Caught by the River

Pleasures of….July

6th August 2011

Jeff Barrett


Waterline by Ross Raisin
The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan (“Spiky roadkill blemished Brian Clough Way. They drove out from under the weather, the clouds like blue ink from a black ink pen, petroleum rainbows climbing up the spray”)

But my favourite is City of the Dead by Sara Gran, a thriller, in fact the best hard-boiled thriller that I’ve read in years. I’m indebted to the publisher, Angus Cargill at Faber & Faber, for sending me a copy of this book because I’m not sure I’d have picked it up otherwise. The cover is such a ‘mystery novel’ cliché that I fear it mightn’t find the audience it needs to start the word spreading; which would be a real shame because what’s inside is hip, complex and unique. Hopefully it will get the recognition it deserves and the cover will help it shift millions in airport bookshops around the world.
In a nutshell: Set in New Orleans. A female detective is hired to find a guy that’s been missing believed dead since Katrina trashed the place and destroyed the lives of those who live there. So far, so straight, but here’s the deal: Claire DeWitt, is a damaged, drugged-up, I-Ching rolling private eye, coming along in 2011, she sits pretty neatly alongside contemporary anti-heroines Sara Lund (The Killing) and Laure Berthaud (Spiral). Her quest to find this missing guy is mentally assisted by a book called Detection, the only book written by French detective, Jacques Sillette. This book informs her life, and as it happens several of those around her. (So, what we, the readers, get is a book within a book. If that sounds complicated, it isn’t, but I know if I try to explain it, it will be. Trust me, it works. In fact, Detection is brilliant and I can’t help but wonder if Sara Gran has written it as a whole book. Hope so).

New Orleans is ever present and she writes about the place and it’s characters with a real fondness, but one that is informed by anger at just how corrupt and fucked up the place has become. This quote kind of sums it up:

“People kill each other everywhere. The difference was that in New Orleans, no one tried to stop them. The cops blamed the DA and the DA blamed the cops. The schools blamed the parents and the parents blamed the schools. White people blamed black people and black people blamed white people. In the meantime, everyone went on killing each other.”

Dark days, and obviously this book isn’t a laugh a minute, but if you have ever enjoyed the masters of late twentieth century crime writing – Elmore Leonard, James Crumley, Charles Willeford – or the aforementioned TV dramas (plus The Wire), you are seriously going to dig this. (it’s on sale from our shop, priced £9.00)

I also recommend a regular visit to the Abbott Gran Old Tyme Medicine Show. A blog that SG does with fellow author Megan Abbott.


Love this. What a band.

True Soul Volume 1 and True Soul: Deep Sounds From the Left of Stax (both on Now Again/Stones Throw)
Two collections of rare and mindblowing Southern soul & funk, including DVDs featuring live footage.

[audio:|titles=13 (It’s A) Rat Race (Instrumental)]

I’ve also been listening to a lot of Jack Nitzsche, an artist that still manages to take my breath away. Highly recommended are the two Hearing Is Believing comps on Ace, but I’ve been particularly enjoying his soundtrack to One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, from which I’ve lifted this track:

[audio:|titles=08 Play The Game]

And it hasn’t all been about staying in either. As previously reported, Port Eliot was a blast but so was our night at The Stag in Hampstead on July 6th. Martin Noble and Luke Turner talking Sea Power and Moor walking, Rob Penn, Nick Hand and the hilarious Mike Carter talking bike made for a really good evening of top entertainment. Plus, The Stag proved to be the best venue yet. The Caught by the River Social club has found a new home. Watch this space.