Home > 1990, 20th Century, British Literature, Crime Fiction, Noir, Peace David, Polar, TBR20 > Quais du polar #5: Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace – 1974 shades of Noir.

Quais du polar #5: Nineteen Seventy-Four by David Peace – 1974 shades of Noir.

1974 by David Peace (1999) Translated by Daniel Lemoine.

Quais_polar_logoNineteen Seventy-Four is the first novel of the Red Riding Quartet by David Peace. The four books are set in Yorkshire between 1974 and 1983.

Edward Dunford is a rookie journalist, just hired as North of England Crime Correspondent at the Yorkshire Evening Post. The book starts on Friday 13 December 1974. Eddie’s father has just died and he’s attending a press conference at the Millgarth Police Station, Leeds. Little Clare Kemplay has been missing since the day before on her way back from school. Soon, her body is found in a nearby alley. Edward makes a connection between this murder and the murders of two other little girls. Jeanette Garland missing since 1969 in Castleford. Susan Ridyard missing since 1972 in Rochdale, in 1972.

Peace_1974Eddie starts digging. His colleague Barry Gannon is on a big case that he calls the Dawsongate. He’s investigating shady transactions in the construction business owned by John Dawson. He’s on the verge of getting the evidence he needs. He gets murdered on December 16th. Eddie inherits of his material.

Who is the link between the three murdered little girls? What was Barry about to reveal?

Ambitious Eddie will follow leads and from informative phone calls, to strange visits and police tips, he will start his journey to hell. Corruption is wherever you look. Among the police. Among the press. Among the powerful men of the territory. Eddie will be in the cross-fire between the three, trying to save his career and his life while attempting to discover the truth about these horrible acts.

Everything happens between December 13 and Christmas Eve. David Peace installs the nervous pace of his literary style from the first paragraphs:

‘All we ever get is Lord fucking Lucan and wingless bloody crows,’ smiled Gilman, like this was the best day of our lives:

Friday 13 December 1974.

Waiting for my fist Front Page, the Byline Boy at last: Edward Dunford, North of England Crime Correspondent; two days too fucking late.

I looked at my father’s watch.

9 a.m0 and no bugger had been to bed; straight from the Press Club, still stinking of ale, into this hell:

The Conference Room, Millgarth Police Station, Leeds.

The whole bloody pack sat waiting for the main attraction, pens poised and tapes paused; ht TV lights and cigarette smoke lighting up the windowless room like a Town Hall boxing ring on a Late Night Fight Night; the paper boys taking it out on the TV set, the radios static and playing it deaf:

‘They got sweet FA’

‘A quid says she’s dead if they got George on it.’

Khalil Aziz at the back, no sign of Jack.

I felt a nudge. It was Gilman again, Gilman from the Manchester Evening News and before.

‘Sorry to hear about your old man, Eddie’

‘Yeah, thanks,’ I said, thinking news really did travel fucking fast.

‘When’s the funeral?’

I looked at my father’s watch again. ‘In about two hours.’

‘Jesus. Hadden still taking his pound of bloody flesh, then.’

‘Yeah,’ I said, knowing, funeral or no funeral, no way I’m letting Jack fucking Whitehead back on this one.

‘I’m sorry, like’

‘Yeah,’ I said.

It’s a long quote but it gives the atmosphere of the novel in a nutshell. The ingredients are there. Eddie mourning his father but in competition with the star journalist Jack Whitehead. The fake camaraderie between the journalists. The show delivered by the police. The interdependence between the police and the press. The demands of Hadden, Eddie’s boss.

The loose use of punctuation gives a staccato rhythm to the book and it will follow us for the whole ride. I have to admit: Thank God I had this one in translation. I was already fairly lost in French, I can’t even imagine what it would have been in English. It’s a first person narrative, so we’re with Eddie the whole time. It’s violent because the methods of the police are made of beating and torture. There’s an urgency to the story that keeps you breathless. We’re walking in the dark with Eddie, trying to weave the threads of information together to create the tapestry of events. Not easy before computer and cell phones times.

