Nineteen Eighty-Three (Red Riding Quartet Series #4)

Nineteen Eighty-Three (Red Riding Quartet Series #4)

by David Peace


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In Nineteen Eighty-Three, David Peace brings his astonishing series of riveting, gritty crime novels to a shocking conclusion.  With three separate narrators whose paths are on a collision course, Peace makes a dark study of perverted justice, retribution, and urban decay.  Maurice Jobson is a Yorkshire cop whose greed and corruption has rotted the police force to the core; BJ is a local street thug who finds he can no longer safely lurk in the shadows; and John Piggott, a lawyer, is as honest and forthright as they come.  His investigation of a long-cold murder might just be the cure for Yorkshire’s woes, but he’ll need to get through it alive first.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307455130
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/09/2010
Series: Red Riding Quartet Series , #4
Pages: 416
Sales rank: 515,919
Product dimensions: 5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

David Peace is the author of The Red Riding Quartet, GB84, The Damned Utd., Tokyo Year Zero, and Occupied City He was chosen as one of Granta’s 2003 Best Young British Novelists, and has received the James Tait Black Memorial Prize, the German Crime Fiction Award, and the French Grand Prix de Roman Noir for Best Foreign Novel. He lives in Yorkshire.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter 1

'No more dead dogs and slashed swans for us,' whispered Dick Alderman, like this was good news -

It wasn't. It was Day 2:

9.30 a.m. -

Friday 13 May 1983:

Millgarth Police Station, Leeds -


Waiting in the wings -

I pushed open the side door, the Conference Room silent as I led this damned parade out:

Detective Superintendent Alderman and the father, a policewoman and the mother, Evans from Community Affairs and me -

The Owl:

Maurice Jobson; Detective Chief Superintendent Maurice Jobson.

We sat down behind the Formica tables, behind the microphones and the cups of water.

I took off my glasses. I rubbed my eyes -

No bed, no sleep, only this:

The Press Conference -

This same, familiar place again:


I put my glasses back on, thick lenses and black frames. I sat and stared out at my audience -

This same, familiar audience:

These hundred hungry hounds, sweating under their TV lights and deadlines, under the cigarette smoke and last night's ale, their muscles taut and arses clean, tongues out and mouths watering, wanting bones -

Fresh bones.

I switched on the microphone. I reeled back from the inevitable wail.

I coughed once to clear my throat then said: 'Ladies and gentlemen, at approximately 4 p.m. yesterday evening, Hazel Atkins disappeared on her way home from Morley Grange Junior and Infants. Hazel was last seen walking up Rooms Lane towards her home in Bradstock Gardens.'

I took a sip from the warm, still water.

'When Hazel did not return from school, Mr and Mrs Atkins contacted Morley Police and a search was launched early yesterday evening. As some of you are aware, the police were joined in this search by more than one hundred local people. Unfortunately last night's freak weather hampered the search, although it did resume at six o'clock this morning. Given the inclement and unseasonable weather and the fact that Hazel has never gone missing before, we are obviously concerned for her safety and whereabouts.'

Another sip from the warm, still water.

'Hazel is ten years old. She has medium-length dark brown hair and brown eyes. Last night she was wearing light blue corduroy trousers, a dark blue sweater embroidered with the letter H, and a red quilted sleeveless jacket. She was carrying a black drawstring gym bag, also embroidered with the letter H.'

I held up an enlarged colour print of a smiling brown-haired girl. I said: 'Copies of this recent school photograph are being distributed as I speak.'

Again a sip from the warm, still water.

I glanced down the table at Dick Alderman. He touched the father's arm. The father looked up then turned to me.

I nodded.

The father blinked.

I said: 'Mr Atkins would now like to read a short statement in the hope that any member of the public who may have seen Hazel after four o'clock yesterday evening, or who may have any information whatsoever regarding Hazel's whereabouts or her disappearance, will come forward and share this information with Mr and Mrs Atkins and ourselves.'

I slid the microphone down the table to Mr Atkins as the hounds edged in closer, panting and slavering, smelling bones -

His daughter's bones -

The scent strong here, near.

Mr Atkins looked at his wife, his four eyes red from tears and lack of sleep, a night's guilty stubble in clothes damp and crushed, and from out of this mess he stared at the hounds that waited and watched, waited and watched -

His bones.

