Sunday, 22 September 2013

Dominique Manotti: Rough Trade

Dominique Manotti is a pseudonym, which sort of sets the tone for, the book, where rough trade equally defines a child prostitution ring, and the garment trade in Paris, 1980, where the workers are Turkish, and illegal. The book is available on Kindle and in paperback.

The police are corrupt and brutal, yet somehow maintain a moral compass of some kind, in the bigger issues, if not the small. Can we say beating, and even occasionally raping suspects are small things? Moral analysis must be tackled by the reader. It does not seem to be something the author spends much time on.

The people the police are up against are pretty terrifying, remember. In the late 1970s-mid 1980s, the Grey Wolves, fascist and ultra nationalist, unofficial militant arm of the Nationalist Movement Party in Turkey were active, murdering and torturing in their own country, but also in a lot of European states. Outstandingly bad people, and still cropping up to this day.

It seems it is always a bad idea taking on Turks. They fight, as many groups do, but they seem to have a predilection for organising, which many don't. The British and Commonwealth armies found that out in 1915 and 1916. Another interesting note. During the Korean War, a significant number of British and American prisoners failed under the tremendous pressure, and became informers and fellow travellers. Turks? Not a single one.

The action in Rough Trade takes place over a single month in 1980, with a great deal of cinematic jump cutting. The focal point is police headquarters, the evocatively named Passage de Desire.

One problem early on is keeping track. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, multiple strands. Second, it is difficult distinguishing the policemen, who don't have much in the way of distinctive features. Apart from Daiquin, senior, and the central character, who is gay, and who initially coerces a Turkish militant, and then falls in love with him.

By the middle of the book, the confusion has abated, and the action compels. There are more of these Manottis, but translation has not caught up yet. Worth watching out for.

Drew Ratter

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Where the Dead Men Go: Liam McIlvanney

Just got round to reading this,  second in what is being dubbed, breezily, 'Conway Trilogy 2', after an almost-quite-good-value £5 Kindle download. Just dear enough to annoy, just cheap enough to tempt. £12.99 reduced to nine quid for the paperback seems expensive too...

Anyway. I very much enjoyed All The Colours of The Town (see Thrillfilters passim) McIlvanney's debut thriller (Conway Trilogy 1) and wanted to find out what happened to Gerry Conway, ace Glasgow newshound and failing, guilt-ridden father. He's now getting another shot at fatherhood, with a new baby and a new New Zealandic bidie-in. He has, miraculously, become a PR man and then returned to what is clearly The Daily Record masquerading as The Herald. The book is nailed to 2011, oddly, and you would imagine from the negativity towards the medium of print that both those (real life) organs would be dead and buried by now. They're not, though McIlvanney's pessimisim regarding the future of newspapers, and his cynicism about their present, seems well founded, to me at least. Though if the Record and The Herald were to merge and become The Tribune, well...who knows?

What can I tell you about the plot? Jings. Murder, polis! Two rival gangland bigwigs fighting for supremacy. Corrupt council land deals and dodgy local politicians (hope McIlvanney had this properly legalled under Scots Law; there's some ready and uncomfortable identifiability with living local colour). A dead crime hack, Roma gangs in Govanhill. Paedophile prostitution. Grown-up prostitution. Assassins, Ulster terrorism and lashings of crisps and ginger beer! Actually, I meant malt whisky, wine and proper beer, old-school juicehead scribbler pubs, blues CDs and nice restaurants.

There is some brilliant descriptive writing but there's just a bit too much unlikely neon Taggartesque nonsense; things get cluttered and unconvincing towards the end. And the obsession with parenthood, lost children and fathers, inheritance and the visiting of second generation sins, becomes both distracting and in the end, a bit overwhelming. One minor detail: why is Glasgow and all its locii described with such loving, indeed moving accuracy, whereas Ayrshire's towns, coastal and inland, masquerade under pseudonyms?

I read this book a mere chucked brick from '27 Clouston Street', Gerry Conway's flat, loving the sense of place, the assured familiarity. I know present-day Govanhill a bit and I fear it was pantomimed slightly, the Roma issue somewhat caricatured. Kilmarnock and Prestwick were more than recognisable. Maybe Glasgow vibrates rather too colourfully throughout, and that is possibly a product of McIllvanney's southern hemisphere exile. Or Gerry Conway's prodigious appetite for booze, and nefarious habit of driving while well over the limit.

In conclusion: fascinating, not without its faults but addictive, stylish and just a wee bit too clever for its own good.