Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “He Died with His Eyes Open” as Want to Read:
He Died with His Eyes Open
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

He Died with His Eyes Open

(Factory Series #1)

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  1,877 ratings  ·  212 reviews
As it turns out, a dead man can tell stories...

Murders are a dime a dozen in Margaret Thatcher's London, and when it comes to the brutal killing of a middle-aged alcoholic found dumped outside of town, Scotland Yard has more important cases to deal with.

Instead it's a job for the Department of Unexplained Deaths and its head Detective Sergeant. With only a box of cassette-
Paperback, 211 pages
Published September 2011 by Melville International Crime (first published January 1984)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about He Died with His Eyes Open, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about He Died with His Eyes Open

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,877 ratings  ·  212 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of He Died with His Eyes Open
Dan Schwent
Dec 27, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 b
Jeffrey Keeten
Jul 16, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 d
Manuel Antão
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Extrem Noir literature...

One of the darkest noir novels I’ve ever read and also one of the best. Derek Raymond is far beyond noir. There probably isn't even a word for his kind of darkness I think.
I definitely see noir as existentialist literature and this is one of the its primary examples.
Everyone who's a fan of Noir should this book, but be prepared to feel the urge to take a shower and turn on all your houselights after reading
Nov 23, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
It’s a strange thing to finish a book one didn’t enjoy very much (those tape transcripts — for the love of God make them stop!) and at the same time see so much talent and promise that the thought of reading a second book by the same author brings happiness. But there it is.
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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 quot
Nov 17, 2012 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

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."

Oct 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Mandatory Reading For All Crime Fiction Enthusiasts
Review to follow:

I was really starving for a hardboiled 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 unt
Apr 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nancy Oakes

Holy crap. I'm just blown away.

As James Sallis says in his introduction to He Died With His Eyes Open,

"Five or six times in a life you come across a book that sends electric shocks skittering and scorching through the whole of you and radically alters the way in which you perceive the world." (vii)

After finishing the entire Factory series I can certainly attest to the "electric shocks skittering and scorching" that not only went through the whole of me,
Aug 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jack Tripper

Cover of the 1993 Sphere mass-market paperback, not listed here (288 pages).
Paul Secor
Feb 23, 2020 rated it really liked it
Dark, hard, and true.
Apr 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One had to slowly savour this book.

The nameless sergeant our narrator gives us a front seat into the poetry of noir along the poverty of London.

While investigating a crime for The Factory, just a regular crime not for the CID and their sophisticated techniques. An ordinary murder of a regular human being who was found in a bush.

Through his eyes we delve into the unknown, we listen to the cassettes of the victim and meet his friends and foe and get into this study of human character.

This seri
Jul 15, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rejected
No way do I read books from inside the mind of insane murderers.

Who writes this sick crap?
Deb Jones
Feb 12, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: series
There are many talented crime, suspense and mystery writers out there of all nationalities. I'm rarely disappointed with offerings in the noir genre. But here, author Derek Raymond has crafted not only an in-depth police procedural but also a piece of literature.

Written in the first person by the protagonist, a detective sergeant in the career dead-end Department of Unexplained Deaths, the reader is privvy to his thoughts and actions as he seeks the killer of a middle-aged man at the edge of soc
Jun 30, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Apr 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
Oct 10, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I wondered what the value of truth really was, if getting at it entailed so many lies.

Derek Raymond’s London is a dark place filled with lies. They lie to themselves. They lie to others.
It is a world filled with pimps, drug dealers and users, crooked cops and indifferent cops, cheater and murderers, all for whose livelihood lies are an essential feature. Seemingly every morally reprehensible person in the city is front and center on display here. That is, with the notable exception of our nam
Dec 19, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 05, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, noir, favorite-books
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
Mark Matthews
May 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
I was having a conversation recently with a multinational group of friends about how each people handles their inebriation... the Americans and Australians turn into big kids, the Japanese and Koreans collapse into themselves, the French become insufferably French, and the Brits resort to casual, mindless violence.

This is what Derek Raymond goes for. The sheer violence, stupidity, and ignorance of life in East London at the height of the Thatcher era. And I normally don't go for pulp -- I tried
May 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
030117: first and possibly best of raymond's 'factory' crime novels, though it is only mentioned to show how independent, caring, is our unnamed detective. brutal, tragic, ugly, convincing. probably captures the place and time of 80s london as seen through, reported on, thought by, an artist too perceptive and too blind to his world...
Apr 14, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: noir, crime
Read in the devastating aftermath of David Peace's Red Riding quartet, when I was still recovering and wasn't ready to move on from dark, miserable, English crime.

This book was all those things, but I didn't fully understand the nameless narrator's headlong fall into the life of the victim. I think If I had to listen to a hundred cassette tapes recorded by an intelligent, miserable, severely depressed man where he talks incessantly about life, the universe, and everything, I'd probably have the
Dec 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
(4.5) I often find books that attempt to double as sociological tourism too didactic, too beholden to their atmosphere and the writer's persuasion. There are points to be made in an op-ed, whereas I just want to read a good mystery story. However, while the central mystery was interesting here, this book functions as a hellish descent into Margaret Thatcher's England. It might have rated 5-stars but I didn't like one of the plot points in the back half, can't say what without giving it away. Sti ...more
May 14, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mystery, crime, thriller, noir
He Died With His Eyes Open [1984] - ★★★1/2

“Most people live with their eyes shut, but I mean to die with mine open” [Raymond, 1984: 95]. This book is a hardboiled thriller from Derek Raymond (Robert Cook) who is considered to be the father of the British noir. Set in seedy 1980s London, it begins with a particularly gruesome murder case of a fifty-two year old man who was found beaten to death on a sidewalk. No one of importance wants to investigate this case and it is landed in the hands of a s
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Ever read...? 1 5 Dec 23, 2017 07:50PM  
Pulp Fiction: November 2012 - He Died With His Eyes Open 51 108 Jul 02, 2013 09:55AM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • A Rage in Harlem (Harlem Cycle, #1)
  • The Getaway
  • The Killer Inside Me
  • The Last Good Kiss (C.W. Sughrue, #1)
  • Nineteen Seventy Four (Red Riding, #1)
  • Pop. 1280
  • Black Helicopters (Tinfoil Dossier, #2)
  • The Friends of Eddie Coyle
  • Unreliable Memoirs
  • The Burnt Orange Heresy
  • Fat City
  • The Moving Target (Lew Archer #1)
  • Desperation Road
  • Black Wings Has My Angel
  • Drive (Drive, #1)
  • Miami Blues (Hoke Moseley #1)
  • The Grifters
  • Pick-Up
See similar books…
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

Other books in the series

Factory Series (5 books)
  • The Devil's Home On Leave (Factory Series #2)
  • How the Dead Live
  • I Was Dora Suarez
  • Dead Man Upright (Factory #5)

News & Interviews

Last year, Buzzfeed culture writer Anne Helen Petersen struck a chord with her viral article “How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.”...
67 likes · 10 comments
“She doesn’t think she’s worthy to live. But she doesn’t realize, she is life.” 19 likes
“Anyone who conceives of writing as an agreeable stroll towards a middle-class life-style will never write anything but crap.” 16 likes
More quotes…