Friday, March 27, 2009

09.12 How The Dead Live by Derek Raymond

How The Dead Live (1986) by Derek Raymond (Robin Cook)
Pbk, Abacus, 203 p.

When I read a new author I like to wait until I am finished the book before reading their bio. And what a fascinating bio Derek Raymond has. Raymond is the pseudonym of Robin Cook (no, not the airport novel Cook). He was born into wealth in London and moved to the country during WWII. After dropping out of Eton, Cook lived with the Beats in Paris, spent some time on the Lower East Side and then developed a taste for crime - smuggling and auto theft among other things. At the beginning of the 60s he moved back to London where he became involved tangentially with the Krays. This is when he wrote his first novel, The Crust on its Uppers (1962), which is supposed to be excellent. Cook continued to write through his life without much popular success. Eventually, his Factory series (of which How The Dead Live is the 3rd) brought him some measure of success as Derek Raymond.

I really liked this novel. It was dark, tough, sardonic and original. The story, like the others in the Factory series, follows an unnamed Sergeant in the London division of Unexplained Deaths, known as A14. The hero is "surly, sarcastic, and insubordinate" to the extreme but is a bulldog for the truth especially where it concerns the lower classes. He is sent up to the country to investigate the disappearance of the French wife of a local doctor. The town itself and all it's players turn out to be not what they seem (a little like a noir version of the movie Hot Fuzz).

Excellent book by a new author (for me). Looking forward to finding more books by him especially:

The Crust on Its Uppers, 1962, originally published under the name of Robin Cook, reprinted by Serpent’s Tail, 2000

He Died with His Eyes Open, Secker & Warburg, 1984, the first book in the Factory series

The Devil's Home on Leave, Secker & Warburg, 1985, the second book in the Factory series

I Was Dora Suarez, Scribner, 1990, the fourth book in the Factory series

1 comment:

Olman Feelyus said...

Oh yeah, I read this book a long time ago. My mom passed it on to me. I think it was a bit too bleak and harsh for me at the time. I bet I would love it now. His first book has such a great title!