Category Archives: Derek Raymond

My top crime reads of 2012

What’s the end of a year without a best of post?

Recently, I was asked by UK site Crime Fiction Lover to list my top crime reads for 2012. They would only let me pick five, but obviously I’ve read a lot more books worthy of mention than that. Here’s the long list.

He Died with his Eyes Open, Derek Raymond

A police procedural like no other, it starts, like so many other crime novels, with the discovery of a body. The unnamed cop (the story’s narrator) who catches the case is a tough talking sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14, at the Factory police station. There’s no apparent motive and all the cop has to go on are a series of old cassette tapes in the dead man’s property that contain the deeply unhappy ramblings of a deeply unhappy man. Most police procedurals deal with crime from the point of view of the police. What’s unusual about this book is that the cop concerned is more like his victim.

Raymond was the pen name of English writer Robert William Arthur Cook, who eschewed his upper middle class family for a life of odd jobs, bohemian travel and frequent brushes with the law. Although he wrote for years, success eluded until with the publication of He Died with His Eyes Open in 1984, the first of five Factory books.… Read more

Book review: He Died with His Eyes Open

Derek Raymond’s He Died with His Eyes Open is a police procedural like no other I’ve ever read.

It’s a bleak, deeply disturbing slice of genuine Brit noir, a story of busted lives and nothingness.

The book starts, like so many other crime novels, with the discovery of a body. It’s a winter night in London, a police strike is on. The unnamed cop (the story’s narrator) who catches the case is a tough talking sergeant from the Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14, at the Factory Police Station.

As he explains early in the book:

“The uniformed people don’t like us; nor does the Criminal Investigation Department, not does the Special Intelligence Branch. We work on the obscure, unimportant, apparently irrelevant deaths of people who don’t matter and who never did. We have the lowest budget, we’re the last in line for allocations, and promotion is so slow most of us never get past the ranks of sergeant.”

The victim, Staniland, is a middle-aged unemployed writer, a complete nobody, beaten to death with a hammer.

“I went to see the police surgeon who had examined the body on arrival and said: ‘What did he die of?’”

The surgeon said wearly: ‘Everything’.”

There’s no apparent motive and all the cop has to go on are a series of old cassette tapes left behind in the dead man’s property.… Read more