For all you paranoid noir lovers out there lemme just say this:
I, the Nerd of Noir, am not receiving any monetary or sexual favors from Serpent's Tail Independent Publishers. Not that I'm like, you know, above that sort of thing, but I swear I'm not. It is mere coinkydink that I've been reading so many of their books lately. I swear on the coke bottle lenses of my dorky glasses and my original copy of The Kill-Off. No money or bodily fluids have changed hands or orifices. Also of concern: I have not emigrated to the U.K., nor have I given up black coffee for tea.
With that out the muthafuckin waaaayyy... David Peace's Nineteen Seventy Four just kicked my ass and then spit in my bloody, gaping eyesocket. This is my first Peace book and damn, dude can write. This is the darkness, the depths, the despair, the dire, the fucking low-goddamn-down, my dear nerds. In the words of Senator Clay Davis, "Sheee-it!"
Nineteen Seventy Four is the story of our most humble narrator Edward Dunford, crime reporter for the Yorkshire Post, a right prick of a man who has just landed the front page story of a missing ten-year-old girl, a case shockingly similar to two other little girl disappearances a few years back. Oh, by the way, the year of our story is, amazingly, the year of our lord nineteen and seventy-four, imagine that. Anyway, Dunford is trying to get the scoop on the latest disappearance from the corrupt police department while keeping his hot story out of the hands of ace reporter (and world-class douchebag) Jack Fucking Whitehead. It doesn't take long before sure enough, the little girl lost cases turn out to be related and the cover-ups go all the way to the higher-ups, the big boys of power!
Now, I know what you're thinking, "Nerd, I've glanced at your stupid little site before and it seems to me that you don't much cotton to mysteries and serial killer thrillers." Well, confoundingly southern-ish imaginary reader, you're right, I'm not big on mysteries or serial killer stuff, but this is more along the lines of the great exalted James Ellroy than to local boy John Sanford. Think The Black Dahlia (not De Palma's interesting misfire, Ellroy's first masterpiece of many) instead of Silent Prey or whatever book my Minnesota bro wrote last. Yeah, there are elements that qualify it as part of that not-my-thing serial killer mystery camp, but the most obvious comparisons are to Ellroy. Shit, look at the fucking book jacket and that's the first thing that'll catch your eye, the blurbs relating Peace's Yorkshire Quartet to Ellroy's L.A. Quartet. Well, I'm with the choir on this one.
And that is some damned high praise, not praise that even an over-caffeinated fanboy like myself tosses off lightly.
Peace does some crazy shit in this book, not as crazy as Ellroy but awfully damned close. You won't have any insane shocks like your protagonist getting killed half-way through the book or whatever but his stuff is hyper-dark just the same. It's ultraviolent, oversexed, and packed with cynicism and dread. The language is punchy and staccato, but moves faster than say, The Cold Six-Thousand where though the sentences are short, you have to over-think every little word in some passages. No, with 1974 the sentences just fly by like a Charlie Huston novel.
Another similarity is that your protagonist is also a fucker and a half who is generally a dick to almost every in the book, and not in a cool tough guy way either. He treats women ridiculously poorly and when he really starts getting in over his head he makes some terrible decisions. But he isn't totally irredeemable. Awfully damned close, mind you, but not totally.
Also like an Ellroy opus, this book has one labrynthine bitch of a plot. Shit gets complicated and I'm not sure it totally works itself out in the end. You get the big picture ending for sure, but certain little events and secrets are never fully explained to my liking when the dust clears. But you don't really notice such things until the book is over and the dust has settled since you're too busy racing alongside Eddie as he runs from one horrifying revelation to the next.
I'm already started on book two in the quartet, Nineteen Seventy Seven, and good lord is it awesome as well. The craziest thing so far is this: Jack Fucking Whitehead is one of the protagonists this time out! That guy's a douche! I guess I'll have to learn to like him this time out, though. One of your enemies is the hero? Doesn't get much Ellroy-ian than that right there.
Rock on, Peace, you sick, demented man.