”What wrecked it all were two things: honesty and sex. Duffy, like most coppers, had a slightly flexible approach to the truth. You had to if you wanted to survive: not survive as a copper, but survive within yourself. The zealots who saw truth as indivisible ended up either A10 or the cuckoo farm. Most of the time you stuck to the truth as closely as you could, but were prepared to bend with the breeze if necessary. Sometimes, for instance, it might be necessary to tell a little lie, fiddle your notebook just a bit, in order to make sure that a much bigger lie didn’t get to pass itself off as the truth. On those occasions you felt bad for a bit, though you knew you didn’t have any choice in the matter.
But Duffy, like most coppers, knew that you always drew a line somewhere. You might tidy up your verbals a bit, fiddle your evidence slightly, forget a little something, but you always knew why you were doing it: you were fixing the record in favor of justice…”
Dan Kavanagh is the pen name of Julian Barnes, that prize-winning novelist we all admire so well. Here he allows his imagination to run free among the whores, bent coppers, dirty-bookshop owners, and crime lords in London’s Soho district and shows us once again his extraordinary talent. First published in 1986, this short novel (how I appreciate Barnes’ brevity once again) showcases Barnes’ sense of humor, his broad sense of inclusion, and his deep knowledge of human motivation.
This is the seedier side of London, but at no point do we feel the despair one might expect to find. Rather, a burble of laughter percolates gently through wild scenes of double-crosses and paybacks, with our bi-sexual ex-copper Duffy showing us the way.
”McKechnie rose to shake hands with Duffy. He was a bit surprised how short the security man was, but he looked quite strong. He also looked a bit of a faggot to McKechnie’s eye. He wondered about that gold stud in his ear. Was it just fashion, or was it some sort of sexual signal? McKechnie didn’t know any more. In the old days you knew precisely where you were: all the codes were worked out, you could tell who did and who didn’t, who was and who wasn’t. Even a few years ago you could still not go wildly wrong; but nowadays the only way of being quite sure who was what and who did what was when you asked your secretary to clean your glasses and she took off her knickers to do it with.”
As far as I know, Barnes only wrote four Duffy novels, all published in the 1980s. They can be purchased individually or as an Omnibus. This is a tasty treat for those who admire a well-written crime story from someone with a devilish sense of funny.
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