The inside story of the miners’ strike? Give me Peace!

by Scott Douglas

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

Red Riding on Channel 4I’ll be glued to the box tonight to watch the first instalment of  Red Riding on Channel 4.

It’s a good few years since I first stumbled on the awkward work of David Peace, starting with 1974, the tilted, erratic, autistically repetitive and nosebleed inducing first volume in his Red Riding Quartet.

Dizzying, disjointed and difficult to read I was compelled by its originality. A fan of crime fiction, it seemed the UK suddenly had a writer of similar style and stature as James Ellroy.

Dysfunctional and gritty, it pivoted on scarily believable characters who were corrupt, venal , unhinged or deranged. All superheated with a literary blowtorch to weld and shape them round the story of the Yorkshire ripper murders.

These days I suspect Peace is best known for his novel based on the legendary football manger Brian Clough and the  short-lived and ill-fated time he  spent in charge of Leeds at Elland Road.

That book, The Damned Utd has turned into a film which will be in cinemas  later this month- but it seems the Red Riding works will be making it to our screens first (Couldn’t help but notice that Scottish media agecny guru Mark Gorman is a fan).

Amazing, really.  When I first started reading Peace, I would have sworn his work was unfilmable.

All of which will make it even more interesting as I sit down to watch the Channel 4 interpretation, wondering if Sean Bean and co will manage to capture Peace’s disturbing portrayal of bent cops, corrupt developers and drunken journalists without resorting to the usual, lazy, small screen stereotypes.

These days Peace  lives in his adopted home, Japan and, I believe, is working on the follow-ups to Tokyo Year Zero.

It’s a  sign of his brilliance that his skewed style and unrelentingly bleak filter of recent history works just as well in ruined, post war Japan as it does in 70s or 80s Yorkshire.

His books are full of foul portents and glowering omens.  So another one struck me today. His first work is being televised on the 25th anniversary of the start of the miners strike which was the making of Margaret Thatcher and the end of the unions as a political power.

Now, guess who wrote a riveting account of that dispute, capturing the debased lunacy of Arthur Scargill, the fevered politics of the Tory machine and the sullied decency of a hungry and manipulated workforce?

Yep. David Peace – and GB84 is probably my favourite of his books.

If you haven’t read any of his novel then this is the time to do so. March, it seems, is most definitely the month of Peace.

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