Archive for December 8, 2009


Here is my contribution to this week’s Crime Fiction Alphabet meme at Kerrie’s Mysteries in Paradise.

This meme is like a game of chess as you will have to think three or four moves [or letters] ahead, as it gets a bit tricky over the next few weeks.

My J is for John. John Lawton is author of the Troy novels, a series that he calls ‘a social history of my time’, and of mine too.

The series in chronological order:

Second Violin
Riptide [Bluffing Mr Churchill in the USA]
Old Flames
Blue Rondo [Flesh Wounds in the USA]
A Little White Death

I was encouraged to read John Lawton by Crimeficreader, whose excellent essay on the Troy series you can read here.
This was written some time before John Lawton went back in time to write Second Violin as a superb prequel.

I have only read the first two, Second Violin and Riptide, both were so good I decided to postpone reading the rest of the series, saving them to be enjoyed at a later date.

John Lawton is not a high profile author, and he seems to actively avoid publicity. Perhaps that is the reason why his work is not better known, because the books are definitely of the highest quality. He blends real life characters into a fictional story making it both credible, and at the same time capturing the atmosphere of wartime London. He also has the ability, which seems to escape some authors, to portray cockney characters without producing dialogue that sounds twee.
He grabs the reader and takes them with him on a roller coaster journey especially in Second Violin with its astonishingly brilliant descriptions of Kristallnacht, and the internment of aliens on the Isle of Man.

The novels which tell the story of Frederick and Rod Troy, sons of Russian emigre Alexi Troy, and a multitude of other interesting characters are full of humour, truthfulness, and have a refreshing lack of sentimentality. They are a little bit different from the average crime fiction novel, if there is such a thing, and are well worth reading if you want to be educated and even amused by the behaviour of human beings under incredible stress.

The last book in the series A Little White Death is set in 1963 at the time of the Christine Keeler /John Profumo scandal and on the back cover is the blurb, ‘A Harley Street physician blows his brains out.’

My father had a small hardware shop in Chelsea during the ‘swinging sixties’, and that Harley Street physician was a good customer, so I feel a kind of connection to the Troy series.