Noted book and pulp collector Kevin Cook is back to show off another signed item from his shelves, to spotlight another of his favorite writers.
“Perhaps someone will be intrigued enough,” Kevin says, “to give Derek Raymond a try. It would certainly be worth their time. After Nisbet told me about Raymond at NoirCon I found a paperback edition of He Died with His Eyes Open and fairly inexpensive copies of the hardcover first editions of the next four novels in the series.
“Couldn’t locate any hardcover copies of that first book for a few years, though.
“Then one day scrolling through book listings on the internet I found a British dealer selling the book for ten pounds. It was a mint, unread, signed copy, and he obviously had no idea what the book was or who Raymond was. I bought it in a heartbeat of course.”
Jim Nisbet has pushed Raymond for years. My memory is that he knew him personally, which puts Nisbet one degree of separation from the notorious Kray Brothers — again, if memory serves, the Brit noir writer rubbed elbows with the Krays and lived in the same underworld.
Here’s Kevin with a formal statement:
Every time you read an essay, article or biography of Dashiell Hammett a paraphrase of the following statement will appear: Hammett had the perfect background for writing detective/crime fiction because he had previously been a Pinkerton’s Detective.
What about the polar opposite of being a detective? Could a man with a criminal background also be a perfect choice to write crime fiction?
Enter Derek Raymond.
Born on this date in 1931 as Robert William Arthur Cook and known to his friends as Robin, Raymond rebelled against his privileged birth as a member of the British upper class and became a con man. After one con too many he had to leave the UK and ended up living in France.
He had previously published books as Robin Cook, but now hid his identity behind the name Derek Raymond.
His autograph is from the first Raymond book, He Died with His Eyes Open (Martin Secker & Warburg Limited, 1984). That volume is also the first book of his acclaimed Factory Series where Raymond’s unnamed police officer works in the Bureau of Unexplained Deaths.
Jim Nisbet, a noted noir author himself, has stated that Raymond was the world’s finest noir writer. He was speaking about pure noir: misery, corruption, hopelessness and death.
The greatest critical acclaim goes to the fourth book of the Factory series, I Was Dora Suarez, It would be a simplified analysis to describe this book as the British equivalent of Laura, the police officer falling in love with the dead murder victim, because Raymond’s vision is much darker than Vera Caspery’s, and there is no happy ending.
Those last words are not really a spoiler because anyone who had already read the first three Factory novels would not expect the tone of black despair to change.