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

3.79 of 5 stars 3.79  ·  rating details  ·  1,112 ratings  ·  138 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
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
83rd out of 491 books — 568 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

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Dan Schwent
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
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
Jeffrey Keeten
May 04, 2015 Jeffrey Keeten rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.”

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

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
Nov 22, 2012 Mike rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: The Noir Lover
Recommended to Mike 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

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."

Robin Cook,
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
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
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,
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
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
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
Jun 09, 2015 Still rated it 5 of 5 stars
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
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
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
Hugo Emanuel
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
Tim Niland
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
"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
Sean Owen
"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
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
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
Charles Dee Mitchell
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
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
Ismael Galvan
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
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
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
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
Derek Raymond offers the readers a journey through a sewer of drugs, poverty, violence, and filth, and such existential weariness and spiritual disparity that the ending makes sense of sorts. A spiritual cousin of Ellroy’s nihilism this book followed an unnamed detective’s obsessive search through a dead man’s tape collection for clues to his murderers. Not for the faint of heart or easily depressed. Great intro is provided by James Sallis who does his usual enthusiastic and intelligent job. I w ...more
OK, I read this back in 2006. Originally published in 1984, this is the first of the author's "Factory" series, featuring a nameless detective working for the Metropolitan Police's Department of Unexplained Deaths at the Factory police station (both the department and the station are fictional).

The plot is simple and yet effective and Raymond avoids the usual clichés that can come with a police procedural. Instead he opts for almost a psychological portrait of his nameless detective who slowly b
Fantastic British noir chock full of social politics, down-and-out characters, and enough voice and narrative drive to make most crime writers envious as they are thankful to have read it. The whodunnit isn't the mystery, but instead the mystery is the ongoing and deeply disturbing question of why people do what we do. Heady stuff.
Chris Young
Derek Raymond is a new discovery for me; I read about him in an interview with comic book writer Warren Ellis.
Regarded as a forerunner to noir writers like David Peace and James Ellroy, his work is seen as being unremittingly bleak. It's true, many of the characters in this novel are pretty nasty, but there is the better side humanity here too, in a few of them. The un-named police detective who narrates the story is quite likeable, and his determination to catch the killers of a man whom no one
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Pulp Fiction: November 2012 - He Died With His Eyes Open 51 98 Jul 02, 2013 09:55AM  
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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
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)
The Devil's Home on Leave How the Dead Live I Was Dora Suarez Dead Man Upright (Factory #5) The Crust on Its Uppers

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“She doesn’t think she’s worthy to live. But she doesn’t realize, she is life.” 13 likes
“Anyone who conceives of writing as an agreeable stroll towards a middle-class life-style will never write anything but crap.” 13 likes
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