The perfect voice for a down and out in London and Iraq crime novel, with an entry quote by Orwell. Always a good sign, Orwell. Imagine a classic sting by a pretty girl and her boyfriend: girl alone at bar gets hit by her bruiser boyfriend. Retired police detective comes to the rescue, takes girl home. Girl slips him a mickey, empties his wallet, and splits.
But this is more than a crime novel; listen:
The old man blinks at him.
“You are not an Arab?
“What is your religion?”
“I don’t have one.”
“Who is your god?”
“I have no God.”
“What sort of man has no god? What does he believe in? Why does he live?”
“He lives because he is a man.”
“You are American?”
“I was born there. My mother is Iraqi.”
“I like George Clooney and Arnold Schwarzenneger.”
He’d read up on noir and called it Nora.
Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me hard boils the story from the start: London as the small bad city with its own 87th precinct: Brant, who cuts a bit off the top of every drug bust, makes himself loved by women, plays laid back surfer dude cop but functions as the magus and manipulates everybody’s fate; Macdonald: the aged bully with the mean little soul and the overblown self-estimate; Porter Nash: the gay cop; W.P.C. Falls the bitch black psychopathic girlcop with the knuckle dusters in her purse; P.C. Lane: tall and lanky nerd cop who carries an umbrella and wears an “expression of friendliness, the very worst thing for a cop,”; Chief Inspector Roberts & more.
A silly accountant whose whore lives across the street decides to play Miss Manners with an edge, and finds he enjoys killing people who behave badly in public.
Slick with references that both emulate and parody the grittiest American fiction (Robert B. Parker, Karin Fossom, Ed McBain, Andrew Vachss, Elmore Leonard, Newton Thornberg, Mankell, Willeford, Joe Lansdale); this text is black with humor (“He’d read up on noir and called it Nora.”) and gorgeous with distemporal language (The drinks came and he hoped she wouldn’t say Bottoms Up. “Bottoms up” she said.”) Read it and smirk.
Jackson slugs a bully and saves a small dog. Hence Jackson, ex military man, ex husband (twice), having been familiar with violence his whole life has now finally found a good use for it. Now on the other side of the law, but otherwise non-localizable: “when he stayed at a hotel, he knew who he was. A guest.”
Tracy is big, post-menopausal, plain, and so indistinct that qualifiers float over the surface of her identity, like flat swabs of paint on a blank canvas.
At school Tracy had always been wary of the domestic science crowd – methodical girls with neat handwriting and neither flaws nor eccentricities. For some reason they were usually good at netball as well, as if the gene that enabled them to jump for the hoop contained the information necessary for turning out a cheese-and-onion flan or creaming a Victoria sponge-sandwich mix.
After she pays $3000 for a small child being dragged around by a street-mother, Tracy buys the kid cotton clothes and uses thought to re-organize her life from the point of view of a small girl.
Two characters in an England out of time, make a decision that makes no sense, and thereby changes the sense of life and everything in it. Two characters that grip us by the throat, and leave us breathless, waiting for the real inside the fiction.
Forget Harley Street. The latest design in shrinks is a six foot 250 pound lesbian weight lifter who runs a pub with her bosomy girlfriend, and offers bed, morning after breakfast, and laundry service. This is what the 21st century male patient wants: a powerful, intuitive M.D. who can hoist him effortlessly over her shoulder, tuck him into bed without sexual threat or expectation, wash the blood off his shirt and serve up bacon and egg for breakfast.
Such a shrink, and only such a shrink can handle what the Iraq, the national health service and the Metropolitan police have brewed in ex-Lieutenant Charles Acland, now of London, hateful and harijan: untouchable.