Nightmare in the Street (and two others by Derek Raymond)

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Read 22/03/2015-24/03/2015

Rating: 2 stars

You know when an author dies and a publisher decides to release a forgotten, unfinished typescript and, because you like the author’s other work, you read it and then wish you hadn’t? That’s how I feel about Nightmare in the Street by Derek Raymond.

I’m a fan of Raymond’s Factory series, and my husband bought me Nightmare on the Street because I’m a completist. Posthumously published, this forgotten typescript reads like a skeleton of ideas waiting for the flesh of narrative flow to be added. I skim-read huge chunks of text where lots of words were saying nothing much. I’d hazard a guess that only a fifth of the book is actually story with a plot.

On the whole, it’s a mixture of polemic and dialectics – almost like reading the ravings of a madman having a conversation with himself. It made me think of Wilde or Coward in tone on a couple of occasions.

It’s more a ghost story than a crime novel. Crimes happen, but they’re not that significant to the story. Only one crime matters, and it leaves the main character haunted and raving with madness.

There are echoes of scenes in the Factory novels – a chippy detective at odds with the system, who believes himself to be morally superior and is fond of punching higher ranking officers, finds himself suspended. A couple of the ideas in this typescript were certainly used in the final Factory book, which makes me wonder whether Raymond abandoned the typescript for a reason.

There’s a line on page 171 that sums up the tone of the book: “He thought he had probably never grown up much after sixteen.” The florid, over emotional outbursts about love and justice are quite juvenile in tone, especially the daydreaming about Madonna-Slut stereotypical women.

In all, I think it would have been better to leave this work unpublished. If you’re a Factory series aficionado, give it a miss. You’ll be disappointed. If you haven’t read any Derek Raymond yet, start with his first. He Died With His Eyes Open is, in a word, brilliant. The narrative is compelling, the prose like poetry. In this book Raymond writes as well as Dostoevsky about the criminal mind, the pathos of the victim, and the frustrations of the law enforcer.

His fourth is the book my husband lent me, which got me hooked on the series. I Was Dora Suarez is hard going, mainly because of the nature of the killer. Well written and not sensationalist in tone, it’s a twisted portrait of a psychopath told through the death and tragic life of Dora Suarez. I can’t say I enjoyed it. It feels more like I endured it. But it is a book worth reading if you can stomach it.

 

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