Friday, July 8, 2011

Review of 1974 by David Peace (Serpent’s Tail, 1999)

Eddie Dunford has moved back to north to the Leeds of his youth, working as the north of England correspondent for the Post. On the morning of his father’s funeral he is attending the press conference concerning the disappearance of a local school girl, Clare Kemplay. For Dunford this is an opportunity to establish himself at the paper and come out from under the shadow of Jack Whitehead, the paper’s award winning crime writer. His growing obsession, however, soon moves him from an interested observer into an active participant, a pawn in a much larger game of local business interests, politics and police corruption. The more he seeks out the truth, the further he descends into underworld, and others start to pay for the consequences of his actions.

Maxine from Petrona describes reading 1974 as like reading a scream. I know exactly where she’s coming from. Peace’s narrative is intense, visceral, gritty, dark, unrelenting and unsettling. It is very tightly written and through the flair and style of the prose, the contextual framing, and the palpable sense of realism, it produces a powerful affective response from the first page. If anyone is looking for the ultimate noir, then 1974 must be near the top of the pile. The story is a long way from horror, and none of the scenes are particularly horrific, but I nevertheless found it a difficult read at times, simultaneously feeling senses of compulsion and revulsion. It’s one of those strange books or movies that draws you in at the same time as pushing you away. I read it in several sittings and found it emotionally draining. The end unravels a little, becoming a bit disjointed (much like the main character). Nevertheless 1974 is a brilliant piece of writing, but it’s not for the faint hearted.

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

I thought the films were incredible. Should try the book.