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He Died With His Eyes Open (Factory Series #1)

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3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,244 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
“A unique crime writer whose fictional world was brutal, realistic and harrowing in the extreme.” —Guardian

When a middle-aged alcoholic is found brutally battered to death on a roadside in West London, the case is assigned to a tough-talking cynic from the Department of Unexplained Deaths. Our narrator must piece together the history of his blighted existence and discover
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Paperback, 224 pages
Published December 1st 2006 by Serpent's Tail (first published January 1984)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell HammettThe Long Goodbye by Raymond ChandlerFarewell, My Lovely by Raymond ChandlerThe Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain
Best Hardboiled PI & Noir
89th out of 522 books — 625 voters
Angelmaker by Nick HarkawayThe Fiend in Human by John MacLachlan GrayThe Air Loom Gang by Mike JayThe Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerHe Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond
Gibson and Murakami mentioned books
5th out of 5 books — 2 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dan Schwent
Jan 02, 2014 Dan Schwent rated it really liked it
A man of little consequence is found brutally murdered and the Detective Sergeant of the Department of Unexplained Deaths is given the case. It seems Staniland, the victim, was a writer, and has left a number of cassette tapes behind detailing the final weeks of his life, notably a woman he's obsessed with named Barbara and a man he calls the Laughing Cavalier. Will the Sergeant follow the same road to madness as Staniland in his quest to find the truth?

He Died With His Eyes Open kicks off a ser
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Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Jeffrey by: Pulp Fiction Group
Shelves: hardboiled
“Every day you amass knowledge in a frantic race against death that death must win. You want to find out everything in the time you have; yet in the end you wonder why you bothered, it'll all be lost. I keep trying to explain this to anyone who will listen.”

DerekRaymond
Robert Cook as Derek Raymond

This is the first book of four in the Factory series of detective novels with the nameless Sergeant of the Department of Unexplained Deaths as the protagonist. This department, not a popular department, but a depa
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Kemper
Sep 09, 2014 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was going to write a review for this but after reading it and watching True Detective I’m convinced that all of existence is meaningless anyhow so why bother?

*sigh* Fine. I guess it’ll fill some of the cold empty useless minutes spent walking around this pitiful ball of mud until I’m finally snuffed out forever….

As you might guess, this is not a feel good story.

Set in London during the mid-80s, a murder is investigated by an unnamed police sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths. Th
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Tfitoby
Sep 16, 2012 Tfitoby rated it it was amazing


He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


I had a feeling about this one, I desperately wanted (needed?) to read the book from the second I heard about it, yet when I finally bought a copy I allowed it to sit on my shelf for at least two months. I'm glad I did, it's an incredible piece of noir writing and to have devoured it instantly would've have been a massive disservice to Derek Raymond.

Part way through I was reminded of Ross Macdonald's famous quote about Raymon
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Lawyer
Nov 22, 2012 Lawyer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Noir Lover
Recommended to Lawyer by: goodreads group Pulp Fiction November, 2012, group read
He Died with His Eyes Open: Derek Raymond's Novel of Who Speaks for the Dead who Don't Matter

From the Reviewer

Photobucket
First Edition, Abacus Press, 1984

Derek Raymond was the pen name of English writer Robin Cook, 1931-1994. When he began writing the Factory novels in 1984, he took the pen name to avoid confusion with the American author Robin Cook, known for his medical mystery thrillers. However, it remained a confusing matter because the European releases maintained the name "Robin Cook."

Photobucket
Robin Cook,
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Mish
Jan 29, 2015 Mish rated it really liked it
Recommended to Mish by: Michael
He Died With His Eyes Open is set in the 1980’s London, during the Thatcher years in government. It’s a look at the dingy side of London of the desperate and unemployed, drugs and prostitution. It’s where lower class murder rate is high but it’s crimes like this the authorities and politicians look at with contempt and would rather dismiss.

