Having assaulted our senses with his Yorkshire Ripper quartet DAVID PEACE is
now banging the drum for the 20th anniversary of the miners’ strike.
Words: Brian Donaldson
hen yott think of the epoch-making events
in British political history over the last 20
years. a few spring immediately to mind. Black Thursday. Maggie‘s resignation. the poll tax riots. John Smiths death and the Major/Currie interface are a few of the heavier turning points. Bttt all of those critical scenarios pale into utter insignilicance when put up against the miners‘ strike of l984. At no time in living memory was the country at such loggerheads as two opposing dogmas came into violent confrontation and so many futures were put on the line. The scars of that conflict can still be seen all over the country as the death of the mining industry signified an even larger seismic shift in the British social fabric.
Yet for such a landmark year. the cultural landscape hasn't exactly been littered with art marking the time. Barry Kes Hines. Our Friends in the North and Billy [fl/int have tackled the subject and (‘hannel 4 broadcast a reconstruction of the Battle of ()rgrcave last year. More recently. both (‘4 and the Beeb did their versions of ‘I Love the 198-1 Miners' Strike’. But that. comrades. is about it. David Peace. the subject of a recent edition of (‘4's The Art Show. has closed the book on his Red Riding Quartet which got stuck into the dark years when the Yorkshire Ripper stalked the land and haunted our dreams. to give us (i884.
The book is a typically blistering Peace text with stream-of—consciousness. brutal violence. a multi- voiced narrative. fictional words and made-up characters being placed into factual scenarios and an intense literary imagination which has had the likes of lan Rankin dubbing Peace ‘the linglish lillroy‘. That’s the kind of tag that can help or hinder a very
102 THE LIST l‘i l at) .1 Mar QUIZ-2
‘ON MY BIGHEADED DAYS, I LIKE TO THINK OF MYSELF AS . iinicentrated feeling of that time here.‘ BEST CRIME WRITER IN BRITAIN' 1”“
modern crime writer. ‘I get those comparisons a lot.‘ states Peace on the phone from his home in Japan. a country he‘s lived in for a decade. ‘lle‘s obviously had a big influence on me but in terms of British crime writing. you have to pitch yourself against
Rankin. ()n my bigheaded days. I like to think of
myself as the second best crime writer in Britain.~ lt‘s perhaps odd to think that the Yorkshire-born writer only started writing about his home region when he moved to Japan. It‘s a distance thing. both physically and psychologically. ‘A few years ago after my daughter was born. we came back to Yorkshire for about four months for me to recharge my batteries.’ he recalls. ‘But I just couldn‘t write. Because I write about specific years and of very specific time frames within those years. being in Japan allows me to build tip an uninterrupted imaginary 1974 or IDS-l. easier for tne to have at
And with (i884. Peace is hoping to dump some ghosts. Aged l7 in 198-1. he was in the middle of his A levels playing in a band which
performed at miners' benefit gigs.
Peace rattled buckets with the best of them. ‘Although l was in the centre of it. I don't think I ever really understood how momentous it all was until I spoke to people who‘d been on strike for the whole year. I felt this overwhelming sense of guilt. That wasn't the reason I began the book but it was certainly one of the things that made me want to make it as powerful as possible.‘
6884 is published by Faber, Thu 4 Mar, £12.99. David Peace will be reading at Borders, Glasgow, Tue 24 Feb, 6pm.
Putting debut writers under the microscope. This issue: Sophie Cooke
Who she? Edinburgh-based Scots author Sophie Cooke first sprang to attention from that well-trodden new writing launchpad. the Macallan/ Scotland on Sunday Short Story Award. Her 3000-word short. the pithily entitled ‘Why You Should Not Put Your Hand Through the Ice' was runner-up in the competition and. thanks to a £2000 Scottish Arts Council New Writer's bursary, would later form the opening chapter of her debut novel.
Her debut The Glass House is narrated by 14-year-old Vanessa — middle daughter of a well-to-do family — who has recently been expelled from private school. After starting at Crieff High. with both sisters away at school and her father working overseas, Vanessa becomes the target for her disappointed. self-centred mother's escalating violent rage. Down—to- earth local lad Alan provides Vanessa with temporary respite from her mother's erratic behaviour and clandestine affair but. as her adolescence wears on. and her family unit crumbles around her. Vanessa increasingly finds that she can only seek solace within herself. Any good? Cooke's debut is one of those artful works that starts out innocuously enough. then craftin whips the carpet of expectation from under its unsuspecting readers’ feet. What remains is a compelling portrait of a seemingly well-heeled family's gradual descent into chaos, rendered all the more shocking by its troubled heroine's detached. dispassionate, self-deluded narration.
First line test ‘Her voice is going like a kettle. faster and faster, higher and higher, a squawking song.’ (Allan Radcliffe)
I The Glass House is published by Hutchinson on Thu 4 Mar, priced £72. 99.