Partner In Crime

Dominic Nolan, author of PAST LIFE, looks at who might partner with his protagonist Boone.

Posted on August 6, 2019 in Author Recommendations
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Since losing her memory, Boone isn’t very good with people. In company, she craves solitude; yet the thought of existing alone triggers a vertigo that levels her. She’s reckless, angry, prone to bouts of diabolical violence, and scarily focused on vengeance. Partnering her up with anyone is a tough ask.

Rather than a partner, an accomplice would suit her down to the ground. Someone who shares her myopic drive for retribution. Someone not afraid to get their hands dirty. Someone who recognises their actions will inevitably bring about tragedy, but ploughs ahead regardless. Someone like Jack Carter.

In Ted Lewis’s seminal Jack Returns Home (published more frequently now as Get Carter, after the success of the movie adaption), the mob fixer leaves London for his home town of Scunthorpe to find out how his estranged brother died. Warned off by his own employers in the capital and the firm that runs the north, Jack cuts through the underbelly of the steel town in search of his brother’s killer, stoking the place up into a crucible of violence.

Just as we see Boone stalk the marshes and abandoned collieries, the desolate mining villages and dying seaside resorts of Kent, we follow Jack through the mills and casinos, the prostitution and pornography, and the old protection and loan rackets of Lincolnshire and Yorkshire. Though natural loners, they both could do with someone as adept at mayhem as them to watch their six when the wolves start circling. Assuming they don’t turn on each other first.

Perhaps what Boone really needs, though, is a friend. A companion with some insight into what troubles her, who might have shared a few of her experiences. Maybe a writer, rather than a fellow character.

Jean Rhys was a true hellraiser. Sent from Dominica to England against her will, she struggled to settle in a strange land. She scraped together a living as a chorus girl and nude model, living in the boarding houses of Edwardian Bloomsbury. Over the years she went out with men for pleasure and profit; she fell dangerously ill following an abortion; she had a daughter and became estranged from her during the war; she tried fruitlessly to drink away her problems; she wrote of troubled women negotiating doomed landscapes; and she had a taste of crime fiction—elegantly translating Perversité, Francis Carco’s dark tale of Parisian apaches.

She was chaos. She did that one unacceptable thing for a woman—she misbehaved. In her fifties she was still wantonly misbehaving, serving a brief prison sentence in Holloway following several instances of assaulting a particularly irritating male neighbour, and biting the policeman who came to arrest her. She and Boone would have been fast pals.

When she eventually and inevitably burns all her human bridges, I figure Boone can run with a canine companion. A mutt well used to crime-solving shenanigans and partial to the odd tipple. It could only be Fireball Roberts, the alcoholic bulldog in James Crumley’s The Last Good Kiss. Meaner than a snake and all too ready to bite the britches off anyone who lends trouble to his bar-owning friend Rosie, Fireball has also been known to wear Rhinestone collars, sip Japanese beers, and criss-cross the western badlands of the United States with reprobates of various stripes. Best of all, he never wants to talk about his feelings. What better partner in crime could Boone ask for?

Past Life is out now in paperback.

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