Saturday, September 12, 2015

Book review: the legendary last novel by the author of Get Carter

Ted Lewis was the author of Get Carter (initially titled Jack's Return Home), the inspiration for the Michael Caine classic crime drama. The hard-living Lewis died in 1982 at age 42, and the legend has been that his last novel, GBH, not Get Carter, is his real noir masterpiece. The problem is that GBH (which stands for the crime of Grievous Bodily Harm) went out of print in the UK almost instantly after it was published in 1980, and it wasn't published in the US. But now we can all find out if the GBH (Soho Crime, April 21, 2015) of legend is the real deal.

In GBH's two-track narrative, crime boss George Fowler alternates between his life in London, where he ruthlessly hunts for the traitors within his organization, helped by the members of his ever-shrinking trusted inner circle. The London chapters are called Smoke, and they alternate with chapters titled Sea, in which Fowler is now in a coastal town, where he is as alone and bleak as the the off-season beachfront.

The story is gritty, deep dark noir. Fowler's business is extremely nasty porn, and he's relentless, ultra-violent and increasingly unhinged in his pursuit of his betrayer. As the chapters alternate between Smoke and Sea, we learn how Fowler has come to the state he's in when he retreats to his luxurious, but empty, seaside house, and what the consequences will be of the choices he's made.

Lewis's prose is stripped down and searing. One aspect of it I wasn't crazy about is its purposeful lack of clarity. Names are given, but we don't know who they are for some time. We don't even know Fowler's first name for awhile, nor what his criminal empire is all about or why he's having various members of his organization tortured. I thought the story was more than tense and compelling enough not to need this element, which just seemed gimmicky to me.

Noir fans will want to give this vintage London crime drama a read. Some, maybe even most, may find that the clarity issue that bothered me adds an air of creepy suspense.

Notes: I was given an advance copy of the book for review. Versions of this review may appear on Amazon, BookLikes and other reviewing sites under my usernames there.

No comments:

Post a Comment