Reading dates: 12 July – 03 August 2014
As unsettling as the first one in the quartet, Nineteen Seventy Seven is not for the faint hearted. The temporal setting, and the crime, is the Yorkshire Ripper murders. Blood, sex, pornography, grit, corruption, vice, deception and love drive the investigations of Bob Fraser—police officer— and Jack Whitehead—journalist—as their chapters rotate. Preceding all is a strange transcribed dialogue from a morning radio show of the time. The clues. The prose is wonderful, full of echoes and repetitions, insistent dreams in italics and energetic dialogue. Just when you think David Peace is going to shoot the genre to pieces, he doesn’t. Well, he does because he doesn’t . You just have to read it to find out what I mean and who the Ripper is.
Fundamental to the Red Riding is the place and the Leeds-Bradford-Wakefield triangle is mythical because it is too real. Hot then rainy, all too strange, a setting where real people live, even now, 37 years later. Yet, the place and the story are also distant in time and place. The reader is a character in the story and, like all of the characters, somewhat disengaged, not quite there, secretive.
Peace provides a curious reading experience, a disorienting but a compelling one. I always feel I need a break after reading one of his books and two hours later I contemplate starting Nineteen Eighty. Won’t be long, I think.