Saturday, September 26, 2009

Saturday Snippet: The Price of Darkness by Graham Hurley

Graham Hurley's DI Faraday novels are set in one of Britain's less fashionable provincial cities, Portsmouth, which is perhaps why he doesn't seem to have attracted the same kind of attention as other British police procedural writers such as Ian Rankin and Colin Dexter. This, I think, is a shame as Hurley's novels are first class; well researched and plotted, with realistic dialogue and a strong sense of place. It's clear that he knows the city and environs well. Here are two extracts of the positive and negative sides of the area.

At last Winter felt firm ground beneath his feet. He explained about the history of the place, all those wars, all that prize money, all the matelots sailing home in triumph after hammering the French. He described the Harbour, HMS Victory, world-class museums in every corner of the dockyard. Then he moved onto the venue itself, Spithead, the biggest stage in the world, a stretch of water made for an event like this.
To be honest, he said, Portsmouth had always raised a bit of a smile on anyone who really knew it. The place had always been full of character but a bit rough, a bit scuzzy. Lately, though, money had been flooding into the city. He told her about the glitzy new shopping developments, the harbourside apartment blocks, the marinas packed with ocean-going yachts. And now, he said, the council had found the bottle to fund the jewel in Pompey's crown, the Spinnaker Tower, five hundred feet of soaring concrete, a fantastic peg on which the city could finally hang its hat.

The Millboork flats lay at the end of the spur motorway to Southampton docks, a gaunt Sixties tower block stuffed full, according to Bazza, with problem families. Rain had pooled on the cracked paving stones outside the main entrance and a spilling wheelie bin, abandoned in the middle of nowhere, was attracting a cloud of squalling seagulls. ...

Winter was gazing up at the flats. The sheer size of the building reminded him of similar blocks in Pompey. Somerstown or Portsea, he thought. Grey lives, grey concrete, grey sky. No wonder half the population had settled for shit television and a freezerful of pizzas.

It's a shame that none of this could be captured on the cover which bears no relation to the story. My review of The Price of Darkness can be found here.

1 comment:

Uriah Robinson said...

"Less fashionable cities" is a wonderful understatement Rob. I was in Helsinki many years ago when some Russians trying out their English in the hotel sauna told me they had visited "your beautiful city of Portsmouth". I immediately thought that cities in the Soviet Union must be fairly dire or they were spies worried about HMS Victory and HMS Warrior being brought back into commission.