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He Died With His Eyes Open (2006)

He Died With His Eyes Open (2006)
3.79 of 5 Votes: 1
1852427965 (ISBN13: 9781852427962)
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He Died With His Eyes Open (2006)
He Died With His Eyes Open (2006)

About book: He Died with His Eyes Open: Derek Raymond's Novel of Who Speaks for the Dead who Don't MatterFrom the Reviewer First Edition, Abacus Press, 1984Derek 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, AKA Derek RaymondHowever, were you to pick up a European "Robin Cook" you would quickly realize that you had entered a different world. The only thing sterile in a Derek Raymond novel is the medical examiner's office. Consider this the creation of the English Noir Novel. Raymond's work depicts the down and out, the unwanted, and the unloved. The killers are brutal. The Sergeant of Raymond's "Factory" novels is capable of equal viciousness, though he does not readily appear to possess that characteristic.The ends of Justice require the means to which Raymond's protagonist resorts. As we follow the Sergeant through his investigation, the question is whether it is a duty to enforce the law or has the Sergeant become an avenger of the dead. Raymond pushes our face into a rough version of John Donne's Meditation that, indeed, no man is an island, but a piece of the continent, and that any man's death is bound to be recognized by society, no matter his standing in it.This is the first of five "Factory" novels. He Died With His Eyes Open was filmed as "On ne meurt que 2 fois" by Jaques Deray in 1985. Oh, my...Charlotte Rampling, as Barbara "Though Staniland had died at the age of fifty-one, he still had the innocence of a child of six. The naive courage, too--the desire to understand everything, whatever the cost.This fragile sweetness at the core of people--if we allowed that to be kicked, smashed and splintered, then we had no society at all of the kind I felt I had to uphold. I had committed my own sins against it, out of transient weakness....I knew I had to nail the killers."Meet the unnamed Sergeant of Division A14 of the Metropolitan London Police Department, better known as the Department of Unexplained Deaths. Well, it's a rather dead end position in law enforcement, don't you see? These unexplained deaths are of those people that don't matter. Their absence makes only the slightest ripple on the surface of life to justify their existence. You get tucked into A14, you'll not ever leave there above the rank of Sergeant. Nor will you be on the telly. And it's highly unlikely to find your case or your name in the papers.A NOTE FROM THE SERGEANTDon't you see, mate? It's quite simple. There's two kinds of dead people. Them that mattered and them that didn't. Now for those that mattered, you have the Serious Crimes Division. Now, there's the road to reputation and recognition, solving how a stiff that mattered got shuffled off his mortal coil. And you can be guaranteed that you solve those tough ones that's where you'll find your sodding promotions and your face on the telly and in the papers.But sometimes, just sometimes, mind you, you find out there was a brain in that body that had some of the same feelings and thoughts you yourself had. You recognize him, you know? And this time it's all the easier to come to know Charles Stanisland. He was a writer. And when he wasn't writing he was recording his thoughts on life, love, the very nature of existence and whether there was any point to it at all. You listen and listen and listen, and it's almost as if you can become the man.You know, if Charles Stanisland had got himself topped before he sold his inheritance to his younger brother Grumpian for pence on the pound, he would have been considered a serious crime. And there would be my fine colleague Inspector Bowman moving sharply up the ranks handling his case.But there you have a fellow, down on his luck, in the bottle, in the rack with a woman, Barbara, who cannot or will not feel love and he keeps on and on trying to win something she can never give him. And there you have Charles Stanisland dumped dead, beaten to a pulp, and sliced with a blade. It took more than one to do for Charles Stanisland.I really don't give a damn if I ever leave A14. It's a job, you know? A duty. To explain a death and wave the bloody facts in the face of the world whether it gives a fuck or not. You want to know my name? What for? You just call me Sergeant. That's what I do. You may not find my methods pretty or proper or conduct becoming. Come to think of it, I just may scare the Hell out of you as much as the ones that topped Stanisland.THE REVIEWER WRAPS UPReading Raymond is akin to watching a Sam Peckinpaugh film completely in slow motion with every detail of violence flowing around the viewer to the extent the moviegoer checks his clothes for blood spatter evidence. There is a terrible beauty in the writing of Derek Raymond from which it is impossible to pull yourself away.My thanks to the goodreads group Pulp Fiction for yet another stunning read.