Mr Atkins said, said with strength: 'I would like to appeal to anybody who knows where our Hazel is or who saw her after four o'clock yesterday to please telephone the police. Please, if you know anything, anything at all, please telephone the police. Please -'

Stop -

'Let her come home.'



Mrs Atkins in tears, shoulders shaking, WPC Martin holding her -

Her husband, Hazel's father, his fingers in his mouth -

He said: 'We miss her. I -'


Silence -

Long, long silence.

I nodded at Dick. He passed the microphone back along the table.

I said: 'That is all the information we have at the moment but, if you would excuse Mr and Mrs Atkins, I will then try and answer any questions you might have.'

I stood up as WPC Martin and Dick took the mother and the father out through the side door, the dogs watching them go, still hungry -

Hungry for bones -


Alone with Evans at the front, I said: 'Gentlemen?'

The stark forest of hands, from their whispers a two-word scream:

'Clare Kemplay . . .'

More bones -

'Coincidence,' I was saying, seeing -

Old bones.

'Coincidence,' I said again, knowing -

There is salvation in no-one else.

Upstairs, a cup of cold tea in one hand: 'Where are the parents?'

Dick Alderman: 'Jim's taken them back to Morley.'

'We should get back over there.'

Dick: 'Take my car?'

I nodded.

Dick put out his cigarette. He reached for his coat.


He turned back round: 'Yeah?'

'Where is all the Kemplay stuff?'


'The Clare Kemplay files.'

'It's a coincidence,' he sighed. 'You said it yourself. What else could it be?'

'Where's the fucking stuff, Dick?'

He shrugged: 'Wood Street, probably.'

'Thank you.'

The Dewsbury Road through Beeston and along the Elland Road until it became Victoria Road and Morley -

Dick driving, me with my eyes closed -

Just the sleet, the windscreen wipers, and the radio:

'Parliament dissolves amidst excitement and relief ahead of 9 June poll; search continues for missing Morley 10-year-old; body of a boy aged three found on Northampton tip; 18-year-old found hanged in police cell; Nilsen to be charged with more murders . . .'

'How many you think he did?' asked Dick -

'Not a clue,' I said, eyes still shut. 'Not a bloody one.'

It was snowing in the middle of May and Hazel Atkins had been missing nineteen hours -


Morley Police Station -

Four o'clock -

The Incident Room:

Maps and a blackboard, markers and chalk, grids and times -

One photograph.

Lists of officers and their territories, lists of houses and their occupants -

Gaskins out in the fields, Ellis on the knocker -

Evans in and out with the press -

Dick Alderman and Jim Prentice sat waiting.

The chalk in my hand, the smudges on my suit -

The egg sandwiches covered in silver foil, uneaten.

I took off my glasses. I wiped them on my handkerchief.

There was nothing more to say:

Outside it was still snowing and Hazel Atkins was still missing -

Twenty-four hours.

Her parents back on a sofa in the cold front room of their dark home -

The curtains not drawn -

All of us lost.

There was a knock at the door -

I looked up.

Dick Alderman: 'Nightcap, boss?'

I shook my head. I closed the file, glasses off and on the desk.

'Clare Kemplay?' Dick said, looking at her file.


'Evening Post mentioned it,' he mumbled.

'Kathryn Williams?'

He nodded.

'What did she say?'

'Nine years ago, same school,' he shrugged, 'Bit about Myshkin.'

'What about him?'

'The usual bollocks.'

I picked up my glasses. I put them back on, the thick lenses and the black frames. I sat and stared up into his eyes, thinking -

I am the Owl:

I am the Owl and I see from behind these lenses thick and frames black, see through everything -

Unblinking -

The usual bollocks -


Chapter 2

New Hope for Britain:

Saturday 14 May 1983 -


Fog and sleet from Wakefield to here:

Park Lane Special Hospital, Merseyside -

A rotten, un-fresh place.

You switch off the radio and the election debate and wind down your window.

'I'm here to see Michael Myshkin,' you say to the guard at the gate.

'And you are?'

'John Piggott.'

The guard looks down at the clipboard in his hands, tilting it towards him to keep the rain off: 'John Winston Piggott?'

You nod.

'His solicitor?'

You nod again, even less sure.

He hands you a plastic visitor's tag: 'Follow the road round to the main building and the car park. Report to reception inside. They'll take you from there.'

