Tag Archives: David Peace

Fatale – Jean-Patrick Manchette trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith


In the forward of this new edition, David Peace describes how, shortly after submitting his latest crime noir manuscript in 1977, Manchette realised that his editors didn’t like it very much.  In anger at their reaction, he requested it be published outside the legendary “Serie Noir” and wrote “This negative response clearly shows what I should never forget: I alone understand what I do.”  Manchette’s confidence in Fatale is not without foundation.  I haven’t read any other “Serie Noir” or Manchette books, but this one hits hard in its 112 pages.  In fact it feels like a 12 round bout stuffed into 3 rounds, climaxing with a KO; it’s a mini dynamo.

Provincial politics can be corrupt and nepotistic and if you are an outsider it is difficult to gain access and favour, but Aimee Joubert (a woman with dodgy motives) capitalises on the inevitable secrets in Bléville’s society and outwits the sweaty bourgeois fat-cats by extorting huge amounts of cash in a spectacular double bluff which involves her offering her services as an assassin.  She appears from nowhere, is disciplined in her research and training, infiltrates the community with her charm and good looks, then smacks the crooked officials between the eyes during a dizzyingly violent final scene.  I rooted for her from the first page when she confronts a woodland hunter in a spectacular and astonishing fashion.  This is more than just a cruel melodrama though, there is a political commentary undercurrent surging through this perfectly formed piece of crime fiction. I love it when a book surprises me like this and it only took a couple of hours to read.

Serpent’s Tail have just released this edition along with several other world literature titles, all with similarly retro pulp jacket artwork and I found it at my wonderful local library.


11 sentences – must try harder!

David Peace – Red Riding 1974

imgresRelentless, uncompromising, unyielding, fierce, harsh.  I could add many more one word superlatives to try to describe David Peace’s writing.  I had a brief conversation about Peace with a writer who described his writing as “dazzlingly oppressive” which sort of hits the nail on the head, and explains why he’s the writer and I’m not.  wpid-2013-03-24-21.08.51.jpgIn fact, this is all I scribbled in my notebook once I’d finished his book, much less than my normal lengthy notes about plot, character, structure and lots of quotes.  This is not a book to read if you are feeling a little fragile or you are easily shocked, but despite its brutality it feels like such an honest novel.  It left me quite speechless (as is evident from the one word write up in my notebook) and I had a sleepless night once I’d finished it, but I look forward to reading the second book in this quartet like I look forward to picking a scab; you know there’s going to be a certain amount of pain involved, but you can’t help yourself because it sort of feels good.


Eddie Dunford has recently returned to Yorkshire, revelling in the opportunities his new job as North of England Crime Correspondent with the Yorkshire Post has to offer, but still dreaming of a Brighton flat with sea views and southern girls called Sophie or Anna while mourning the death of his father.  He has a lot to prove to himself and his work colleagues who all think he is still wet behind the ears; working in the south doesn’t count for anything in their eyes and his father’s words are still ringing in his ears.

The South’ll turn you bloody soft it will

He is naive and a bit big for his boots but the story of a missing 10 year old girl is his opportunity to make a big impression in his first week on the paper.  The story turns out to be more complicated than one missing girl and involves corruption and depravity within the newly formed West Yorkshire Metropolitan Police, the local council, local business and at the paper.  As Dunford begins to uncover some of the nastiness surrounding this case, he feels conflicted and confused, getting himself into more and more trouble because he can’t turn a blind eye.

The horrors in this book run deep but what Peace does so brilliantly is to show the transformation of Dunford from one of the vulture reporters at the initial press conference for the missing girl, all of them desperate for her to be dead because that makes a much more interesting newspaper story, to a man frantic to uncover the truth at any cost, but with little success other than to send himself into a spiral of crazy behaviour.  He’s not much better than the rest of them, but deep down he does care.

David Peace manages to portray the Yorkshire of the seventies as a lawless, wild west frontier type place, where normal rules don’t apply and men are tough, mean and in charge.  Where you find

..the Strafford Arms, the hardest pub in the North

…Uncle Eric holding court, proud the only time he ever left Yorkshire was to kill Germans.

…a four hour tour of local hell…Hard towns for hard men.

and Zulu, Yorkshire style.

A long way from God’s Own County.

Peace’s writing is lyrical, with a sing-song quality that keeps the pace moving at the same high speed Dunford drives his father’s Viva along to roads of West Yorkshire.  It is incredibly visual (“that face and that hair, up close and near, a melted black plastic bag dripped over a bowl of flour and lard”) which is hard to bear at times considering the violence contained in the 300 pages, but makes the story so much more hard hitting and goes some way to explain why the quartet was adapted by Channel 4.  There is an honesty to his writing.  He is not afraid of the whole spectrum of emotions including graphic descriptions of the physical reactions to those emotions – it is reality, so why is it not seen more often in fiction, despite its disgustingness (is that a word?)?