I know that Nineteen Seventy-Four is loosely based upon the real case of the Yorkshire Ripper. I’m French and was still in diapers in 1974. I know nothing about this case. Just like I knew nothing about the Lucan case when I read Aiding and Abetting by Muriel Spark. I did a bit of reading on Wikipedia. This serial killer murdered prostitutes, not little girls. Fiction is mixed with facts. Edward Dunford is from Osset, like David Peace. The investigation on the Yorkshire Ripper was done by Assistant Chief Constable George Oldfield who was highly criticized for his handling of the case. Here, George Oldfield is the name of the Chief Superintendent in charge of the investigation. I’m sure there are other parts of the novel that borrow to the real case. Does that bother me? Not really because it is not a novel about this case. It’s a novel about a similar serial killer and Peace probably used the information about the Yorkshire Ripper to give back the atmosphere of the time, the way the police worked and how the whole intelligentsia of West Yorkshire holds themselves together through shared secrets.

Nobody had interest in shaking the whole system and Eddie is a willing pawn. He’s not a likeable character either. Women are means for sex, however damaged they might be, he’s in this mainly for his own advancement and his competition with Jack Whitehead for the title of best crime journalist. He’s not a noble character fighting to right wrongs in a corrupt world. And yet he continues.

This is Noir, very very Noir fiction and Peace’s style makes it worth your time. Granted it’s not an asset for the Department of Tourism of West Yorskshire, even if it is set 40 years ago.

For another review, have a look at Max’s excellent post here.

 

  1. March 28, 2016 at 8:38 pm

    I read this years ago but went on to read all Peace’s other novels apart from the rest of the Red Riding ones. I think he is a great novelist, never mind a great crime novelist. The style is hypnotic.
    It was also made into an excellent TV series which you may have seen.

    Like

    • March 30, 2016 at 6:47 pm

      I agree with the term “hypnotic”. He repeats sentences, like patterns in fabric. It gives back the obsessive quest for the truth led by Eddie.

      I haven’t seen the TV series. I’m not sure I want to see all this violence on screen.

      Like

  2. March 28, 2016 at 11:54 pm

    I love Peace so much. His Tokyo series is really unique, but the Red Riding series is incredibly powerful. I even loved The Damned United and I am not a football fan!

    Like

    • March 30, 2016 at 6:48 pm

      Good to know the football ones are good even for people who aren’t football fans.
      I’ll look into the Tokyo ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. March 29, 2016 at 8:09 am

    I’m reading this right now and he does have something reminiscent of James Ellroy’s style about him – the staccato sentences, mimicking actual speech and fragmented thought patterns.

    Like

    • March 30, 2016 at 6:50 pm

      I haven’t read Ellroy. Yet.
      The reader is really in Eddie’s head, sort of participating to the investigation. I took notes to get the facts, something I never do when I read crime fiction. I let myself float with the flow and here I was more engaged in the investigation.
      Powerful prose.

      Like

  4. Pat
    March 29, 2016 at 9:06 am

    Classy article!

    Like

  5. March 29, 2016 at 9:42 am

    Terrific review, Emma. Your commentary of Peace’s style is right on the money: a staccato rhythm. That’s a perfect description – it has an energy all of its own. I read the first two novels in fairly quick succession, a move that turned out to be a bit overwhelming as the narratives are so disturbing! (I tried to read them as stories in their own right without getting too distracted by any connections with true-life cases. You’re right to mention the context though.)

    Grant makes a good point about the TV series – it’s a great adaptation, one of the best I’ve seen in recent years. Andrew Garfield is excellent in the role of Eddie Dunford. If you haven’t seen it, then it’s definitely worth watching (although you might want to wait until you’ve read the other books if you’re planning to stick with the series). I came to the books off the back of watching the TV version and even though Peace’s prose is more than strong enough in its own right I wish I’d done it the other way around.

