The year is 1977. The Yorkshire Ripper is on the loose murdering prostitutes in the Yorkshire city of Leeds. Two men-a journalist and cop-find their own lives turned over in the desperate race against time to stop the murders. The second volume of a quartet which covers a period of ten years, Nineteen Seventy Seven confirms the promise of Nineteen Seventy Four, David Peace's first novel.
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Born in Leeds, Yorkshire, David Peace now lives in Tokyo where he teaches English as a foreign language.
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Nineteen Seventy Four
PB $14.00, 1-85242-634-9 o CUSA
The book is divided into 5 parts, respectively titled BODIES (chapters 1-5), POLICE AND THIEVES (the ch. 6-10), GOD SAVE THE QUEEN (ch. 11-15), WHAT’S MY NAME? (ch.16-20) and THE DAMNED (21-25).
The headings refer to the summer of 1977 (when “the two 7 clash”, as often reported in the book) during the Jubilee celebration and the explotion of Punk, and they have strong links with iconic punk songs/groups. BODIES is a 1977 song by The Sex Pistols about abortion; POLICE AND THIEVES a 1977 cover by the Clash comparing the ones (goodies) to the others (baddies) and stating that they are just the same; GOD SAVE THE QUEEN is the Sex Pistols song launched to celebrate the Queen’s 25 Jubilee; WHAT’S MY NAME? is a 1977 song by the Clash about domestic violence and finally THE DAMNED refers both to the name of the punk band and to their eponymous 1977 debut album.
The compelling story is alternatively told by the (clean) Detective Sergeant Bob Fraser from Milligarth Police Station in Leeds and the famed Yorkshire Post journalist Jack Whitehouse (the one who first coined the expression Yorshire Ripper). Both narratives are insterspersed with fragments from their disastrous personal lives and haunting ghosts from a tumultuous past.
CH. 1 (Fraser’s) - The dead body of prostitute Marie Watts is found in what seems to be another victim of the so-called Yorshire Ripper. The police arrest and torture a black man, Kenny D. who knew the victim and her pimp Stephen Barton, who has disappeared. Kenny D is acknowledged to be not guilty and is eventually set free, still shocked. Fraser, whose wife is nursing her dying father, visits his lover, 23-year-old prostitute Janice Ryan.
CH.2 (Whitehouse’s) - Yorkshire Post journalist Jack Whitehouse goes to the Press conference at the Police station where George Oldman gives details about the (umpteenth) brutal murder. He admits there are similarities between this and 2 previous murders of prostitutes in 1975 and 1976. After the press conference, while, drunk, Jack is walking home from a pub, he is beaten up by a group of skinheads. The pain mixes with more tormenting wounds from the past concerning one Carole he was in love with.
CH.3 (F) – Fraser and policemen Rudkin and Ellis drive to Preston to gather information about the other 2 prostitutes murdered. Afterwards, Fraser visits St Mary’s hostel, where one of these victims, Clare Strachan, used to live. Here he manages to interview her now blind friend Walter Kendall who reveals that Clare was afraid of being killed by the Police for something that she had seen. Fraser feels sorry for not being with his wife in these difficult moments for her and her dying father.
CH.4 (W) – Jack has continuous nightmares about Carol. At the police station, Oldman shows him a list of women either assualted or killed in the past 3-4 years in North England by who seems to be the same person. Apparently, a man whose blood group is B. At night he has nightmares about jack the Ripper and, once up, he writes an article about the Yorkshire Ripper.
CH.5 (F) - Stephen Barton, Marie Watts’ pimp, is arrested, beaten up, tortured and eventually released bacause not blood group B. After all the horrors he’s been throught, he is taken to a pub and made to drink to forget all about it. Fraser then goes to visit his lover Janice and has sex with her. Later on he visits his father in law at the hospital and then goes back home to his wife (daughter of a cop, close friend of Maurice Johnson) and son, Bobby.
POLICE AND THIEVES
CH.6 (W) – Jack visits 2 victims of the Ripper. One describes him as having a Mediterranean look. He then meets Father Laws, with whom he has an argument about Carol. A letter from the Ripper - signed Lewis - is sent to him and showed to the police. They all decide to keep it secret to the public. Once home, visions and nightmares haunt him as usual.
CH.7 (F) – After learning that his lover, the prostitute Janice, has been raped by Vice Squad, Fraser gets mad and wants revenge. Meanwhile, another woman is assualted but manages to survise and gives details about the man who tried to kill her.
CH.8 (W) – Jack covers thet Press Conference about the new assault of a woman in which a profile of the killer is given. However, he does not think it is correct. Therefore, he meets one of the victims of the Ripper to try and find out more. Vision of sex with Carol obsess him.
CH.9 (F) – Furious with rage for what happened to Janice, Fraser goes to visit Joe Rose, brutally beats him up and discovers that inspector Eric Hall was pimping her. Infuriated, steals his new car and drives away only to reach room 27 at the Redbeck bar and Motel, the place that Eddie Dunford (from 1974) used as a safe retreat for his research into the mystery of the Yorkshire murders.
CH.10 (W) – Jack goen on with his reasearch into the life of Clare Strachan. First he interviews the bartender of the pub near the place where she used to live and then he enters St Mary’s Hostel to look for someone who knew her. Just like Fraser in chapter 3, Jack interviews Walter Kendal who repeats what he had already told Fraser and the Police before him, that Clare was to meet a policeman just before she was killed. He then drives to Preston to talk to detective Alfred Hill who thinks that Clare was not murdered by the Ripper. Here, he also learns that Clare had been arrested twice before being murdered and shows him records of both convictions
Jack continues his reasearch by interviewing another victim of the Ripper, the (Korean) prostitute Ka Su Peng, who hasn’t recovered from the trauma yet. He drives her to the place where she was assualted and has sex with the in the car. This somehow makes her get over the shock and from this moment on a relationship between the 2 seem to start.
