Two weeks before he died, writer Derek Raymond gave a public reading. A snippet of that is within the event below.
Event description after the break.
A recording of the Sohemian Society’s Derek Raymond tribute event at
at The Wheatsheaf, 25 Rathbone Place, North Soho, London W1 on 10th July 2019 featuring Cathi Unsworth with John Williams and Brian O’Neill.
Robert William Arthur Cook (1931-94), known to his friends as Robin and to his many readers as Derek Raymond occupied a unique place in the British crime canon. He began his career describing the criminal milieu of the 1960s and ended it redefining British noir. The son of a textile magnate, he was sent down from Eton for smoking dope. “Terrible bloody place,” he reflected. “They were trying to make you into a good all-rounder, a cabinet minister, a bastard.” Although he did find a use for his Eton tie — fronting long firms for Soho gangster Charles da Silva.
That was after he had completed his National Service as a corporal of latrines, been a war correspondent and an international art smuggler. In the London of early 1960s he mixed inveigling funds, running gambling parties and working in a sex shop with penning his debut, The Crust on its Uppers (1962). Its glossary of criminal argot was considered by Dictionary of Slang compiler Eric Partridge to be his best source in 25 years. For reasons never specified but easily imagined, Cook moved to Italy shortly after, where he continued to write satires like Private Parts, Public Places and Bombe Surprise, ran a vineyard and was made foreign minister for his local Anarchist collective. In 1970’s A State of Denmark he had a nightmare vision of a future England under the dictatorship of a Labour party re-branded The New Pace.
He lived for years in France as a labourer, until a neighbour goaded him that he’d never write a book again. Whereupon, Cook returned to London, reinvented himself as Derek Raymond and lit a fuse under the corpse of Agatha Christie with 1984’s He Died With His Eyes Open. This, and the following Factory series of novels were an angry conscience in a time of decadence that would influence a future generation of crime writers who saw, as Cook did, the Establishment as the greatest villains.
The writer John L Williams knew Robin during his final years and last illness in London. Such was the strength of their friendship that Robin named John as his literary executor and he made good on that promise by making sure The Factory novels were put back into print by Serpents Tail. As Gallon Drunk’s PR, Brian O’Neil witnessed the Dora Suarez album take shape from its very beginnings to its spectacular live rendering at the South Bank Centre, the first time the Royal Festival Hall had hosted such an event.
With readings from previously unpublished correspondence unearthed by John, he and Brian O’Neill talked to Cathi Unsworth, who also knew Robin during this period.
A very sad event and reminiscence.
Derek Raymond — born Robin Cook — is gone. May his words never be.
Previously here and at my other blogs:
Writer Derek Raymond’s Beret
New Picture Of Writer Derek Raymond
Unpublished Interview With Writer Derek Raymond
Writer Derek Raymond Offers Hope To All Of Us
Transcript: Writer Derek Raymond Rare TV Interview
Writer Derek Raymond: Rare Videos!
Writer Derek Raymond: New Images
Melville House Finally Does Derek Raymond
Melville House: A Publisher’s Epic Failure
Writer Derek Raymond 80th Birth Anniversary
Gorgeous Cover For Derek Raymond
I Must Read Writer Cathi Unsworth
Derek Raymond: Read ALL Of His Work
The Immortal Writer Derek Raymond
Derek Raymond Still Lives
Derek Raymond Is Your Year-End Reading
God Bless Writer Derek Raymond
Writer Derek Raymond Tribute
Writer Derek Raymond
Derek Raymond: He Makes All Others Look Like Shit