‘the crimz & the killers & the nonsiz & the rapiss & the arsoniss & shit’

Christopher Tayler

  • Canteen Culture by Ike Eze-anyika
    Faber, 295 pp, £9.99, March 2000, ISBN 0 571 20079 6
  • Charlieunclenorfolktango by Tony White
    Codex, 158 pp, £7.95, December 1999, ISBN 1 899598 13 8
  • Filth by Irvine Welsh
    Vintage, 392 pp, £5.99, August 1999, ISBN 0 09 959111 1

Fictional representations of real events from Hillsborough to the Stephen Lawrence case – mostly in the form of plays and television dramas – have played a surprisingly large part in shaping national debates about the police and police culture. Novels, however, tend either to use the figure of the detective to investigate larger questions than those of routine police work, or to fall back on the conventional oppositions (efficiency and incompetence, probity and graft) which tend to prop up the morphology of the fictional plod. When three novels emerge which explicitly or implicitly claim to deal with questions of police power and its abuses, it’s hard not to hope for something more than straightforward inversions of the mythic neighbourhood bobby. Unfortunately, the only one of these books with any insight into the daily grind of law enforcement and the attitudes it engenders is a failure as a novel; the other two, no masterpieces themselves, content themselves with posturing and caricature.

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