Headline, April27, 2014


THE LONG FIRM......​..." 


ON 3rd September 1998, an announcement on the Diary Pages of the Times began thus:

"A social worker has been paid Pound 100,000 for two novels. Jake Arnott, from Buckinghamshire, was signed up by Hodder Headline after its editors read :

The Long Firm, a tale of a gay gangster operating in the in the Capital in the Sixties.

"Historical events overcome all of us, they take over our lives whether we like it or not," says Jake Arnott, the boy, the man with Really Good Idea, the hotshot literary debutant.

His fourth and latest novel,  Johnny Come Home,    is about glam rock and terrorism and a load of other things. Most of it is probably true.

His first three books, 1999's  The Long Firm,  He Kills Coppers(2001) and truecrime   are a backstreet-and-backhanders social history of Britain from the Sixties to the Noughties. Look past the aliases and alternates in his books and you'll see:

Shadows of Krays, Richardsons, Kenneth Noye, Leah Betts, the Essex Boys, Guy Ritchie, Barbara Windsor, Brinks Mat...The trilogy's historically rich, stone-turning sweep of the underworld and police corruption is a match for anything by James Ellroy.

"He's not an influence, he's an inspiration," says Arnott of the acknowledged master of the crime epic. "The thing about bringing real people in, I think I have got the audacity to do that for him."

Perhaps the only drawback of this purple patch was that Arnott was lumped in with what was labelled geezer chic: quoting Lock, Stock........., aged quasi gangsters becoming personalities and a general celebration of something of something that:

Perhaps didn't glamourising  . Read truecrime and you'll learn how much this got up Arnott's nose, despite the attention he received because of it.

"The thing is," he says," I was fashionable for a while, but I wasn't fashionable enough to go out of fashion."

The BBC bought  The Long Firm  for adaption before it was published and finally made it to screen in 2004. The four-part drama, starring Mark Strong as Harry Starks, the gay gangster and the core of the book and its two sequels was one of the best things on the box that summer.

Along with Blackpool, Footballers' Wives (really), Extras and the original version of The Office, it's also one of a small but growing number of British TV shows that have gone on to find critical acclaim and, crucially, an audience in America. Take that,..... Housewives.

Like his acclaimed  Long Firm trilogy,  Johnny Come Home has a framework of real events, places, dates and people  -some with their names changed, others not-    that gives the resulting story a fat stamp of truth and authenticity.

Arnott's method of interweaving what happened and what might have happened has been lauded   -to a point.

"It's entirely valid if people think everyone should write like Tolkien and make up a whole world,"  says Arnott of those who say the fictionalising of history is a bad thing.

"I'm not interested in making stuff up for the sake of it. They're not my stories  -they're out there. And, to be honest, you forget what's real and made up anyway.

Of course I take things from all over   -it's the job of the artist to steal to furnish their enterprise."

In conversations with Jake Arnott, two things stand out. Arnott reads a lot of books, sprinkles into his conversation quotes and names from that reading -Brecht, Pascal, Dashiell Hammet, screen writer Leonard Schrader:

And pulls off the unfamiliar trick of coming across as both interesting and not pompous when he does it. Secondly, his description of Doctorow and The March, the bits of relevance and immediacy and writing so well. is apt comment on his own work.

But by writing what was not expected of him, Arnott has embraced the whole change thing wholeheartedly. After a decade of struggling as a writer, you could have forgiven him for sticking to what he knows  -and what he knows sells well.

"Of course I've got to be careful about defamation," says Arnott. "You've got to be sure that the references don't dominate, but there's always things to talk about from recent history.

I just finished EI.Doctorow's   The March, about the American Civil War, and he writes so well that it's all so immediate  -and it's  150 years ago. Which ain't that long ago, and it's relevant to what's happening now, explaining plenty about the state of America."

And then Arnott sums up best : " I don't have a dysfunctional detective I can write 11  novels about. So,  My books are always going to be different. With truecrime, there was a conscious effort with me saying, 'I am going to burn the whole lot down.'

Things really should come to an end."

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of the world. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

"' Prose And Cons "'

Good Night & God Bless!

SAM Daily Times - the Voice of the Voiceless


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