The Red Riding Quadrilogy by David Peace


AKA The Red Riding Quadrilogy

It’s a long time since I wrote about books here and that’s because I’ve been a long time reading this remarkable bunch of books.

Collectively they amount to around 1,200 paperback pages and each of the four novels has an overlapping but always quite different pool of characters.

Over the piece there are probably in excess of 100 significant characters that one needs to come to terms with in following the plot.

It’s challenging.

Then there’s David Peace’s style.

These are crime novels and one would expect them to crack along at a pace and that the only really issue for the reader would be to unravel the clues and spot the killer.

Not here.

David Peace is one of Granta’s most highly regarded writers, regardless of genre, and that’s because he writes with style and elan.  Part of the pleasure of this massive book (Let’s call it one book for convenience sake)  is working his writing out.

Each book is individually structured.

Each structure is a clue in itself.

Each chapter in each book has a different (anti) hero.

And then there’s the subject.

The lighter side deals with the Yorkshire Ripper murders, the heavier with child murders.

The real issue though is the polis.

Jeez.

The British Police PR department presumably do not have any of these novels on their reading lists. Because the police come across as double crossing, conceited, evil scum.  And yet many of the main protagonosts are the polis.

That’s why his writing is nothing short of challenging.  Visceral, gut wrenching, brutal, shocking, calous, taboo-less.

Unputdownable.

There.  That’s seven uncompromising (that’s eight now. Ed) words to describe his way.

Sympathy is not a word that readily springs to mind in David Peace’s world.  Did you sympathise with Cloughie in his big seller, The Damned United?

No, this a world of damnation, wolfs, swans, angels, demons, rats, dragons…underground terror.

It’s a book about the underworld.  Full stop.

It’s a book of genius.

I can’t even confess to have fully got the plot (maybe I’ve actually lost it having invested six months of my reading life into Peace’s mind)  never mind the meaning but it has been a six month reading exercise that has enthralled, terrified and utterly engaged me from start to finish.

This book (in its totality) is an epic and quite remarkable literary achievement.

Few reading experiences have or will (since reading Cancer Ward by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn as a 17 year old) affect me quite so powerfully.

Now for something lighter.

Phil Adams recommended the Death Machine to me.  I’m started on it.

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