Having seen the original 1971 classic film version of "Get Carter" umpteen times over the years it was impossible for the film portrayals not to completely inform the story's characters in my mind's eye. This familiarity also meant the story held few surprises (though there are some interesting points of divergence). I would rather have approached this book without these preconceptions.
Like you need me to tell you, this is a classic 'avenging angel' tale, and Jack Carter, the avenging angel, will not rest until there is full restitution for some serious sins.
Putting the film to one side, the book stands on its own merits. What Ted Lewis achieves brilliantly, in common with all great genre fiction, is to say something else about the world. In this instance he evokes the late 1960s, and the Britain I remember vividly as I grew up in the 1970s. A violent, bored, depressed place trying to come to terms with the slow death of traditional industries and pre-War certainties.
Ted Lewis also skewers that ambiguous strata of society where criminality and respectability combine. This a world where very nasty things happen - brutality, exploitation and casual violence are the norm. "Get Carter" nails the grim humour, the squalor, the boozers, the snooker halls, the fights whilst telling his compelling tale of revenge and family loyalty. The reason the film is such an enduring classic is because Ted Lewis wrote "Jack's Return Home" (retitled "Get Carter" after the film was released), a perfect crime novel, and essential reading.
Anyone who enjoys this book, and is looking for something with similar qualities, should read Derek Raymond's Factory novels.