Friday, November 21, 2008

Forgotten books: He Died with His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond

"A gripping study in obsession and absolute, awful evil" Sunday Times

It’s hard to call Derek Raymond’s factory series books forgotten since the UK publisher, Serpent’s Tail, is reprinting new trade paperback editions. Underappreciated would be a better way to put it, although not by fans of hardboiled and noir literature who discover these gems. The first of the factory series books “He Died with His Eyes Open” was written in 1984. All these books feature a nameless Detective Sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths. These books are grim stuff; meditations on death and dying and obsession, but they also sparkle with brilliant writing and pitch black humor.

“He Died with His Eyes Open” has our nameless detective investigating the extremely brutal death of a middle-aged alcoholic man. The victim had left behind cassette tapes chronicling his life, and as our Detective listens to these tapes, he grows to admire and like this gentle and brilliant and tormented man, and equally grow to detest the villainous sorts who were in his life. It doesn't take long before it becomes personal for him, and he's crossing a line he shouldn't be crossing.

Derek Raymond was the pseudonym for the English author Robin Cook who died in 1994. From his choice of his pseudonym, as well as his literary and at times wise-cracking style, he was clearly influenced by Raymond Chandler. Whether he surpasses his mentor with these great factory series books is up to each fan of hardboiled fiction to decide. But if you are a fan of the genre, these books are must reads.


pattinase (abbott) said...

Thanks, Dave. Another writer I need to read. Why did I waste all those years reading lit fic?

Ali Karim said...

Raymond is the man

But warning - he's work is tough especially I WAS DORA SUAREZ....


GFS3 said...

I just bought this book and its on my stack to read. Now I definitely can't wait to sink my teeth into it.

me myself and i said...

This book is vintage Raymond, who is one of the top hard-boiled writers I have read. "The Devil's Home on Leave" is also excellent.

Jim Wright