Wednesday, April 22, 2009

book review - 1977

Where 1974 had a story that you could get to grips with 1977 is more difficult to define. Probably for that reason it was the only one of the books left out of the recent TV adaptation of David Peace's Red Riding books.

If it could be summed up with a theme it would be angels and devils. At the heart of it are two characters that were on the fringes in 1974. The senior crime correspondent who was so hated by Eddie Dunford Jack Whitehead is in one corner and in the other is the priest come exorcist Martin Laws.

Whitehead has suffered watching his wife having a nail hammered into her skull as some sort of primitive attempt to exorcise her of her demons and despite that is drawn to having the same treatment.

Against the background of the beginning of the Yorkshire Ripper’s reign of terror Laws is working on a different plane trying to cajole and manipulate Whitehead among others into taking steps that might not only be fatal but you start to suspect are part of a bigger game. Laws simply keeps turning up having a relationship with too many people.

With a drink problem, a growing cynicism of his colleagues and the police after the Dunford experience Whitehead is drawn back to reporting on the Ripper reluctantly.

He coins the term Ripper and is the one who is visited nightly by ghosts of his ex wife but warnings of the actions of the ripper. As he becomes more detached from reality you get that same sense that existed with 1974 that Leeds is not just a world of the seen but also frighteningly is being driven by forces that few can understand.

Whitehead at least appreciates the forces at work but when he tries to master them he finds himself unable to get anywhere.

Meanwhile a third character Bob Fraser, a connection with Dunford in the first book, comes into his own. As his prostitute lover is threatened by the ripper he starts to lose the battle to balance family and mistress. He then falls on the wrong side of his work colleagues as he starts to find out that his girlfriend is part of a bigger issue.

That collapse of faith in the force and those around him ends with his death but for the reader is provides more pieces of the jigsaw to carry forward to the next book.

The same names, locations and visions keep being repeated like a chant throughout the book. Although it might be difficult to work out what is happening at various points it is possible to feel the mood through immersing yourself in the experience.

That last word ‘experience’ is something that could be applied to the quartet in general because Peace is challenging you to participate. To try and solve the crimes, to work out who is corrupt and corruptible and to try and work out how it has happened and what it means about the state of Britain in the 1970s and the state of Yorkshire.

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