“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 RaymondThis 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 department that is available for the unsavory cases; the nonglamorous cases; the cases that could be a minefield for an upward bound career. The battered body of Charles Locksley Alwin Staniland represents just such a case. It is not unusual to find a 51 year old alcoholic dead, but to find one bludgeoned, tortured, with bones broken before the final shattering hammer blow to the skull is unusual. Even more suspicious to find him alongside the roadway in a brazen, all be it, stupid attempt to convince the police he was the victim of a hit and run. The French movie based on the bookWhen the nameless Sergeant arrives at Staniland’s apartment he is not surprised to find it to be spartan, anything of monetary value long since having been sold or stolen, but there is something left that proves to be not only a break in the case, but also an audio legacy to the life of Charles Staniland. He was a writer by trade and as we see this case unfold we find out he was a damn good writer, but when he was too soused to write he would pick up the tape recorder and explain his life. “I have taken a terrible beating from the truth and feel tamed, wise and desperate, as if I had taken a short route to wisdom through a mirror, and cut myself badly on it as I passed through.”Listening to the tapes is like falling down a rabbit hole, the more he listens, the more he feels like he knows Staniland, and the more the case becomes personal. He could no more stop investigating this case than he could stop breathing. In the tapes, Staniland is obsessed with his poisonous relationship with a woman named Barbara/Babsie. He investigates other things, but he knows the “heart” of the case revolves around Staniland’s fixation on this woman. ”I realize I can’t satisfy Barbara in bed. I don’t believe anybody can. It’s a strange form of love, to be compelled to convert the woman you love into a human being. She hates my love, she says; it’s servile; she just wants to kick it to pieces.”When the nameless detective finally meets Barbara he has already went through many stages of being repelled and attracted to her, as if he had already spent months in a relationship with her. Still once he meets her:”I realized now what Staniland had been through with her. She was tall and blonde with good legs, an even better bottom and big tits, but not grotesque. It wasn’t just her face with the bright pointed teeth and the lazy eyelids; it was the flat disinterest with which she looked at men, as if she didn’t give a tinker’s damn either way.” Charlotte Rampling plays Barbara in the French movie.The nameless detective feels a kinship with Staniland. ”Where I identified with with Staniland, what I had inherited from him, was the question why.” What shall we be,When we aren’t what we are?He was also friends with a sculptor, a man he deeply respected and would have loved to be more like. The artist part of his soul resonates with Staniland’s more philosophical musings. ”When he was broke he never came into the pub: ‘A true communist is no scrounger,’ he said. I had just decided to go to police school then, and I remember that when I told him so he looked at me for a time and remarked: ‘Yes, but perhaps you could have been an artist, too.’I dared not tell him, though I told him most things, that I didn’t have the courage for that.” Derek RaymondDerek Raymond is not really Derek Raymond, but actually a man by the name of Robert William Arthur Cook and is credited with being the founder of the English Noir Novel. In a review published in The Observer, Jane McLoughlin compared the quality of its writing to that of Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, and Joseph Conrad. I got to say I expected to like this book as my GR friends Tfitoby and Mike Sullivan were reassuring with their excellent reviews, but I did not expect to find such depth in a hardboiled novel. There is gut wrenching angst expressed so vividly. Love/lust and all the tribulations that come from tragic, unnatural attractions to a human being that is incapable of reciprocating that love are explored in gritty detail. Will the nameless detective survive his immersion into the sordid life of Staniland or will he find himself another victim of the Jim Thompsonesque characters that populate this novel? You’ll have to read it and find out.
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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 would totally watch/read the play “A Nasty Little Story”.
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 works for A14, the division of the London police force that handles unexplained deaths. The fact that A14 is by far the most unpopular and shunned branch of the service only goes to show that, to my way of thinking, it should have been created years ago. Trendy Lefties in and out of politics don't like us-- but somebody has to do the job they won't. The uniformed people don't like us; nor does the Criminal Investigation Department, nor does the Special Intelligence Branch. We work on obscure, unimportant, apparently irrelevant deaths of people who don't matter and who never did.In this case the victim is Charles Locksley Alwin Staniland. His high-toned name has not protected him from having his bones systematically broken, his head battered in, and is body dumped by the side of the road in West London. He is wearing a cheap suit and a tatty raincoat. On what is left of his face, the sergeant, who also narrates the novel in the first person, recognizes the nose and puffiness of a heavy boozer.With Staniland's identification in hand, the sergeant begins to piece together a life that has been one of slow debasement aided by alcohol and sharply focused self hatred. In Staniland's last address, there are boxes of cassette tapes, recordings Staniland has made over the final years of his life. I thought this was an awkward device, but as the story unfolds we learn that Staniland was a writer of some ability, and the tapes are his sad recognition that he is most often too drunk to write coherently either on paper or with a typewriter. Along with much background on Staniland's life in somewhat better times, the tapes provide a clear narrative of what must have lead to the crime. But the sergeant realizes he has nothing that will hold up in court. For a week or so he immerses himself in Staniland's world and takes the reader along for the grim ride. One excerpt from the tapes provides this insight into both the story and Raymond's method:Anyone who conceives of writing as an agreeable stroll towards a middle-class life-style will never write anything but crap.
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 their money brings that are the target of his best work. The nameless London police Sargent who is the 1980's protagonist of this first of five novels about "The Factory" (e.g., the less-glamours Metropolitan Police Department units that are NOT Scotland Yard), well, he's just as troubled as his predecessors in noir history, and the characters he's dealing with are, for the most part, scumbags: low-level criminals, grifters, full-time whores, part-time whores, con men, junkies, dealers, you get the drift. They live in dreary rooms and pay by the week, or they just squat -- this is Thatcher's England, after all. The trope the author uses here is a well-played variant of the epistemological novel: he discovers a cache of recorded audiocassettes in the rooms of the vic whose murder he is investigating which reveal, in addition to a few key clues, the lyrical and educated voice of a depressed and borderline crazy drifter who can handle money even less well than women. Evidently, this character is based on the author's own life, which was checkered. I quite enjoyed the book, and will read on with the series. Evidently this book was made into a 1985 French language film "On ne meurt que 2 fois" with one of my favorite actresses Charlotte Rampling -- available only in Region 2 version. IMDB reports that the Factory Series is currently "In Development."
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