He Died with His Eyes Open (Factory Series #1)

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From a cult British author - a riveting, gruesome crime drama

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He Died with His Eyes Open (Factory Series #1)

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Overview

From a cult British author - a riveting, gruesome crime drama

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
A noir-drenched British import about a nameless cop chasing the killer of an unmourned victim. With a flat wallet and shabby clothes, it's clear that the corpse is a throwaway. Nobody cares except for a nameless detective sergeant in the London Metropolitan Police's Department of Unexplained Deaths, a place where lost souls sometimes get justice. The victim has two posthumous pieces of luck: The nameless cop is unusually smart, and he's famously obsessed. When the brutalized corpse is found half-buried in the shrubbery fronting the Word of God House, with all signs marking him as a derelict, Homicide wastes no time before delegating the case. In his patented, inexorable fashion, the sergeant goes to work, and four days later, the derelict has been unveiled as Charles Staniland, a writer who left behind a bonanza of pages and tapes, furnishing insights into a life that was often tortured and ultimately wasted. But Charlie's words and thoughts resonate with the man investigating his murder. He listens, reads, empathizes and finally acts in a way that has practically nothing to do with law enforcement and everything to do with retribution. Originally published in 1984 as the first of a series of six quintessentially bleak novels that faithfully evoke a world many sensitive souls will be pleased to avoid.
From the Publisher
Praise for Derek Raymond's Factory Series

"Unrelenting existentialist noir—as if the most brutal of crime fictions had been recast by Sartre, Camus, or Ionesco while retaining something of the intimate wise-guy tone of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett."
—Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

"It’s one of the darkest and most surrealistically hard-boiled things I’ve ever read. The detective is at least as scary as the murderers he’s chasing."
—William Gibson, bestselling author of Neuromancer

"There remains no finer writing—crime or otherwise —about the state of Britain."
—David Peace, author of "The Red Riding Quartet."

"No one claiming interest in literature truly written from the edge of human experience, no one wondering at the limits of the crime novel and of literature itself, can overlook these extraordinary books."
—James Sallis, author of Drive

"The Factory novels are certainly the most viscerally imagined of their kind that I've ever read, or reread multiple times. Derek Raymond wrote in a supposedly escapist genre in a manner that precluded any hope of escape."
—Scott Phillips, bestselling author of The Ice Harvest

"I Was Dora Suarez blew me away—beyond hard boiled."
—Patton Oswalt

"More Chandleresque than Chandler... [Raymond] could write beautifully...and, more importantly, what he is writing about in this novel are nothing less than the important subjects any writer can deal with: mortality and death."
—Will Self

“A crackerjack of a crime novel, unafraid to face the reality of man’s and woman’s evil.”
Evening Standard

"The beautiful, ruthless simplicity of the Factory novels is that Raymond rewrites the basic ethos of the classic detective novel."
—Charles Taylor, The Nation

"Hellishly bleak and moving."
—New Statesman

The Barnes & Noble Review

Derek Raymond is the pen name of Robert "Robin" Cook (1931–93), who was born into the British upper class but chose to live among addicts, gangsters, killers, and coppers. Cook ran rackets for London's infamous Kray Gang and, as Raymond, earning the title Godfather of British Noir with his four Factory novels — republished in the United States by Melville House — crime fiction so dark that it remains viscerally shocking.

The 1970s/1980s London that Raymond conjures is dank and claustrophobic. His protagonist, a nameless Detective Sergeant, works in the Unexplained Deaths Department of the Metropolitan Police in a building known as the Factory, handling cases passed over by more ambitious detectives. "?I can get on with it, as a rule, almost entirely on my own," the Sergeant explains in The Devil's Home on Leave, "without a load of keen idiots tripping all over my feet." There is something of Bertie Wooster in that genteel sentence. But if Raymond recalls Wodehouse — in his laconic wit, his comic timing, and his nostalgia for a vanished Britain — it is Wodehouse in Hades. "?I stepped back with a last glance at his face," the Sergeant says of the mutilated corpse at the heart of He Died with His Eyes Open. "They had left some of it, I will say, whoever they were. It wasn't a strong face, but one that had seen everything and then not understood it until it was too late."

The opening scene of that novel contains elements that become familiar, but never stale, in subsequent novels: a filthy street, a destroyed corpse, a showdown between the beat cop who moves "with a controlled restlessness, cherishing his fists," and the sardonic, fearless Sergeant. Here, an audio diary kept by the victim leads the Sergeant into the man's past, where an erotic entanglement reveals the foul truth behind the killing. Lean and relentless, He Died with His Eyes Open is a moody sketch of a society in which the spirit of Dunkirk has been replaced by the doctrine of Margaret Thatcher.

The Devil's Home on Leave, arguably Raymond's most chilling novel, is an intimate study of McGruder, an ex-soldier turned psychopath. In one of several conversations during which McGruder describes his own exceptional nature, the Sergeant suddenly realizes "what hell it meant not only to be a killer, but a bore. You think nothing of taking life; but your own existence fascinates you?" The novel's tight plot hinges on espionage and is enriched, as always, by Raymond's incidental descriptions — of an April evening, for example, ("The weather had turned sick") or a pompous suspect ("...everything looked honest in that room except him.").

How the Dead Live takes the Sergeant into "what passed for rural Britain now," where the wife of an impoverished aristocrat has disappeared. As the novel develops from a curdled version of a country weekend mystery into a gothic nightmare, it takes us deeper into the Sergeant's desolate heart. "My conception of knowledge is grief and despair," he confesses, and we believe him. He loves his sweet sister, his incarcerated wife, and his dead child, and mourns his country. "The best went into the two wars and stayed there," an old soldier tells him. Only the dregs remain.

This theme, the fate of innocence in such a world, is monstrously portrayed in I Was Dora Suarez, the most complete distillation of Raymond's vision — more hallucination than fiction — which even the toughest readers may find unbearable.

Anna Mundow writes "The Interview" and the "Historical Novels" columns for The Boston Globe and is a contributor to The Irish Times.

Reviewer: Anna Mundow

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345342898
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 8/28/1998
  • Series: Factory Series , #1
  • Pages: 230
  • Sales rank: 407,298
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 13 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 13 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Violaclaw and Clarinettail READ THIS TO FIND OUT WHAT THE BOOK IS ABOUT

    To find out what this book is about, go to editorial reveiws. Theres one reveiw there that tells what the book is about.~Violaclaw and Clarinettail SOUR GRAPE SOUR GRAPE SOUR GRAPE

    6 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2012

    Really.

    If you havent read the book, then dont rate it. Like really.

    5 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 6, 2012

    Worst book I've read this year

    Perfectly dreadful: incoherent, poorly plotted, drivel. Can't imagine how this got published.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2014

    Well-writte

    Gritty. beautifully written.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2013

    Existential dread you can taste

    This story is the mental eqiuvalent of chewing on tinfoil with your fillings! Dark, squalid and brilliant. An exhausting study of the banality of evil in the world.
    Masterful and unforgettable. Not for the sensitive!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2012

    Compelling read

    I think "noir" is a misnomer, and it was written before Thatcher came to power, but other than getting a little overblown toward the end, it is excellent and highly recommended.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 4, 2012

    Good

    It was well writen and had a good concept to it. By the way, the information on where to find a good summary was helpful, it helped me know enough about the book to buy it. Thank you.

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    Posted June 20, 2012

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    Posted October 1, 2013

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