The protagonist in this book is just as intriguing and mysterious as the plot. He's an unnamed sergeant who works for the Factory; a low-income division of t
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Nigeyb
Sep 26, 2015 Nigeyb rated it really liked it
He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond (1984)

My first novel by Derek Raymond (born Robin Cook 1931 / died in London 1994). The son of a textile magnate, he dropped out of Eton aged sixteen and was employed at various times as a pornographer, organiser of illegal gambling, money launderer, pig-slaughterer and minicab driver.

Much of this work experience is reflected in He Died With His Eyes Open, the first of the Factory novels, nominal police procedurals narrated by the unnamed protagonist,
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Melki
Nov 19, 2012 Melki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: crime-fiction, noir
Most people live with their eyes shut, but I mean to die with mine open.

The corpse had been viciously beaten. His death barely even made the papers.

Enter a nameless Detective Sergeant of the Department of Unexplained Deaths.

We work on obscure, unimportant, apparently irrelevant deaths of people who don't matter and who never did.

With only some cassette tapes and scribbled messages left by the victim, the DS sets out to find a killer. Through interviews with possible suspects, he slowly begin
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Still
Jun 09, 2015 Still rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Mandatory Reading For All Crime Fiction Enthusiasts


Review to follow:

I was really starving for a harboiled crime thriller and decided on this one.

Second or maybe the third time I've read it but it still has the impact of a run-away lumber truck barreling through an intersection and broadsiding the reader.

Heart-wrenching splatter poetry.

When I had finished I stepped back with a last glance at his face. They had left some of it, I will say, whoever they were. It wasn't a strong face, but one that had seen everything and then not understood it unti
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Michael
Armed with a box of tapes as evidence, the detective Sergeant sets out to solve the brutal murder of a middle-aged alcoholic who was found dumped on the city outskirts. Murder is a dime a dozen in London and Scotland Yard has more serious cases to deal with. This rogue detective is haunted by the voices on these cassette diaries which leaves him with no choice by to find out why He Died With His Eyes Open.

Book One of the Factory series follows the unnamed Detective Sergeant in his quest to solve
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Simon
Jul 02, 2012 Simon rated it really liked it
I'd seen a review of the Factory novels, of which this is the first, in, I think, The Nation, some time ago. I'd there got the impression that these crime novels were political in essence, an indictment of Britain under Thatcher, undergoing the baleful transformation that were the 1980s. While there is some of that in this book (constant reference to the high level of unemployment, to union go-slows, to squalor and racial tension), the book was mostly existential, expressing, as I suppose noir s ...more
Tiffany Reisz
Dec 31, 2013 Tiffany Reisz rated it it was amazing
I'm on a British noir kick and Derek Raymond is considered the master of British noir. Fantastic read. Dark, gruesome, and fascinating. The main character is unnamed and yet the Sarge, as he is referred to, has so much personality you don't even realize how little you know about him. (Just FYI, I picture Michael Fassbender in the role for reasons).

Anywho, it's a brilliant book with an unusual focus on the character of the victim. The detective is compassionate and refuses promotions because he
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Nathalie
May 27, 2014 Nathalie rated it really liked it
The detective in 'He Died With His Eyes Open' speaking here, talks about a sculptor I knew in Fulham. He was a friend of mine's Grandad who I visited a few times when he was still alive in the '8os, living surrounded by his sculpture in his council studio in Fulham:

'I switched the player off and began thinking for no apparent reason about a friend I had once when I was a young man. He was a sculptor who used my local pub in the Fulham Road; his studio was just opposite. He wore sandals but no
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Mohammed
Nov 13, 2012 Mohammed rated it it was amazing
Shelves: noir, favorite-books, 2012
This is beautifully written book that i appreciated for its journey in to the depths of human depravity. I can praise the way the writer captured perfectly the speech patterns, the setting of the story but really the most important part to me was the emotional truth in the story. I believed fully in the struggles of the narrator who tries to understand the death, life of Charlie Staniland.

