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He Died with His Eyes Open Paperback – 14 Sep 2006


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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Serpent's Tail; New Ed edition (14 Sept. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852427965
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852427962
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 184,380 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

?A crackerjack of a crime novel, unafraid to face the reality of man?s and woman?s evil? Evening Standard ?A mixture of thin-lipped Chandleresque backchat and of idioms more icily subversive? Observer

A pioneer of British noir? No one has come near to matching his style or overwhelming sense of sadness? Raymond's world is uniformly sinister, his language strangely mannered. He does not strive for accuracy, but achieves an emotional truth all his own. (Marcel Berlins The Times)

Cook's prose can make amazing stylistic leaps without once losing its balance? He anticipates James Ellroy and David Peace, among others, in this terrifying determination to disclose the skull beneath the skin? a supreme example of how nasty Britain actually is. (Time Out ?Witty perceptive and well written? Big Issue)

Book Description

The first novel in Derek Raymond's Factory detective crime series

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He was found in the shrubbery in front of the Word of God House in Albatross Road, West Five. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Rimbaud on 7 July 2007
Format: Paperback
Derek Raymond was the pseudonym of Robin Cook (used to avoid confusion with the medical thriller writer of the same name) who, despite his upper class background, ended up involved in the demimonde of criminality, alcoholism and drug abuse. He wrote 5 crime novels in his 'Factory' series as well as several other non-series novels set in Soho and France where he lived for a long time. The books were published from the 60s until early 90s (he died in 1994).

This book is the first in the 'Factory' series (the 'Factory' is the name given by cops and criminals to the police station) where the unnamed detective works for the department of Unexplained Deaths. This department has to deal with the 'lowest' murders i.e. those of the poor, the unimportant and the marginalised. In this investigation the detective gradually becomes obsessed with a sad middle-aged nobody who has been found kicked to death. Details of the victim's background are revealed by writings and tapes that he has left behind and which come to haunt the driven detective. The style is lean, terse and very dark despite the occasional lyrical flourish and leavening of the mood with black humour and the usual sharp dialogue. The atmosphere is grim and unsettling and many of the characters are deeply dislikeable but this is still strangely compelling, well-plotted and with a slightly bizarre but satisfying conclusion. Raymond's dark vision makes him the first truly modern noir British writer (continuing a tradition of Graham Greene, Gerald Kersh and Patrick Hamilton et al.) and his is a singular voice that has contemporary echoes in the work of writers such as James Ellroy, Ian Rankin, Ken Bruen and especially David Peace. If you like your fiction dark and sparse, this is an excellent writer to try.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Adrian Maxwell on 30 Jan. 2015
Format: Paperback
Published in 1984 this book and the author Derek Raymond (Robin Cook) have never really got off the ground despite the heroic and strained efforts of fans and reviewers to push the author's body of work. This is an extract of a non Amazon review of HDWHEO - 'The drunk's (the deceased) attempts to embrace the blinding inner light of our own regrets, failures and weaknesses are symbolised by his relationship with Barbara. Like life, Babsy is beautiful, distant and horrifyingly cold. She has utter contempt for even a moment's weakness and responds only to those that are willing to throw caution and principle to the wind and force her into the shape they desire. Those who show emotional weakness in the face of her glacial fury are ground up into little pieces as though trapped in the gears of some sinister and gigantic machine'.

If I had read this sort of thing before buying the book I would never have handed over the £8.99.

Derek Raymond is pushed as the father of British crime noir and, indeed, he is compared with Conrad (Heart of Darkness). But Raymond's fans have to ignore the bedrock of crime writing in the 1930s and 1940s - Graham Greene (Brighton Rock 1938) and Eric Ambler. Raymond's place in noir is unrealistic.

I found this work a great disappointment. It started well with the starkly drawn characters of the unnamed policeman and the deceased. London is portrayed well with a sense of post war recovery and policing as a canvas of cynical, predictable, disinterested, investigative steps. However, the book quickly moves into an exploration of the policeman's life and mores. Said in that sense, for me, the novel ceased to be a crime thriller and more a journey into a heart of shade and grime.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By The JBP on 13 Nov. 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a brilliant book, quite frankly one of the best I have ever read. The plot is simple and yet effective and Raymond avoids the usual clichés that can come with a police procedural. Instead he opts for almost a psychological portrait of his nameless detective who slowly becomes obsessed with the victim and immerses himself in his life.

Like the best noir, almost all the characters are disagreeable and unpleasant human beings while Raymond's hero is as flawed an anti-hero as any.

This is a brilliant book and I would urge anyone who likes their fiction realistic and gritty to read this book.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Herman Norford on 27 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had not heard of Derek Raymond, a pseudonym for Robin Cook, until I read an article in The Guardian Weekend Review about the detective/crime novel. But then it was not too surprising that I had not heard of Raymond because I am not normally a reader of the detective novel. However, I was impressed and struck by the piece in the article that covered Raymond's writing so I thought I would read one of his novels. I chose the first novel, He Died with his Eyes Open, from the factory series. I must say that my first positive impression from the article was borne out on reading the novel.

Raymond takes as his hero a nameless first person narrator. He is a 40 year old sergeant detective who works for the Metropolitan police in the department of unexplained death. He casts himself in opposition to some of his colleagues who work in the serious crime division, known as the factory to the criminals. The novel begins with the discovery of a male dead body. Bowman from the serious crime squad is on the scene but because the deceased, Charles Locksley Alwin Staniland, appears to belong to people of low social status our nameless detective knows that Bowman and his team will not be interested in investigating the murder so the case is passed to the sergeant. The investigation opens a window upon a cast of mainly low life criminals. To investigate the crime the sergeant probes these characters and makes use of letters and tape recordings left by the deceased, Staniland. Furthermore, through reading the letters and listening to the recordings and odd symbiotic relationship is drawn between the detective and the Staniland's memories.

The narration is delivered by the sergeant detective with great social awareness and observations and a tone that is caustic and cutting.
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