RARA-AVIS: Carter Mania

Fri, 19 Mar 1999 05:05:57 EST In a message dated 19/03/99 09:00:31 GMT, you write:

<< The other two Carters, Jack Carter's Law (1974) and Jack Carter and the
Mafia Pigeon (1977), are clearly cash-in books after the movie made
good. They are still fun, just not nearly as good or as cold as Get
Carter (1970).>>

These two Carter books are prequels to Get Carter and, as GMT said, nowhere
near as good as the original. Lewis did not want to write them but was forced
into it by his publisher (and a four book deal). Lewis wrote Jack's Return
Home/Get Carter from his love of Raymond Chandler and he cited that book as
his major influence.

<< I've also read Billy Rags (1973) which is a pretty good prison
life/prison escape book, kind of like a British version of Eddie
Bunker's Animal Factory.>>

I greatly enjoyed Billy Rags and recommend it to you all. Lewis used the
unpublished autobiography (smuggled out of Durham prison) of famed Brit
criminal John McVicar as the basis of the book, and the authenticity shines
through. It shows life in a UK prison, an escape, and Billy's life on the run
with his family (and their resulting disintegration).

<<I've also seen Rabbit (?) is in print in the UK, but haven't bought it yet.
Which leaves only his debut, straight novel, All the Way Home And All the
Night Through (1965). It is his crime books that live on. >>

Rabbit is a coming of age story, about a young man in love, as is All the Way
Home And All the Night Through. They are very good books, tapping into the
fragility and mystery of young love. Totally unlike his other fiction, and
shouldn't be dismissed just because they're not crime. In fact, Lewis' widow
told me "I think he got stuck in the crime genre because he wanted to make
money - it wasn't necessarily what he intended to do."

Virtually all the books have been reprinted, thank goodness, in the UK by
Alison & Busby, which is run by Peter Day, an old friend and editor of Lewis'.
Lewis was very influential on British hardboiled writers, especially Derek
Raymond/Robin Cook, who cited Lewis as the reason he wrote the Factory series.

In terms of biography, Lewis was a cartoonist/animator and helped animate
Yellow Submarine, and then switched to writing full-time. In his spare time,
he played in a jazz band. Lewis was a heavy drinker, and alcoholic, and died
of complications due to his drinking in 1982.

Jack's Return Home was filmed as Get Carter, and then illegally as Hit Man
(1972), with a black cast, starring Bernie Casey and Pam Grier. The
director/writer was George Armitage who went on to make the damn fine Miami
Blues (1990). At the moment Stephen Soderbergh, he who made Out Of Sight, is
filming a remake of Get Carter, set in America.

- paul duncan
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