Its truly rare to read a book like this that is both so well written,not a word wasted and move me so much
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Paul
Jan 10, 2016 Paul rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Readers of Hard-Boiled, Contemporary Noir.
"Unhook the delicate, crazy lace of flesh, detach the heart with a single cut, unmask the tissue behind the skin, unhinge the ribs, disclose the spine, take down the long dress of muscle from the bones where it hangs erect. A pause to boil the knives-then take a bold but cunning curve, sweeping into the skull you had trepaned, into the brain, and extract it's art if you can."

A grim, gritty first look into 'The Factory'. Excellent!
Hugo Emanuel
Feb 24, 2014 Hugo Emanuel rated it did not like it
Shelves: owned
Sinto que ler este livro foi uma completa perda de tempo. Não havia nada que o fizesse distinguir do sem numero de "noirs" que existem publicados por este mundo fora, excepto talvez no que se concerne á sua inépcia. A personagem principal é um cliché autentico - o habitual policia cínico e Durão, sempre com uma resposta debaixo da língua e que consegue derrubar seguranças de clubes com o dedo mindinho. É, como habitualmente, o único incorruptível num departamento de policia onde todos querem pro ...more
Mark Matthews
Jun 30, 2012 Mark Matthews rated it really liked it
A body of a man who's death revealed an incredible amount of pain before he died is found, and "He Died with His Eyes Open" is the story of a London detective from‘unsolved deaths’ division who investigates the murder. In order to do so, he fully immerses himself into his life, tracing his background closely through the dark alleys, clubs, and the leacherous underground of London. The characters are rich and pop from the page through the incredible dialect. The novel reads smooth, sharp, and qui ...more
Tim Niland
Mar 18, 2013 Tim Niland rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-reads
The nameless detective who narrates this unusual tale works for the Department of Unexplained Deaths, the lowest rung of The Factory, a monolithic branch of British Police. Other departments of The Factory investigate the high-profile crimes, while Unexplained Deaths gets cases like this: a ragged and drunken middle aged man found beaten to death in the pouring rain. No one cares, but the detective cannot let it go: who was this man? What led to his lonely and forgotten fate? When the detective ...more
Sharon
Feb 05, 2012 Sharon rated it it was amazing
"All the evil in the world is powerless against intelligence and courage".

A dead body of a man is found in London and the detective protagonist needs to find who did it. What he finds is an interesting oral history of the victim's life captured by the victim on tapes. The tapes reveal the loneliness and destitution that the victim endures and the people that play a part of his life and death.

This book was originally published in the 1980's and the writing is fantastic. I really enjoyed this noir
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Ctgt
Nov 16, 2012 Ctgt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, crime-noir
This was not a typical crime read, more literate, with some of delving into the human psyche. Never do learn the name of the main character, he is given a murder case and through writings and cassette tapes left by the victim, he learns about his life and tracks down the perps. Looks at the darker side of humanity, not really violence, (although there is some violence throughout) but in the way people can use relationships to control and ultimately alter another persons behavior. He quite litera ...more
Sean Owen
Dec 09, 2014 Sean Owen rated it really liked it
"He Died With His Eyes Open" is a neo-noir mystery set in London during the early 80s. The book opens with the discovery of a battered body on the street. At the beat cops laugh at the misfortune of the victim while the career minded inspector on duty wants to close the case and walk away. The main character, a detective, is the only one willing to look into the case and treat the victim as someone of worth.

