Top critical review
28 people found this helpful
on 12 March 2004
It's always been a given that David Peace is in hock to another crime writer with the initials J.E. and it's probably also the case that he's sick of hearing about it. However, he can't help but invite comparisons by following up a dark, region-specific quartet of crime books with a broader, more political novel that occurs chronologically after the last book. So this, then, is Peace's 'American Tabloid', and as Ellroy retreated to more conventional prose style after the ultra-lean, hyper-wired, beatnik-isms of 'White Jazz', so too does Peace abandon the more surreal, stylised linguistic curlicues that characterised '1980' and '1983' for a more prosaic, less-frenzied and sadly less poetic approach. This is certainly a pity, as with these last two books he was close to forging a distinctive authorial voice of his own. I, for one, was certainly awaiting his next novel with interest
That said, this novel is far from being a disappointment. In some ways, the Miner’s Strike and it’s various political and contributory sub-strata is perfect subject matter for Peace. Well structured, informative and still topical 20 years after the events it describes, Peace doesn't really put a foot wrong. As someone raised by Tories and who was 8 years old at the time, it certainly made me consider the media portrayal of events that I’ve not thought about for years. Best digested in as few as sittings as possible so as to keep track of the various minions of various trade unions, it has enough ‘secret’ (or ‘occult’, as Peace would have it) history and factual verisimilitude to work on both the intended levels. Occasionally, it’s downright thrilling, if never quite audacious enough to make you drop the book in disbelief at what you’re reading. One just can't help feeling that, while more relevant to UK readers, the subject-matter isn't as epoch-defining as the Bay of Pigs and assassination of JFK, and Arthur Scargill will never have the dark charisma and Wodehousian gift for the acerbic comment that Ellroy ascribes to J. Edgar Hoover.
Again, watching with curiosity to see what subject he moves to next.