GOD SAVE THE QUEEN
CH.11 (F) – Another victim, 16-year-old Rachel Louise Johnson, ir reported to have been murdered. The Police arrest one Don Fairclough on some evidence against him. After eyewitness identification, however, the man is not recognized as the offender and Fairclough is set free.
CH.12 (W) – Another letter from the killer is received, and this time it is addressed to Jack. He attends another Press Conference in which the Police reveal that 5 women have quite certainly been murdered by the same man. Jack goes home tormented by his own demons, with whom he has to cope.
CH.13 (F) – The tone of the narrative seem to change completely. For once. Fraser has been given a day off which he spends peacefully with his wife Louise and son Bobby. Just a normal day like a normal family. Breakfast and lunch at home, a visit to her father at the hospital, playtime together. In the evening, however, nightmares and obsessive thoughts keep on weighing on his mind.
CH.14 (W) – Halfway through the book, Fraser and Whitehouse meets in Jack’s narrative. Afterwards, Jack is contacted by a man who claims has useful information on Clare Strachan. They actually meet and the man gives him a bag of porn magazines in which there are pictures of Clare.
CH.15 (F) – Fraser drives to Wakefield to meet Maurice Johnson, his kind of protector who is a friend os his wife’s father. Here he reveals that Rudkin may have taken, and perhaps altered, the files concerning the Strachan case, the same files that Alf Hill had shown him in Preston. Meanwhile, we are told of a wave of robberies that is hitting the area. Some masked robbers, maybe black, violently attack Post Offices and, as a consequence, panic is spreading.
WHAT’S MY NAME?
CH.16 (F) – In this chapter, the narrative is still Fraser’s. In this key chapter, he is arrested, beaten up and interrogated about the death of his lover, the young prostitute Janice, whom he hadn’t seen for a few days and who seemed to have disappeared. His blood has been found on her clothes and his prints are all over her place.
CH.17 (W) – Jack meets a cop in a pub and bribes him to learn what is going on at the Police station. There are rumours about policemen being sospended. Later, he catches a train to Manchester as he wants to delve into the publishing house that prints the porn magazine Spunk. Once at the MJM premises, he tempts a secretary into revealing some of the names of women who modeled for the magazine in exchange for 20£. He then rides back home and , while reading the list, he discovers that among the models there are some that have been victims of the Ripper. Among them, he read the name of his lover Ka Su Peng.
As he gets to Leeds, he is informed that the Ripper has sent another letter in which he once more espresses his goal: clearing the city of all the moral dirt.
CH.18 (F) – Fraser is met by his solicitor who informs him about the accuse. He is free, for the moment being, but has to report every morning to the Police Station. Meanwhile, he is suspended from work without pay. Later Fraser calls Jack and the 2 meet at the Redbeck. Here Jack shows him Clare’s pics from the porn magazine and through the Police files of her conviction they realise that she had been heard as a witness of Paula Garland’s death back in 1975. The mystery gets thicker.
CH.19 (W) – Jack continues his personal investigation. First he follows Rudkin to a flat above a newsagent’s where something strange seems to be going on. The flat, he discovers, is owned by Craven’s former colleague Bob Douglas. Then he pays a visit to Eric hall and discovers that he is somehow involved in the porn traffic of women. He pretends he blackmails him just to get more information about it.
Back to his office, he reaveals to Bill Hadden that Clare had been a witness in the Paula Garland murder.
CH.20 (F) – Fraser’s interior monologue consists of a 3-page long soliloquy in the Molly’s Monologue style. He goes to his father-in-law’s deadbed only to find that he is no more there, having recently died, nor are his wife and son. Desperate, he returns home but the family is not there either. Ovewhelmed by guilt pain and cunfusion he wanders among his neighbour’s houses annoying them with his raving hallucinations.
CH.21 (W) – Jack breaks into the flat above the newsagents’s and discovers that is might be the setting of some (porn) photo sessions. Then he meets again Eric Hall and discovers that Janice wanted to meet him because she wanted money in exchange for infomation about some robberies So, he decides to arrange a meeting with Craven during which he hands him the magazines with the pictures of Clare (in the hope to make him do a false move?).
Meanwhile, he keeps on calling his lover but she does not answer. Which worries him more and more. He would like to talk to her about the pictures in the porn magazine she had been taken.
His fear mingles with memories of the tragic event of a man who killed his wife (Carol) during an exorcism performed by a local priest who would be arrested.
More facts are revealed: Fraser’s family are in Rudkin’s custody while Fraser is hiding from the Police in room 27, in a state of utter confusion.
CH.22 (F) – Fraser breaks into Rudkin’s house to bring his family back home with him. He has a violent fight with him, after which he is left unconscious. Not before overhearing that Bobby – in his wife’s words - is not his son.
CH.23 (W) – Jack goes to Ka Su Peng’s house. She doesn’t seem to be in. Eventually, however, he discover’s her dead body in the bathtub. She killed herself by slashing her wrists as she couldn’t stand the shame for Jack discovering that she had modelled for Spunk.
CH.24 (F) – Fraser drive sto the moors and, after writing a letter to his son, kills himself.
CH.25 (W) – the last chapter in narrated by Whitehouse who seems to go through a trapanation of the skull perfomed by father Laws. While this is happening, his mind wanders though people events paranoia in a free association style that leads the story to a bleak (open?) end.