Book Festival – David Peace

For the first time in two years I managed to attend an event at the Book Festival.  Yesterday I heard David Peace speaking on The Damned Utd. 

Peace was engaging – although had to endure a rather pompous interviewer who chaired the session.  He is a passionate reader from his work.  Self-effacing, and witty he claimed to have no imagination (hence his writing about real events).  Also, when asked questions about whether his novels examined the position of Yorkshire in Britain, or the modern crisis of masculinity, he said that he simply wrote and didn’t think about these underlying aspects.  

For blue_condition who may be interested here are some of the points that came out of the questioning.  The book was started while Clough was alive and as yet he has had no reaction from Clough’s family or those of the Leeds players featured (although – for understandable reasons he is worried about the reaction of Mr Giles).  When questioned about fictionalising real people (something he has of course done before) he pointed out that real names were used this time as these were public figures in the public eye and he didn’t really examine their private lives.  Indeed those that had not placed themselves in the public eye (Mrs Clough and children) are unnamed through the novel.  There was some interesting discussion about his technique – the second person and first person split in narrative is something used before in 1983.  Apparently his first (rejected) novel was wholly written in the second person.  He uses the second person to try to have a grey area between the subjectivity of first person and objectivity of third person and uses it for memories to demonstrate the distancing between the party remembering and what they remember.  [As an aside I think he uses it incredibly well – as does Julie Myerson in her new novel – although I note that reviewers that mention it don’t like the floating perspective.]  He was queried about the use of the term “the Jew” in GB84 (for the references to Sweet) and had to explain that this was from the perspective of one character.  He had some interesting comments on modern Britain (and modern Yorkshire in particular) noting an increased racism in society since he left for Japan a decade and more ago.  There were some interesting comments about the relationship between Peace, agent, editor, and his father (a support team for his writing).  (And he and his father are Huddersfield Town supporters – the first game he saw was Clough’s first friendly as manager of Leeds, and his father was there for the League Cup game which was Clough’s last).

The interviewer raised one particularly interesting question.  Someone from the audience commented on Yorkshire as a character in the novels.  The interviewer noted a similarity with Stevenson writing about Scotland from years past while in the SOuth Seas.  Peace commented that it was easier to write these recent historical books about Yorkshire not being there because the area has changed so much in recent years.

Some points relating to future work.  Firstly the Red Riding QUartet has been optioned for dramatisation.  He will not be involved in the screenplay.  Second, GB84 and The Damned Utd form part of a loosely related quartet (no word on the others but he spoke quite a lot about 1974, the two elections, and Labour paranoia at the time.  I wonder if Harold WIlson may figure in one of these other books)  Third, he has finished the first book in the Tokyo Trilogy which will be published next year.  It is set in 1946 in American occupied Tokyo and is written from the perspective of a Japanese police officer investigating a crime.  Each of the Trilogy will be set in American controlled post war Japan and be fictionalised accounts of crimes from the perspectives of police officers.

I think he is an important writer and I’m very glad that I have had the opportunity to hear him.  If you get the chance to see him during his brief visit to the UK promoting The Damned Utd he’s well worth catching.

About loveandgarbage

I watch the telly and read when not doing law stuff and plugging my decade and a half old unwatched Edinburgh fringe show.
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2 Responses to Book Festival – David Peace

  1. Many thanks for that post – I’ve often thought that Peace doing Wilson would be rather spectacular, let’s hope he goes for it.
    When are people going to realise that “crime fiction” is producing some of the best literature out there these days? Peace, Pelecanos, Rankin, Ellroy – all are pushing the boundaries of psychology and characterisation in their novels.

    • I’m waiting for the Booker judges to allow a crime book to go on the longlist, never mind shortlist, at some point; and for the Granta Best of Young British novelists list to do likewise. IIRC Peace was the first crime writer to appear on the Granta lists.
      I was pleased to see that various reviewers at the weekend (Telegraph, I think) were criticising the Booker panel for missing Peace.
      I think some people get it (Jonathan Coe reviews appear on various blurbs for Ellroy novels – but then he hates the traditional English novel; and Allan MAssie wrote a fantastic review of Fleshmarket Close); but others sadly do not. There is a review in the recent Scottish Review of Books about Scottish crime fiction considering McBride, Mina, Brookmyre, and Kate Atkinson. Patronising in tone with an implicit suggestion that crime writer should know their place.

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