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3:AM Cult Hero: Derek Raymond

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From Andrew StevensDerek Raymond’s South Circular:

I knocked at a second-floor flat in a dreary house, one of two hundred in a dreary Catford street.
After a while I heard steps the other side of the door. ‘McGruder?’
‘Who’s that?’ said a man’s voice. ‘Who wants him?’
‘I do,’ I said. ‘Open up. Police.’

So begins The Devil’s Home on Leave, the second in the Factory cycle of novels which established Robin Cook’s [a.k.a. Raymond] literary reputation as our finest noir writer, after a decade plus of self-imposed exile in the French vineyards. For all the glory heaped on I Was Dora Suarez, its own unshakable reputation (“legendarily emetic” says Will Self) providing the non-acquainted with a ready peg on which to base their own knowledge of the book, The Devil’s Home on Leave could be viewed on a par for unsettling the reader, with its opening unflinching recollection of Fred Paolacci’s dismemberment of and intercourse with (note the order) his 10-year old daughter. Robin Cook’s gift for chronicling London lowlife, like a well-thumbed A-Z, is an assured legacy (forget the straitjacket of genre, Cook is up there with Hamilton and Gissing) but this gave me pause for thought, why South London? All authors need a hinterland and while Cook was resolutely Sohemian in his drinking habits (the eponymous Factory being located on Poland Street, now the edge of the gay district where bear pubs meet Oxford Street’s visa scam language schools), South London effectively becomes the dumping ground for bodies or the bolthole of murderers in the Factory novels.

More: Raymond Revuebar, Derek Raymond on the net / ‘Dark Voices’, Steve Finbow on the Suarez Séance / ‘A journey into the intestines of insanity’, Jonathan Woods on I Was Dora Suarez / Andrew Stevens interviews Maxim Jakubowski / Raymond’s page at Serpent’s Tail / Times‘ 50 Greatest Crime Writers / ‘Roatta’ from I Was Dora Suarez, Gallon Drunk’s James Johnston and Terry Edwards’ collaboration with Derek Raymond

First posted: Thursday, February 11th, 2010.

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