'Thank you.'

You drive up the black wet road to a low grey building, modern and barred. You park and get out into the dismal cold light, the sleet and the rain. You push a buzzer and wait outside the metal door to the main building. There is a loud click then the sound of an alarm. You pull open the door and step inside a steel cage. You show the plastic visitor's tag to the guard on the other side of the bars and tell him your name. He bangs twice on one of the bars with a black and shining truncheon. Another set of locks moves back. Another alarm sounds and you are through to the reception area. Another guard gives you a slip of paper with a number. He nods at a bench. You walk over and sit down between a couple of old people and a woman with a crying child.

You sit and you wait in the grey and damp room, grey and damp with the smell of people who have travelled hundreds of miles along grey and damp motorways to be told by overweight men in grey and damp uniforms with black and shining truncheons to wait on grey and damp government seats for nothing but more bad news, grey and damp, as the bolts and the locks slide back and forth and the alarms sound and the numbers are called and the old people stand up and sit back down and the child cries and cries until a voice from a desk by the door shrieks: 'Twenty-seven'.

The child has stopped crying and its mother is looking at you.


You stand up.

'Number twenty-seven!'

At the desk you say: 'John Piggott to see Michael Myshkin.'

A woman in a grey uniform runs her wet, bitten finger down a biro list, sniffs and says: 'Purpose of visit?'

'His mother asked me to come and see him.'

She sniffs again and looks up at you: 'Family?'

'No,' you say. 'I'm a solicitor.'

'Legal then?' she spits at you with sudden English hate, crisp and vicious.

You nod, vaguely afraid.

She hands you back your visitor's pass: 'First time?'

You nod again, her breath old and close.

'The patient will be brought to the visitors' room and a member of staff will be present throughout the visit. Visits are limited to forty-five minutes. You will both be seated at a table and are to remain seated throughout the course of the visit. You are to refrain from any physical contact and are not to pass anything directly to the patient. Anything you wish to give the patient must be done so through this office and can only be one of the items on this approved list,' she says and hands you a photocopied piece of A4.

'Thank you,' you smile.

'Return to your seat and wait for a member of staff to escort you to the visiting area.'

'Thank you,' you say again and do as you are told.

Thirty minutes and a paper swan later, a lanky guard with spots of blood upon his collar says: 'John Winston Piggott?'

You stand up.

'This way.'

You follow him to another door and another lock, another alarm and a ringing bell, through the door and up an overheated and overlit grey corridor.

At another set of double doors, he pauses and says: 'Know the drill?'

You nod.

'Keep seated, no physical contact, no passing of goods, ciggies, whatever,' he says anyway.

You nod again.

'I'll tell you when your time's up,' he says. 'If you've had enough, just say so.'

'Thank you.'

The guard then punches a code into a panel on the wall.

An alarm sounds and he pulls open the door: 'Ladies first.'

You step into a small room with a grey carpet and grey walls, two plastic tables each with two plastic chairs.

There are no windows, just one other door opposite -

No tea and biscuits here.

'Sit down,' says the guard.

You sit down in the grey plastic chair with your back to the grey door through which you've just come. You lean forward, arms on the marked plastic surface of the grey plastic table, eyes on the door opposite.

The guard takes a chair from the other table and sits down behind you.

You turn to ask him: 'What's he like then, Myshkin?'

The man looks over at the door then back at you and winks: 'Pervert, same as rest of them.'

'He violent, is he?'

'Only with his right hand,' he mimes.

You laugh and turn back round and there he is, right on cue -

As if by magick -

In a pair of grey overalls and grey shirt, enormous with a head twice as large:

Michael John Myshkin, murderer of children.

You've stopped laughing.

Michael Myshkin in the doorway, spittle on his chin.

'Hello,' you say.

'Hello,' Myshkin smiles, blinking.

His guard pushes him forwards into the grey plastic chair opposite you, then closes the door and takes the last chair to sit behind Myshkin.

Michael Myshkin looks up at you.

You stop staring.

Myshkin looks back down at the grey plastic table.

'My name is John Piggott,' you say. 'I used to live in Fitzwilliam, near you. I'm a solicitor now and your mother asked me to come and talk to you about an appeal.'

You pause.

