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Night Time Cool by Jamie Paradise

September 13, 2018

One of the most fascinating developments in crime fiction that I have observed over the past few years is to see more and more novelists riffing on James Ellroy’s prose style in their writing. That’s not to say there are a group of pale Ellrovian imitators out there, I’m talking about novelists as acclaimed as Craig McDonald, Megan Abbott and David Peace, all of whom have adapted Ellroy’s key themes into their own work, and provided their own idiosyncratic take on the obsessions that fuel the Demon Dog’s writing.

With his impressive debut Night Time Cool, Jamie Paradise can add his name to this illustrious list with a novel that explores the dark underbelly of criminal life in London 2015 to the soundtrack of a drug-fuelled, Ibiza-style clubbing night out.

Oh, and as for the influence of the Demon Dog, I’ll get to that later.

At the heart of Night Time Cool is a father-son conflict, albeit a rather complicated one.  Bent copper, Inspector Frederick Street, is deluded enough to think his son Elvis loves him: this is despite the fact that he treats him as appallingly as the low-life criminals he regularly shakes down for a cut of their earnings. Elvis concocts a complicated narcotics scam that will bring down his father hard, but the fearsome Street, nicknamed the ‘Sheriff of Shoreditch’, proves a worthy Oedipal adversary. Into this heady brew, Paradise adds Soho Porn Baron Wade Long, grasping spiv James Maroon and a host of other colourfully disreputable characters.

Jamie Paradise is the nom de plume of Guardian journalist Jamie Jackson. The author puts his journalistic skills to good use with short, action-packed sentences that convey story and pace with the rhythmic energy of the footy matches he has made his name reporting. Paradise isn’t your typical hand-wringing Guardianista though. His characters are hedonists and often callous, but they remain sympathetic. He never judges them harshly, as you sense he once lived this perennially broke but happily drifting from one rave to the next life, as his bio states he has lived in Ibiza, Goa, Pakistan and Thailand. Perhaps it is the exuberance of the DJ- life Paradise loves so much that gives the text its well-judged empathy for such outcast characters. That said, there were times when the highball mix of drugs and porn were getting a little too much for this reader, but just when I thought a scene was going to be pushed to excess, Paradise pulls it back to more engaging territory.

Take this scene when Elvis thinks back to finding his girlfriend Camilla performing a little ‘Love Me Tender’ with his father:

And, now, here it came – a surge on that memory; that scene. A tidal wave of memory.

Back to then.

As clear as it was when it happened; when this happened: walking up the stairs to the flat and the sound. That sound. Feeling what it was before he knew what it was.

The sound of night time; of the night.

Sex sounds.

Agony, torment; opening the door and walking in quiet. The sound got louder, more intense.

He had suspected; now creeping forward in the flat, he knew.

In the hallway, outside the bedroom, their bedroom; the door open, seeing them, catching them:

AT IT:

Camilla and his dad in bed.

Ok, I said I’d come back to the Ellroy influence, and it’s here in the fragmentary prose style: the ‘Back to then‘ voyeur’s memory which Ellroy might call a ‘THEN to NOW’ memory, and the realisation that behind the cool demeanour there are cauldrons of violence and sexual jealously in every strutting male.

Night Time Cool is the first novel in Paradise’s Dreams of Sun series. I thought it was riotous, exuberant and, as someone with no affinity for the drugs or clubbing scene, unexpectedly moving in places. If you’re easily offended you should give it a swerve, but if you like your genre writing as raw, experimental and edgy as its comes, then this is a crime tale for you.

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