Tuesday, 18 June 2013

DNF: 'Gently Go Man' by Alan Hunter

This is the eighth in the series of relaxed murder mysteries about genial detective George Gently, written in the later fifties and early sixties. I've enjoyed my previous forays into the series, as much for the authentic slices of post-war British life as for the murders themselves, which were always a bit ho-hum. But this is the first to lose me completely. Hunter has always fancied himself as a chronicler of regional accents and dialects, with (in my opinion) very limited success, and the last few books I read he happily stayed away from such dangerous distractions. But this time he plunges headfirst into a whole world of cultural slang, the bizarrely unreadable language of 'hip chicks', with their talk about squares and being cool. For example:

‘You wouldn’t dig it,’ said Maureen. ‘If you’re a square you’re a square. It’s nowhere jazz to a square. But Laurie was cool, he went after it. Shooting the ton, that sort of action. But like I say you wouldn’t dig it. So what’s the use me talking?’

Here’s another sample:

‘Throwing a curve,’ Deeming said. ‘That’s not lying, it’s trying it on, hoping it’s going to fit some place. You don’t like hipsters in Squaresville. You like to put the heat on them. So you make a deal out of Johnny and come pushing us around with it.’
‘And like we don’t stand for it,’ Bixley said, stepping up closer.
‘Cool it, Sid,’ Deeming said. ‘Pitching screws is for squares.’
‘He bugs me, this guy does,’ said Bixley. ‘Me, I could spread him on the wall.’
‘Dicky says cool it,’ Maureen said. ‘So cool it quick, you big ape.’

There are entire chapters of this sort of stuff and frankly, life's too short to wade through it. One star for a DNF.

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