cover image The Crust on Its Uppers

The Crust on Its Uppers

Derek Raymond. Serpent's Tail, $11.99 (190pp) ISBN 978-1-85242-268-4

This jittery novel, originally published in England in 1962 under the name Robin Cook ( I Was Dora Suarez ), shows some signs of age (particularly in its depiction of hardline Communists), but it retains the appeal of an old film noir--not of our time, but still interesting. Writing from a prison cell, the unnamed narrator reconstructs an account of upper-class British men turned crooked and an international scheme gone bad. The narrator's voice is so tinged with slang that it is sometimes incomprehensible, despite the inclusion of a glossary. Through all the talk of ``gaffs'' (apartments) and ``boilers'' (elderly wealthy women) the story slowly emerges. Despite his reservations, the narrator participated in a grand plan to import counterfeit money. He embellishes this skeletal tale with bits and pieces from his international past--including a stint involving stolen tape recorders in Spain--and wry observations about Britain's class system and relations between the sexes. While he has a ``boiler'' whom he visits to maintain his income, his true love interest is Christice, the daughter of a lord whom he feels he is fated to be with because ``certain ones simply have your number on them, like bombs in the war.'' (July)