Monday, 8 March 2010

Book Review: 1980 & 1983 by David Peace

Them and the depressing music and the grating jingles on the radio, the constant rain and the tepid wind, the mongrel dogs that bark all night and shit all day, the half-cooked food and the luke-warm teas, the shops full of things you don't want on terms you can't meet, the houses that are prisons and the prisons that are houses, the smell of paint to mask the smell of fear, the trains that never run on time to places that are all the same, the buses you are scared to catch and your car they always nick, the rubbish that blows in circles up and down the streets, the films in the dark and the walks in the park for a fumble and a fuck , a finger or a dick, the taste of beer to numb the fear, the television and the government, Sue Lawley and Maggie Thatcher, the Argies and the Falklands, the UDA and LUFC sprayed on your mother's walls, the swastika and noose they hung above her door, the shit through her letterbox and the brick through her window, the anonymous calls and the dirty calls, the heavy breathing and the dial tone, the taunts of the children and the curses of their parents, the eyes filled with tears that sting not from the cold but the hurt, the lies they tell and the pain they bring, the loneliness and the ugliness, the stupidity and brutality, the endless and basal unkindness of every single person every single minute of every single hour of every single day of every single month of every single year of every single life-

The above from David Peace's 1983, similar to 80's punk poetry, encapsulates the grim atmosphere of his Red Riding Quartet (see my review of 1974 & 1977 here) Yorkshire in the early 1980's is depicted as a cold, grey corrupt hell, with its criminal police, murdered children and prostitutes, framed and tortured innocents and deeply flawed protagonists; where the only way out seems to be through religious redemption or suicide. It's a completely male world where the women are merely victims of violence and abuse; but there are no heroes, male or female in 1980 and 1983, only those with some ethics like top police man Peter Hunter from 1980, sent to investigate the incompetence of the West Yorkshire police dealing with the Ripper murders, or Big John Piggott from 1983, the fat and lonely solicitor, (the narrator of the above quote) who is representing the man framed by the Yorkshire cops for the child killings from 1974. The style of writing of both novels is terse and darkly poetic, first person narration with random inter-cuttings of images, thoughts, and snippets of songs, but runs at a breakneck speed, ending with the devastating denouement of 1983. Peace's style can be very confusing and I'm still not clear about parts of the plot, but 1980 and 1983 like the previous novels are page turning thrillers at heart, dark crime fiction at its best. But if you are looking for uplifting, cosy, escapist fiction, do not touch!

For a fascinating 'spiritual' interpretation of the Red Riding Quartet read Mark Fisher's (K-Punk) blog post: 'Can the World be as Sad as it Seems': David Peace and Negative Theodicy.

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