Friday, January 25, 2008

How the Dead Live -- Derek Raymond

I've been hearing about Derek Raymond for years, and now that Serpent's Tail is reissuing his novels, I've had a chance to read one of his books for myself. In his intro to this one, Will Self refers to the "legendarily emetic I Was Dora Suarez." Kind of makes me want to read that one, too.

But I digress. What I decided after reading
How the Dead Live is that Raymond's books are for those who enjoy Ken Bruen's work but think that it's entirely too perky, cheerful, and upbeat. Raymond, in other words, is seriously dark and depressing.

In this novel, the cop narrator leaves a nightmarish London to investigate a mysterious disappearance in a small town that turns out to be equally nightmarish. Most of the story takes place at night, and sometimes the night is dark and stormy. There's a country house at the center of things, and it's in such a state of decay that it makes Dracula's castle seem like a five-star hotel. The book's not really about the mystery plot, though. It's about how the dead live.

There are times when I feel alone in the face of our society, its hatred and madness, its despair and violence. To go on drawing my pay . . . to go on acting on my own, just to go on at all, I have to be very careful. I feel the edge of the precipice with every step I take and have to be most particular how I tread; the path isn't solid, and under it is the mist and that vile slide towards a bottomless death. I am a minor figure for whom no god waits. The state that pays me laughs at me; my own people at work find me absurd.

See what I mean? Cheerful stuff, indeed. That's not to say the book's not funny. It's savagely funny at times. Check it out.


Sarah Weinman said...

Oh, you're gonna loooooooooooove I WAS DORA SUAREZ then.

I discovered Raymond last year b/c of the Serpent's Tail reissues, and I think the Factory books work best in order. The first, HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN, is coal-pit noir, like if Willeford and Bruen had had a love child.

Bill Crider said...

I always start with the wrong book.