Michael Myshkin is patting down his dirty yellow hair with his fat right hand, the hair thin and black with oil.

'An appeal is a very lengthy and costly procedure, involving a lot of time and different people,' you continue. 'So before any firm embarks upon such a course on behalf of a client, we have to be very sure that there are sufficient grounds for an appeal and that there is a great likelihood of success. And even this costs a lot of money.'

You pause again.

Myshkin looks up at you.

You ask him: 'Do you understand what I'm saying?'

He wipes his right hand on his overalls and smiles at you, his pale blue eyes blinking in the warm grey room.

'You do understand what I'm saying?'

Michael Myshkin nods once, still smiling, still blinking.

You turn to the guard sat behind you: 'Is it OK if I take some notes?'

He shrugs and you take a spiral notebook and biro from out of your carrier bag.

You flick open the pad and ask Myshkin: 'How old are you, Michael?'

He glances round at the guard sat behind him then back at you and whispers: 'Twenty-two.'


He blinks, smiles, and nods again.

'Your mother told me you were thirty.'

'Outside,' he whispers, the index finger of his left hand to his wet lips.

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Nineteen Eighty-Three (Red Riding Quartet Series #4) 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
arubabookwoman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
These books (1974, 1977, 1980, 1nd 1983) collectively constitute The Red Riding Hood Quartet, a series of crime novels based on the Yorkshire Ripper murders. I had read the first in the series, Nineteen Seventy-four last year, and thought it would be a simple matter to pick up with Nineteen Seventy-seven (which BTW is on the 1001 list) and proceed. However, I soon determined that I needed to reread Nineteen Seventy-four, which I did, and when I finished Nineteen Seventy-seven, I had to immediately go onto Nineteen Eighty and then Nineteen Eighty-three. I can't remember when I've read so many books by the same author in such a concentrated amount of time. (I devoured these over several days). In my view, these four books can only be read as one novel.The first book in the series is narrated by a novice crime reporter, and concerned the solving of a series of child murders, some of which occurred several years before 1974, when the book is set. It is grim and bleak, and about terrible people doing terrible things. In this book, we are introduced to some of the corrupt policemen who are the core of this series.Nineteen Seventy-seven is narrated by Jack Whitehead, a senior crime reporter who had made an appearance in the first book as the arrogant, wisecracking rival of the narrator in the first book. Now that we are in his mind, we can see that he is a psychological wreck, with self-induced demons haunting him.Whitehead's sections alternate with sections narrated by Bobby Fraser, a policeman who made a brief but important appearance in the first book. In that book, he was a rookie, and was ethical with a sense of fair play. Three years later, he is unrecognizable--corrupt and violent.In Nineteen Seventy-seven the Ripper murders begin, but are not solved. As in Nineteen Seventy-four, the narrative flows freely back and forth in time, and is for the most part in stream of consciousness. It is again a novel without a hero, full of terrible people.In Nineteen Eighty the murders continue, and we meet the first character we can like. Peter Hunter, an investigator from another district, is sent to review the Ripper investigation to determine whether the failure to solve the case is due to incompetence, or to some clue that has been overlooked. Again the narrative travels loosely back and forth in time, and more and more of the rampant police corruption becomes known to the reader.Each of these first three novels ends with a huge bang, although we sometimes are not entirely sure what actually happened. It is not until the ensuing book that we are entirely aware of what happened, and the ramifications it has for the characters and the investigation.Nineteen Eight-three is narrated from the pov of three characters. John Piggot, a sleazy solicitor who is trying to prove that the man convicted of the child murders in the first book was framed, narrates his sections in the first person. BJ, a "rent boy" who has made appearances in the first three novels, narrates his sections, referring to himself in the second person. The final sections are told from the point of view of a corrupt police official.Nineteen Eight-three winds and unwinds, not unlike a symphonic exposition, all the threads begun in the first novel. It shifts back and forth in time over nearly twenty years. As in the first three novels, it also ends with a bang, and again we are not quite sure of all of the ramifications. Unfortunately, there will be no succeeding books to enlighten us.These four novels are amazing. They are not, however, for everyone. There are obscenties on every page. Brutality and violence abound, sometimes graphicly described. Everyone is corrupt. The novels are bleak, gritty, cynical and despairing. If this description doesn't bother you, I highly recommend these books. Read as one, they are a masterpiece.
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