Saturday, 4 April 2020

One Man's Opinion: HE DIED WITH HIS EYES OPEN by DEREK RAYMOND



“Good evening to you,” he boomed heartily. “My wife tells me you’ve come about my brother Charles. Well? What’s be been up to this time?”
“Well he’s gone and died,” I said.


A body is found on a West London roadside. It’s been battered and smashed in such a way that suggests he’s the victim of a twisted, embittered and unstable killer. The case is handed to The Factory and its Department of Unexplained Deaths. It’s taken on by our protagonist, one of the few at the Factory who finds the work suits him. There are no boundaries to his investigation and, because it gets under his skin, he takes on the case in a way that begins to overtake his own life as he becomes bound up with the thoughts of his victim.


The body at the side of the road belonged to Charles Staniland. It turns out he was a man of wealthy descent who squandered everything along the way as his compulsions, obsessions and open generosity pulled him down. His last residence is a place of utter squalor. In it, our DS finds a collection of tape recordings. As he listens to them and learns about the man, his urge to find the killer grows as he becomes increasingly sympathetic to Staniland’s poetic philosophising, and more deeply embedded in the murky world of his psyche. 


The journey towards solving the case is fascinating. The police work bears little relation to any typical investigation. Our sergeant decides that the best course of action is to follow the victim’s course and, though aware of the dangers and pitfalls this might bring, he goes ahead with it anyway. His approach is amazing, his journey fascinating, the conclusion as unpredictable as it is inevitable.

Raymond’s talent as a writer is clearly apparent. Not only is he able to bring in a hard-boiled style where characters are brilliantly framed, particularly in the dialogue, but he is also able to inhabit Staniland’s fragmented mind and capture the wonder of his voice in a way that makes the victim’s foray as a literary author utterly plausible.   


I want to mention one thing while I’m here. The references to London’s ethnic diversity, a key aspect of the city’s life and character can be a little jarring. As I came across them, I needed to take pauses to try and work out how I felt about it. In the end, I concluded that the book reflects attitudes of the time in which it is set and the comments were always funnelled through characters, adding to the authenticity and grit of the book. If you have other opinions, I’d be more than happy to hear them. 

I moved to London at around the time the book was published. It certainly didn’t have the polished feel about it that it carries at its centre today. I guess it’s good to reflect on progress as, because it happens in steps, can easily be missed while we’re busy living our lives. It’s also good to note, as Raymond’s protagonist suggests, that not all changes to the essence of a city are for the better.


Perhaps to finish, I’ll leave with a comment about the sergeant’s complexity:


“A true communist is no scrounger,” he [sculptor friend, Ransome] said. I had just decided to go to police school then, and I remember that when I told him so he looked at me for a time and remarked: “Yes, but perhaps you could have been an artist too.”

I dared not tell him, though I told him most things, that I didn’t have the courage for that.”

A wonderful read that will have you wondering about the human condition as much trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together. Superb. 

Thursday, 26 March 2020

The Down & Out Books COVID-19 Social Distancing Digital Book Sale!


Down & Out Books strongly supports federal guidelines to practice social distancing during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic. And to provide some variety to the ways in which you do so, we have discounted 39 of our most recently published digital titles, across all of our imprints, to between 99¢ and $2.99!
Below you'll find a list of those titles together with links to purchase from the Down & Out Bookstore and all major digital book vendors.
Stay safe and read a book … or two or three!


