Death at One's Elbow: Derek Raymond's Factory Novels, Charles Taylor.
First of all, this picture. Take notes, other author photos. This is how you should look. Proper. Like you have the jewels you came for, but a quick drink before leaving, thank you very much. Secondly, The Devil's Home on Leave is the second book in the famous Factory Series and it is grim and great. Plus, what a perfectly timed introduction. I was reading all the Chandler and Hammett I could get my hands on when I decided to detour and read this instead. Good idea, me.
Should I lead with the fact that I am going to continue onto the other four Factory novels Melville House has reissued? Because I am. These are dark, horrible and lovely. All elegant writing about brutality with bursts of hilarious dialogue that allow little light to come to the proceedings. Our unnamed detective's back story as well as the crimes he investigates are rotten and ruthlessly sad. Still, it's not an exercise in hopelessness. Detective Sergeant works Unexplained Deaths for his own reasons, eschewing rank to solve the murders of obscure, forgotten people. The murders of the socially small and unimportant. Our man is a human being, in the most meaningful sense of the word. And he's got both eyes open, staring at the nothing. In this particular book, that's a psychopathic killer with ties to the government.
The excellently turned trick is that the book is almost not about its own murders as much as what they mean. It's about man, his capacity or failure to overcome pain and horror, the prevailing social order and all attendant corruption. It takes the procedural and does a correct thing with it: makes it count.