I read an interview with David Peace in the Guardian where he says “if you want to write the best crime book, then you have to write better than Ellroy.”  I think he’s up there with Ellroy; this work is part genius, part insanity, like riding a waltzer at the fairground and my family knows what happens to me when I do that.  I feel sick yet dizzyingly light-headed at the same time – it’s ever so slightly addictive.

Reading Manifesto 2013

I had two personal, non-book related resolutions in mind for 2013 but only a few hours into the New Year one of them is already on hold.  The resolution was simply to run more, especially off-road.  However, this goal was scuppered on Boxing Day.  Mr FH, his brother and I challenged ourselves to a woodland 10k run and while trying to keep up with them I fell quite spectacularly leaving me covered in mud and mush with a painful foot and ankle ligament injury and a very sore coccyx! I’m lucky my ankle isn’t fractured, but I can’t run for a while, but oh my, it is painful.  I’m not entirely sure this is what Haruki Murakami was referring to when he said “pain is inevitable” in his book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running.  Anyhow.

The other personal resolution is to find a job; a proper one that pays real money and everything…!  This March I will have been a full-time mother for 10 years, it’s about time I got myself back into the real economy somehow, but what to do?  I don’t want a job like I had before with all the corporate nonsense that went with it – so ideas anyone?

When it comes to reading I have a few thoughts about 2013.  I want to stretch myself, but not be completely unrealistic about what I aim to achieve.  Reading, after all, is a pleasurable hobby and not something that has to be endured.  I’m a slow reader compared to other bloggers (I read somewhere the other day about a blogger who read 180 books last year, puts my 45 between Feb and Dec 2012 to shame), but I want to enjoy what I read and I don’t want to feel obliged to read something because it is the current favourite.  At the same time I want to be able to take part in discussions on popular books, so I need to find that perfect balance.   Also, I need to take care not to overspend on books.  So here goes:

Sourcing Books in 2013

Check out the two pictures I’ve added below of a couple of my downstairs bookshelves (ignoring the gnome sat at the top, an addition for my garden once it’s been landscaped and a present from my MIL).


I don’t even “see” the books on these shelves anymore and there are larger shelves upstairs heaving under the weight of unread books.  I had a really good look at the titles recently and found so many great books I didn’t know we owned or had forgotten we had.  I came across 3/4 of David Peace’s Red Riding quartet.  Having mentioned we were missing the 1st one, Mr FH came home with it the next day from the Oxfam shop.  I’ve only ever seen the BBC adaptation, but want to give them a go, despite Mr FH’s warning about how harsh they are.  We’ve got a couple of Jon McGregor books I’ve never looked at. We have almost a full complement of Haruki Murakami and Cormac McCarthy but I’ve barely scratched the surface.  IMG_3684There’s at least three Kate Atkinson books I’ve meant to read for a while, plus one by Louise Welsh.

You get the picture…I want to read stuff I already own.  There will be times when I have to or want to read something I don’t already have so will borrow from the library or buy it second-hand.  I almost always refuse to buy hardback books, they are far too expensive, but there will be times when I have to buy a brand new book, then I will try to use my local book shop.  Or, if I’m really lucky, maybe a couple of small publishing houses might send me the odd book to read!

I am still stubbornly resisting an e-reader.  I think one of those will only make my problem of unread books much worse.  Nothing wrong with the printed version, it’s worked fine for years.


I noticed last year how few books I read by women and challenged myself to read more.  I still only managed to read seven post 1950 titles by women.  This year I want the male/female split to be a bit more even, so I need to make a concerted effort on that front.

At the back-end of 2012 I got a lot of pleasure from reading translated fiction, so I want to try to introduce a few more non-english titles to my bedside table this year and maybe review one a month.


I don’t want to get too hung up on joining loads of shared reading/blogging events, but they are a great way of getting to know other bloggers and reading something different.  I am already committed to “January in Japan” (more on that to come soon), and will take part in German Literature Month again later in the year.  Of course, joining these blogging events will help with introducing more variety into my reading material.

Reading around my area

Last year I started a little series on my blog called “Reading Around my Area“. Primarily, I wanted to look at how authors who lived local to me used the landscape in their work or how it may have influenced them or inspired them.  It became a bit less focused than that.  I only featured one writer last year, Arthur Conan Doyle but I’ve already promised to feature Aldous Huxley next and then I’ll see if I can manage to write about anyone else.  It takes quite a bit of research and reading, but is really rewarding, making me feel a little more knowledgable about my local area.

That’s it then, nothing earth-shattering or mind-blowing and of course most of it is subject to me fulfilling my personal resolution of finding a job, because once/if that happens I suspect reading won’t suffer but blogging might.  I’ll have to wait and see what this year brings.

Thanks to everyone who regularly visits and continues to read my drivel and sometimes even comment on it.  I look forward to bumping into you again on these pages and hearing your thoughts on books and reading.  Happy 2013!