Soho Noir Book Four. The continuing adventures of Joe, Russel and the colorful cast of characters that populate the vivid world of T.S. Hunters’ mid 80’s Soho.
Available to buy in paperback direct from Red Dog Press
Skinner is a bit of a bastard. If you’ve read the rest of the series, you’ll be familiar with this particular homophobes preferred brand of bastardry, in this latest adventure he takes it to new levels. That said, Skinner is not a main component of this slice of Soho Noir, we don’t even meet him face to face this time out. I do get the sense he’ll be back in books five and six though. There is some quite serious unfinished business that needs to be taken care of.
Rather than a Skinner investigation, this episode leaves the police out of it for the most part and follows missing socialite Charlotte Fenwick, her controlling and disapproving father, and the seedy underbelly of Soho in which she has managed to get embroiled. Cue Joe and Russell who through their evolving reputation are asked by Antonia Lagorio, local gangster and jealous girlfriend of our intriguing missing person, to investigate.
And they do feel like episodes to me now, the kinds of episodes of a much-loved series that you settle in with on a Sunday afternoon in your favorite comfy chair, in your favorite corner of your home to read. In my case, this chair, in this corner:
I will resist the temptation to turn this into a love letter to my reading corner. Though as I type, I am in fact sitting in my comfy chair in my reading corner, with my laptop on my knee. And it is very much my chair in my corner. Its rather rare anybody else gets a look in!
Anyway, back to the book in question. I hear that T.S. Hunter was a bit nervous of this one being released, and it wasn’t the easiest book to write. He needn’t have been. Crazy for You continues the high standards of writing and storytelling we have gotten used to over the first three installments. His world and his characters continue to grow and develop as the series evolves. We get to know Russell and his insecurities a little better in this story, he has always been the rock that supported Joe through troubled times, here we start to see how he is almost scared of happiness, as if he feels he doesn’t deserve it. Despite partial decriminalisation in 1969, homophobia actually got worse in the 70s and this message that he is ‘less than’ would be something that Russell had to live with from the mainstream world around him for most of his life.
This historical context flows through the books and for me is an important part of what makes them so compelling. Fantastic storytelling, building the world on the realities of 1980s Soho in the years leading up to Section 28. A hideous piece of legislation that put fear of prosecution into schools and meant that those of us growing up in the 90s (yes, the 1990s, this isn’t an antique law, it was enacted in 1988 and repealed in 2003, I always think that’s worth remembering – this is very recent history) had no education on LGBT issues at all in school. That we live in a world now where a series such as Soho Noir can exist and that mainstream book shops are able to have whole sections for young people dealing with these issues is testament to how far we have come in such a short time. We still do not have full legal equality in this country (religious institutions are legally allowed to discriminate) and hate crime is still prevalent, in Birmingham there is even a campaign to ban inclusive education in primary schools. Progress is real, but also genuinely fragile. I love that through his work T.S Hunter is able to highlight all this whilst also writing griping mystery stories populated by characters his readers have come to adore. A real achievement.