the other way around.)

Bronx cheer = Lars Von Trier.

Dame Kiri = auteur theory.

Demon barber = Manny Farber.

Aneurin Bevan = SE7EN. (As in, “It had a moody, Aneurin-style title sequence.”)

Medically Ethical = Apeechatpong Weerasethakul.

“It puts you in mind of the days of Jack the Ripper!”

I love the London street scenes in KISS THE BLOOD OFF MY HANDS, even though they don’t look remotely like London streets. This being Universal Studios, I suspect they might be using bits of the mittel-European village set from FRANKENSTEIN.

“Have you ever seen such brutality?”

Posted in Comics, FILM, literature, MUSIC with tags , , , , on May 2, 2008 by dcairns

One great thing about Derek Raymond’s hard-boiled cockney crime novel He Died With His Eyes Open, is all the CULTURAL REFERENCES ~

“I’m a man that likes a charver if ever there was one, but my life, that put me right off — I couldn’t’ve got it up that time, not if she’d bin Clordia Cardinal.”


Clordia Cardinal.

— and —

“‘What’ll it be?’ he yelled above the Joan Armatrading.”

At times, Derek Raymond’s two-fisted existentialism reminds me of the old BRUTE! books — “Classified Pulp Nasties” from a little later in the eighties, which parodied Spillane-style hard man stuff by pumping the sex and violence to nauseatingly hilarious heights of depravity ~

“It was violent. It was brutal. It was nasty, vicious and inhuman. But it was fair.”

“I felt my floodgates open and a pint of hot stuff gushed out.”

“Before he croaked I gave him the works. Gun. Fist. Foot. Bollocks. The lot.”

“Just then a bloke erupted into the snug with a fiver. The music stopped. Jaws dropped, and darts hung in mid-air. ‘DRINKS ALL ROUND!’ he roared. ‘FOR ME!'”

“Afterwards, we both lay there and stank.”

“Dick Champion ran a bath and got in it. ‘WASH!’ he roared to himself.”

Horrible, homophobic, homoerotic and homo neanderthalis, BRUTE! was the thing of its day, the ne plus ultra reductio ad absurdum of Thatcherite values. It can be experienced in clean, non-flammable digital form HERE.