Let It Snow by Nigel Bird

Let It Snow by Nigel Bird
Published by Down & Out Books
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All of Them to Burn by Beau Johnson
All of Them to Burn by Beau Johnson
Published by Down & Out Books
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At Their Own Game by Frank Zafiro
At Their Own Game by Frank Zafiro
Published by Down & Out Books
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Beacon Hill by Colin Campbell
Beacon Hill by Colin Campbell
Published by Down & Out Books
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A Beast Without a Name: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan edited by Brian Thornton
A Beast Without a Name: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Music of Steely Dan edited by Brian Thornton
Published by Down & Out Books
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The Big Crescendo by Jonathan Brown
The Big Crescendo by Jonathan Brown
Published by Down & Out Books
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Chasing China White by Allan Leverone
Chasing China White by Allan Leverone
Published by Shotgun Honey
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Coal Black: Stories by Chris McGinley
Coal Black: Stories by Chris McGinley
Published by Shotgun Honey
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Crossing Borders edited by Lisa Brackmann and Matt Coyle
Crossing Borders edited by Lisa Brackmann and Matt Coyle
Published by Down & Out Books
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A Dark Homage by Wendy Tyson
A Dark Homage by Wendy Tyson
Published by Down & Out Books
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The Dead Don't Sleep by Steven Max Russo
The Dead Don't Sleep by Steven Max Russo
Published by Down & Out Books
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Deep Green Cover by Joel W. Barrows
Deep Green Cover by Joel W. Barrows
Published by Down & Out Books
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Denim, Diamonds and Death edited by Rick Ollerman
Denim, Diamonds and Death edited by Rick Ollerman
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Encrypting Maya by Lawrence Kelter
Encrypting Maya by Lawrence Kelter
Published by Down & Out Books
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The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods edited by Michael Bracken
The Eyes of Texas: Private Eyes from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods edited by Michael Bracken
Published by Down & Out Books
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Forgiveness Dies by J.J. Hensley
Forgiveness Dies by J.J. Hensley
Published by Down & Out Books
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The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men by Tom Leins
The Good Book: Fairy Tales for Hard Men by Tom Leins
Published by All Due Respect
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Guns + Tacos Season 1 Volume 1 edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker
Guns + Tacos Season 1 Volume 1 edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker
Published by Down & Out Books
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Guns + Tacos Season 1 Volume 2 edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker
Guns + Tacos Season 1 Volume 2 edited by Michael Bracken and Trey R. Barker
Published by Down & Out Books
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Home Invasion by Patricia Abbott
Home Invasion by Patricia Abbott
Published by Down & Out Books
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I Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff
I Know Where You Sleep by Alan Orloff
Published by Down & Out Books
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I'm Dying As Fast As I Can by Jerry Kennealy
I'm Dying As Fast As I Can by Jerry Kennealy
Published by Down & Out Books
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In the Cut by Frank Zafiro
In the Cut by Frank Zafiro
Published by Down & Out Books
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Kraj the Enforcer: Stories by Rusty Barnes
Kraj the Enforcer: Stories by Rusty Barnes
Published by Shotgun Honey
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The Lantern Man by Jon Bassoff
The Lantern Man by Jon Bassoff
Published by Down & Out Books
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Maxine Unleashes Doomsday by Nick Kolakowski
Maxine Unleashes Doomsday by Nick Kolakowski
Published by Down & Out Books
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¡Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! edited by Angel Luis Colón
¡Pa’Que Tu Lo Sepas! edited by Angel Luis Colón
Published by Down & Out Books
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Price Hike by Preston Lang
Price Hike by Preston Lang
Published by All Due Respect
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Shelter Cove by Colin Campbell
Shelter Cove by Colin Campbell
Published by Down & Out Books
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Skunk Train by Joe Clifford
Skunk Train by Joe Clifford
Published by Down & Out Books
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Stay Ugly by Daniel Vlasaty
Stay Ugly by Daniel Vlasaty
Published by All Due Respect
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The Stone Carrier by Robert Ward
The Stone Carrier by Robert Ward
Published by Down & Out Books
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The Swamp Killers edited by Sarah M. Chen and E.A. Aymar
The Swamp Killers edited by Sarah M. Chen and E.A. Aymar
Published by Down & Out Books
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this letter to Norman Court by Pablo D'Stair
this letter to Norman Court by Pablo D'Stair
Published by All Due Respect
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Tommy Shakes by Rob Pierce
Tommy Shakes by Rob Pierce
Published by All Due Respect
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Trouble & Strife: Crime Stories Inspired by Cockney Rhyming Slang edited by Simon Wood
Trouble & Strife: Crime Stories Inspired by Cockney Rhyming Slang edited by Simon Wood
Published by Down & Out Books
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True Dark by Mike Miner
True Dark by Mike Miner
Published by All Due Respect
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The Unknowing by Trey R. Barker
The Unknowing by Trey R. Barker
Published by Down & Out Books
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Widow's Run by TG Wolff
Widow's Run by TG Wolff
Published by Down & Out Books
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