The case itself is nothing remarkable and there isn't really a surprise ending. What the
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Nick
Jul 02, 2012 Nick rated it really liked it
Reviewers compare Derek Raymond to Chandler, and there are reasons: the principled white knight seeking truth in the modern urban world of sleaze and corruption; but I kept thinking of Jim Thompson, the real progenitor of noir to my mind, and a writer with much raw affection for the bottom feeders of society, the alcoholics, the criminally insane, the venal and self-obsessed. Chandler wanted to bring down the ruling class and the institutional toadies who serve them. It is the rich and the power ...more
Tony
Sep 08, 2011 Tony rated it really liked it
71. Raymond, Derek. HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN. (1984). ****.
Raymond was a British noir writer, born Robin William Arthur Cook. He changed his name to this nom de plume because he didn’t want to be confused with the American author, Robin Cook – although his sales figures might have looked vastly different. This is only the second novel of his that I have read, but will probably read the rest of the series in time. This novel is the first in his series called “The Factory” novels. His hero is a
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Charles Dee Mitchell
Aug 04, 2013 Charles Dee Mitchell rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
This is the first novel in Raymond's Factory series, a series often credited with jump starting a new era in what had become the over-refined world of British crime writing. Not that Raymond's prose is anything less than refined, but the 1980's, Thatcherite London he describes is crumbling from unemployment, drink, and drugs; and, the crimes that occur are sordid murders among the most marginal strata of society. Raymond's continuing character in the Factory series is an unnamed sergeant who wor ...more
Andrew Nette
Aug 28, 2012 Andrew Nette rated it really liked it
Shelves: crime
Derek Raymond’s He Died with His Eyes Open is a police procedural like no other I’ve ever read.

It’s a bleak, deeply disturbing slice of genuine Brit noir, a story of busted lives and nothingness.

The story starts, like so many other crime novels, with the discovery of a body. It’s a winter night in London, a police strike is on. The unnamed cop (the story’s narrator) who catches the case is a tough talking sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14, at the Factory Polic
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Ismael Galvan
Jan 20, 2013 Ismael Galvan rated it it was amazing
He Died with his Eyes Open by Derek Raymond is a modern noir that holds its own even amongst the classic masters. It’s the opening book to Factory Series. But don’t worry, there isn’t an annoying cliffhanger. The story takes place in cold streets of London where a middle aged man is found with his head bashed in. The protagonist, a police detective, has nothing go on besides a collection of tapes the murdered man left behind. They lead him into the underbelly of jolly old England in which he mee ...more
Bobbi
Nov 18, 2012 Bobbi rated it it was amazing
This is a strange book. It starts off as procedural, then bit by bit the case devolves into obsession. The writing is beautiful, the dialogue snaps, and I really like the manner of the main character - I didn't realize he didn't have a name until I saw that someone had mentioned it on a thread. For a moment I thought, no, I know his name. It's... But of course I didn't. It's pretty amazing that an author can create a well-drawn character like that and not only never mention his name, but not mak ...more
Mike Gabor
Aug 25, 2013 Mike Gabor rated it it was amazing
Shelves: british-mystery
It is London in the early 1980's. Charles Staniland, a down and out writer is found brutally murdered on a London street. The case is assigned to the Department of Unexplained Deaths, and the narrator, an unnamed Detective Sergeant looks into it. The DS has only a box of audio cassette tape diaries as evidence and listens to them to try and find some clues which will lead to the murderer.

This is one of the best books I've read this year. The author's style of writing is superb. The DS character
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Christian Paula
Nov 12, 2015 Christian Paula rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Clearly on a noir kick recently. I don't remember how I tripped on this one, but so glad I did. A nameless Sergeant tries to find the killer(s) of a guy that at first glance no one cares about. Through a series of tapes, you get to find out the seedy, dank, unsavory underbelly of Thatcher's London. So good!
Timothy Jarvis
Nov 26, 2015 Timothy Jarvis rated it really liked it
Tar-black London crime thriller. Brutal, seedy, and with extraordinary poetry in the prose.
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Aka Robin Cook.

Pen name for Robert William Arthur Cook. Born into privilege, Raymond attended Eton before completing his National Service. Raymond moved to France in the 50's before eventually returning to London in the 60's. His first book, 'Crust on its Uppers,' released in 1962 under his real name, was well-received but brought few sales. Moving through Italy he abandoned writing before returni
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More about Derek Raymond...

Other Books in the Series

Factory Series (5 books)
  • The Devil's Home on Leave
  • How the Dead Live
  • I Was Dora Suarez
  • Dead Man Upright (Factory #5)

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“She doesn’t think she’s worthy to live. But she doesn’t realize, she is life.” 14 likes
“Anyone who conceives of writing as an agreeable stroll towards a middle-class life-style will never write anything but crap.” 14 likes
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