Monday, July 16, 2012

Book Review: He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond (1984)

He Died With His Eyes Open by Derek Raymond

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I'm starting on the second instalment of this brilliant series of crime novels today and thought it only fair that I educate you on something British that leaves all this Scandinavian crime writing in its dust. Compared to Derek Raymond Steig, Jo et al read like a cozy mystery.

Blurb: When a middle-aged alcoholic is found brutally battered to death on a roadside in West London, the case is assigned to a tough-talking cynic from the Department of Unexplained Deaths. Our narrator must piece together the history of his blighted existence and discover the agents of its cruel end. What he doesn’t expect is that digging for the truth will demand plenty of lying. 

Thoughts: I had a feeling about this one, I desperately wanted (needed?) to read the book from the second I heard about it, yet when I finally bought a copy I allowed it to sit on my shelf for at least two months. I'm glad I did, it's an incredible piece of noir writing and to have devoured it instantly would've have been a massive disservice to Derek Raymond.

Part way through I was reminded of Ross Macdonald's famous quote about Raymond Chandler, how "he was a slumming angel" and that term really feels like an apt description for the victim in this novel, the protagonist of this novel and the writer of this novel.

Raymond dropped out of the famous Eton public school and followed a career path that resembled Charles Bukowski more than any number of sub-royal upper class Brits that he might have considered his peers. He moved to France and lived on the margins of society in both England and France and it is this dual experience and knowledge that imbues the two main characters with such insight and purpose.

Our nameless hero taking a journey in to the downward spiralling life of Charlie Staniland via his words - written and spoken on to casettes - and then literally in to the life he had chosen to lead as he comes face to face with the filth, cretins, lowlifes (and also the decent hardworking people who had fallen through the cracks of Thatchers Britain.) It's a journey that almost goes beyond noir, it's black, it's bleak and it's truly powerful stuff. As the Evening Standard is quoted on the cover of this version, Raymond is "unafraid to face the reality of man's evil" and it is this fearlessness that puts the novel in to the literary category of crime writing, takes it that step further in to greatness.

The lead character is from the old school pulp noir territory, down these dark oppressive roads a man must walk, not because he chooses to but because he must type stuff. A loner because he chooses to be, taking chances with his life to ensure justice for those who otherwise wouldn't receive it yet with a worldview that never quite reaches the depths of despair no matter what the situation.

Having grown up in England I may have a greater appreciation for some of this stuff than those who didn't, there are aspects that are very much part of "Little England" that may not be so easily understood by others but that aside this is still a fabulous piece of work that should be appreciated by all of us with a penchant for the darkest of noirs and who enjoy taking a journey in to the depths of human depravity with a hardboiled hero at our side.

For me this is David Goodis (at his very best) territory but with a British slant on it, take this wonderful piece of description for example: "both armies were attended by secretaries who wittered blondely away at each other across tepid gin and tonics," the cynical worldview we expect from a Marlowe or a Spade delivered with an accurate dig at the very British way of serving alcohol.

A remarkable work from a very talented man, it makes you care for somebody whose name you never hear mentioned, his clear affection towards the drunken mess of a man at the centre of the mystery is evident and if you don't care for Charlie Staniland or his life you will at least care that there is somebody out there desperate to bring his killers to justice.

“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.” 

For those of you who look forward to movie adaptations there was a French movie in 1985 called On ne meurt que deux fois starring Charlotte Rampling which I am yet to see and a quick look on imdb suggests that a new TV series is in the works based on the five book sequence, so something to look forward to.


Further viewing suggestions:

               This Is England                                       I.D.                                       Meantime

Further reading suggestions:

The Red Riding Quartet by David Peace

View all my book reviews


  1. Been wanting to read this one for ages, so glad you have said good words about it! And awesome idea to add a selection of films that fit in with the book.

    Great review.

  2. Hey! A dedicated follower of my book reviews. Happy days.

    How did you hear of this one? I seem to be getting that reaction a lot but nobody seems to have read it.

    1. The way I hear about most things is just randomly searching on the net, really. Amazon seems to be the best place for me to find just about anything that I might be interested in, and I found out about this book there, as well.

      And book reviewing has become a lot more popular on the net. Just a shame that other people, I guess in the film/music reviewing community, don't seem to follow that many book blogs, which, as I said before, is definitely something I plan on doing more of, particularly now, like you, reading has entered my life again!

    Work from home theory is fast gaining popularity because of the freedom and flexibility that comes with it. Since one is not bound by fixed working hours, they can schedule their work at the time when they feel most productive and convenient to them. Women & Men benefit a lot from this concept of work since they can balance their home and work perfectly. People mostly find that in this situation, their productivity is higher and stress levels lower. Those who like isolation and a tranquil work environment also tend to prefer this way of working. Today, with the kind of communication networks available, millions of people worldwide are considering this option.

    Women & Men who want to be independent but cannot afford to leave their responsibilities at home aside will benefit a lot from this concept of work. It makes it easier to maintain a healthy balance between home and work. The family doesn't get neglected and you can get your work done too. You can thus effectively juggle home responsibilities with your career. Working from home is definitely a viable option but it also needs a lot of hard work and discipline. You have to make a time schedule for yourself and stick to it. There will be a time frame of course for any job you take up and you have to fulfill that project within that time frame.

    There are many things that can be done working from home. A few of them is listed below that will give you a general idea about the benefits of this concept.

    This is the most common and highly preferred job that Women & Men like doing. Since in today's competitive world both the parents have to work they need a secure place to leave behind their children who will take care of them and parents can also relax without being worried all the time. In this job you don't require any degree or qualifications. You only have to know how to take care of children. Parents are happy to pay handsome salary and you can also earn a lot without putting too much of an effort.

    For those who have a garden or an open space at your disposal and are also interested in gardening can go for this method of earning money. If given proper time and efforts nursery business can flourish very well and you will earn handsomely. But just as all jobs establishing it will be a bit difficult but the end results are outstanding.

    Freelance can be in different wings. Either you can be a freelance reporter or a freelance photographer. You can also do designing or be in the advertising field doing project on your own. Being independent and working independently will depend on your field of work and the availability of its worth in the market. If you like doing jewellery designing you can do that at home totally independently. You can also work on freelancing as a marketing executive working from home. Wanna know more, email us on and we will send you information on how you can actually work as a marketing freelancer.

    Internet related work
    This is a very vast field and here sky is the limit. All you need is a computer and Internet facility. Whatever field you are into work at home is perfect match in the software field. You can match your time according to your convenience and complete whatever projects you get. To learn more about how to work from home, contact us today on workfromhome.otr214423@gmail.comand our team will get you started on some excellent work from home projects.

    Diet food
    Since now a days Women & Men are more conscious of the food that they eat hence they prefer to have homemade low cal food and if you can start supplying low cal food to various offices then it will be a very good source of income and not too much of efforts. You can hire a few ladies who will help you out and this can be a good business.

    Thus think over this concept and go ahead.