    Anyway, great billet. I hope you get the chance to see Peace at the QdP.

    Like

    • March 30, 2016 at 6:53 pm

      The style is fantastic. It makes you feel the atmosphere, the urgency, Eddie’s situation.

      About the context: are these murder part of the collective memory of your country? (Like Dr Petiot is a “famous” murderer in France)

      I’m happy to know that the TV series is a good adaptation but I think it might be too violent for my taste. I’d rather read about Eddie’s beatings than see them on screen.

      I hope I’ll have the opportunity to meet him on Friday.

      Like

      • March 30, 2016 at 7:56 pm

        Yes, very much so. Most of them took place in the late ’70s and it was all over the news at the time. I must have been about 15 or 16 when Peter Sutcliffe was arrested. Really grim.

        I’ll be fascinated to hear more about Peace’s session. It should be a good one.

        (PS I completely agree with you about the sense of urgency. One of those cases where the style works hand-in-hand with the narrative.)

        Like

        • March 31, 2016 at 8:17 pm

          OK, so it was a famous case.

          He’s doing several sessions but unfortunately they are at the same time of others that interest me more. (one about crime fiction by writers from Québec and another one while I’ll be visiting the commissaire academy) Too bad.
          I can’t tell you how many dilemnas I’m facing about which session to attend. *sigh*

          I agree with you too: the style and the story fit.

          Like

          • March 31, 2016 at 8:42 pm

            Yes, I saw Marina’s post about tough choices! Maybe the two of you could divide and conquer by going to different sessions where possible? Not ideal, I know…

            Like

            • March 31, 2016 at 8:44 pm

              There are 50 sessions in three days and lots of them are tempting.

              Like

  6. March 30, 2016 at 2:39 pm

    I agree with Jacqui, your description “staccato rhythm” captures his style perfectly, though Grant is right with his use of “hypnotic” too.

    The second is equally tough (in every sense) and I still haven’t read the third and fourth. I may just move on to the Tokyo novels (did he ever finish that series?). I’ve not seen the tv show as I’ve not finished the books, but query if spoilers really matter here.

    I did think Peace possibly owed a bit too much of a debt to Ellroy at times here, but that’s a quibble.

    Like

    • March 30, 2016 at 6:55 pm

      You wrote “staccato rythm” too in your review. I read it after writing my billet though. (I always do this, otherwise, I’m influenced by your thoughts)

      I’ll read the next one but I need to space them a bit. It’s tough read.

      I really need to read Ellroy…

      Like

      • March 30, 2016 at 7:14 pm

        Hah, I’d forgotten that. No wonder it seemed a good phrase to me. I do the same thing re not reading people’s pieces while writing my own.

        I’ve read a fair bit of Ellroy, though not for a while now. I preferred his earlier stuff. Once you get to American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand and those later ones the books bloat massively and get much harder (and for me less rewarding) to read. I bailed on The Cold Six Thousand about a hundred pages in, maybe less, and never regretted it.

        The earlier stuff though, I’d have to check which but some of those are very good. There’s a reason he had the impact he did.

        Like

        • March 31, 2016 at 8:23 pm

          Great minds think alike!

          I want to read The Black Dahlia first.
          Let me know what you’d recommend first.

          Like

          • April 1, 2016 at 2:10 pm

            That’s one I’d recommend – it may well have been my first though I’m not sure now. The LA Quartet, of which that is the first, is pretty good as I recall. I also liked his Lloyd Hopkins trilogy as I recall.

            Like

  7. March 30, 2016 at 5:25 pm

    I really like that quote. It makes want to read the book. I hadn’t heard of the author before so I’m grateful for this review.

    Like

    • March 31, 2016 at 8:24 pm

      It must be the first time I write about an author you’ve never heard of. Your knowledge of literature seems bottomless. I’m glad I could be useful. 🙂

      Like

  1. May 6, 2016 at 6:42 pm
  2. November 29, 2016 at 1:12 am

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