See­ingRed

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - PATRICK FREYNE - WORDS BY ADRIAN McKINTY

Adrian McKinty on the ge­nius of David Peace’s Red Rid­ing Quar­tet

Through­out his re­mark­able Red Rid­ing Quar­tet, David Peace isn’t just spinning us yarns; he’s also teach­ing us a new way of telling sto­ries

When I first en­coun­tered 1974, the open­ing novel in David Peace’s

Red Rid­ing quar­tet, I was in a bad place. My fa­ther had just died and I’d been so broke that for his fu­neral I’d bought a suit from the Belfast Marks and Spencer, wore it dur­ing the burial in an apoc­a­lyp­tic down­pour, and spent the night aer­at­ing it with a hairdryer so that I could re­turn it the next day.

I was liv­ing in New York at the time, work­ing as a bar­man in the Bronx and as a shop as­sis­tant at the big 82nd and Broad­way Barnes and Noble book­store. The novel came in as an in­trigu­ing gal­ley in the Bri­tish edi­tion pub­lished by Ser­pent’s Tail. I was an ob­ses­sive reader of books and comic books, but I had de­cided a cou­ple of years ear­lier that Bri­tish con­tem­po­rary fic­tion was not for me. The nov­els that were win­ning the Booker prizes and fea­tured on Ra­dio 4 and in the Sun­day news­pa­pers were all seem­ingly writ­ten by pri­vately ed­u­cated, very posh, very nice peo­ple who lived in leafy north Lon­don. These books about wealthy toffs and their bloody prob­lems said (to quote Mor­ris­sey) “noth­ing to me about my life”.

But 1974 was dif­fer­ent, I de­cided, as I sat there read­ing it in the toi­let at my dad’s wake. It is the story of Ed­die Dun­ford, a young, work­ing-class jour­nal­ist for the York­shire Post who stum­bles his way into a sor­did con­spir­acy while re­port­ing on the case of a miss­ing girl who sub­se­quently turns up dead with wings sewn into her back. The tale is a grim one but what ex­hil­a­rated me about it was the greasy, sweaty, smoky, claus­tro­pho­bic feel of 1970s Bri­tain and the ur­gency of the prose: “Back at the house, first things first: Phone the of­fice. Noth­ing. No news be­ing bad news for the Kem­plyas and Clare, good news for me. Twenty-four hours com­ing up, tick tock Twenty-four hours mean­ing Clare dead.” This was Peace’s first novel but right out of the gate his style was con­fi­dent, idio­syn­cratic and co­her­ent. Peace had some­thing to say and that some­thing was the bad news that we or­di­nary blokes down the pub or the book­ies or the dole of­fice are doomed be­cause our lives are gov­erned by a ca­bal of the wealthy, the wicked and the pow­er­ful.

David Peace was born in York­shire in 1967 and grew up in the min­ing and tex­tile town of Os­sett in the West Rid­ing. He was ed­u­cated at Bat­ley Gram­mar School, Wake­field Col­lege and Manch­ester Polytech­nic. In 1991, he went to Turkey to teach English as a for­eign lan­guage and in 1994 he re­lo­cated to Tokyo where he’s

PHO­TO­GRAPH: CHAN­NEL 4

An­drew Garfield as crime re­porter Ed­die Dun­ford in the TV adap­ta­tion of David Peace’s Red Rid­ing Quar­tet.

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