Paul Bryant's Reviews > Nineteen Seventy Four

Nineteen Seventy Four by David Peace
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Jan 02, 2010

did not like it
bookshelves: gangsters-floozies-and-creeps

VERY GENERAL SPOILER ALERT

I just saw the TV movie dramatisation of this, entitled “Red Riding 1974” and I wanted to make a couple of notes here for myself really, to try and figure out a) why I hated it and b) why everyone else loved it. This is a not unfamiliar feeling for me of course but usually it’ll be some major Hollywood blockbuster (Avatar!) or some chintzy adaptation of Charlotte Bronte that everyone is swooning about while I remain sneering haughtily at the array of lemmings before me. (It’s not a pleasant characteristic I know.) Red Riding, though, is just up my street – gritty crime story set in working-class England in the 1970s, what’s not to like? Well… once you peer through the grimy window and focus your eyes, you’re in any old plot-by-numbers thriller all the way back to Chandler and Hammett, the guys who invented the cliches. And by now I'm demanding that thriller/crime story writers should have a whole NEW set of cliches. but David peace hasn't discovered them yet. So In this story you get
- the hero is a jack-the-lad who gets to shag the women
- there is a person who is trying to spill the beans to the hero but who’s drugged/imprisoned in a mental instutution/both before she can
- there is a femme fatale who looks innocent but it turns out she’s all mixed up with the bad guys – surprise!!
- all the cops are corrupt
- the hero takes many bad beatings but just like a toy in a budgerigar’s cage keeps woozily popping right back up, nothing can hospitalise this guy
- the bad guys keep killing anyone who knows too much just before the hero gets to them
- the bad guys don’t mind killing the peripheral people, but for some strange reason they balk at killing the hero – now why would that be? Because it would be inconvenient for the author? Could be!

That’s on one level but there’s another thing which is much worse. A book/movie like this is the expression of a particular quasi-political argument which I don’t buy, which is our old friend the Conspiracy Theory. The whole plot can be summed up thus: they’re all in on it! This book is dressed up in the grungy clothing of verisimilitude – naturalistic setting and dialogue, expertly rendered period detail, references to real events – but it peddles a giant falsehood, which is in this case that top policemen would collude with a rich local businessman who happens to get off on slaughtering children (!); and the web of deceit involves local newspaper editors and various cop minions. I don’t buy the psychology of the rich worldly guy who likes killing children and I don’t buy the conspiracy – but many many people do, just as many people don’t think Arabs flew the planes on 9/11. How serious are we to take this? Well, when it’s Bond fighting Goldfinger we know it’s a funny fantasy. But when the author is using child murder and police corruption for his story we may feel a little disappointed to discover they’re just as much props to his noirish adolescent paranoia as the Batcave and green kryptonite were in the comics I used to collect.

That said, the movie is beautifully shot and acted. All dressed up and nowhere to go.
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Comments (showing 1-15 of 15) (15 new)

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message 1: by Dan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Dan Can I just confirm that you haven't actually read this book, only watched an adaptation of it on television? If so, might I recommend reading the book? It's not the same experience.


message 2: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant Yes, you're quite right, this is a sneaky TV review not a book review. I do this sometimes.


aPriL does feral sometimes Just finished three of the quartet. It's all about the unusual style of writing. It's seems like an interesting mash up of the usual noir genre but written in the manner of graphic comic books such as the British series about Sebastion and making it work as a standard novel. The first one is best so far in terms of the author's innovative writing.


message 4: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant Thanks for your comments, but am I right in saying that in the first book the plot hinges on the idea that top policemen would collude with a rich local businessman who happens to get off on slaughtering children ?


message 5: by Jason (new)

Jason Paul, good review (of a movie), even though it's just notes to yourself.

Again, we show more similarity--both in taste and writing style. Read this: http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/...
(review date shows today, but I only fixed a grammatical error--written in Dec 09)


John So I'm guessing top cops colluding with other powerful people doesn't sound so much like a crazy conspiracy theory anymore. Given events brought to light in UK regarding pedophilia in the years since you wrote this in 2010.


message 7: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant interesting point - we will see what becomes of these ultra-lurid allegations about top level paedo rings in Westminster. However I think this will turn out to be an upper class version of the street grooming scandals (if we do get any conclusion, which i doubt) - i.e. teenagers from children's homes pressured into some kind of rent boy situation. As opposed to anything like the gruesome stuff in Red Riding.

There is indoubtedly a vast conspiracy alive and well within the social worker profession to keep a lid on the appalling way children's homes in the UK have been run. This book gives a very small flavour

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1...

(written before the current scandals)


John Paul wrote: "interesting point - we will see what becomes of these ultra-lurid allegations about top level paedo rings in Westminster. However I think this will turn out to be an upper class version of the stre..."

Paul wrote: "interesting point - we will see what becomes of these ultra-lurid allegations about top level paedo rings in Westminster. However I think this will turn out to be an upper class version of the stre..."

Thanks for the book referral. So did you ever actually read 1974?


message 9: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant read, no - I should though!


message 10: by John (new) - rated it 4 stars

John Yes, the way it is written is a large part of what makes it good.


message 11: by Christopher (new)

Christopher I would like to write a novel where the main character gets killed so that the narrative had to find a replacement, but then this happens again and again. My goal would be to get a one-star review from Paul.

In fact, despite its appearance, I am not trolling you. I enjoy your one-star reviews. I'm not sure why. You leave quite an impressive good reads trail. Kudos sir. Kudos.


message 12: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant Thanks. I should really read this.


Nigeyb The Red Riding quartet is extraordinary and well worth reading. I liked the film but it's a very different beast to the books which really are quite something.


message 14: by Paul (new) - rated it 1 star

Paul Bryant thanks for that - I'll def reconsider


message 15: by Nigeyb (last edited Dec 07, 2015 10:49PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nigeyb Paul wrote: "thanks for that - I'll def reconsider"

Great news. Especially as a one star review for a book you've not actually read is very misleading - and unfair to Mr Peace who seems like a perfectly fine human being. I'd be staggered if you conclude the book only merited a one star. Read it in the context of the quartet and it's one of the great literary journeys (albeit harrowing and dark) - especially if you enjoy UK-centric books set in the 70s and 80s. I'm probably due a reread.


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