Published in 1938, this novel sadly still retains much that is relevant. Set in Brighton, the novel revolves around Pinky, a young anti hero and his attempts to take control of a criminal gang. When Charles "Fred" Hale visits Brighton, in the guise of `Kolley Kibber', his task is to leave various flyers around the town to allow readers of the "Daily Messenger" to claim prizes; a cash prize can also be won if he is recognised and challenged. Unfortunately, though, Hale is recognised by Pinky and his gang as being involved in the earlier murder of another criminal, Kite. Realising that his life is in danger, Hale finds fun-loving Ida Arnold on the pier, and tries to keep her with him as a witness - but it isn't enough to save his life.
What follows is a hideous chain of events, in which Pinky attempts by more and more desperate measures to cover up his role in the murder. These involve the naive young waitess, Rose, who is unknowingly a witness. Pinky, has, though, not counted on the determined Ida; who feels that she must obtain justice for the man she knew for such a brief time.
This is a journey through a sordid world of unremitting violence and desperation. Pinky is little more than a child, but, like so many young men who fall in with criminal gangs, he has made it his family and world. He is up against the much wealthier rival gangster Colleoni, reluctance to be seen as a leader from the men in his gang because he is too young, and events which begin to spiral out of control. His desperate need for respect and his loathing of being controlled and manipulated, cause him to become more and more desperate and violent as the book progresses. This novel is timeless - beautifully written, as you would expect, with an ending which still shocks. Not exactly a `joy' to read, but a thought provoking, intelligent and important book.