Panning for gold: ‘GBH’ by Ted Lewis

One of the great things about working in a library is the ready access to books – not only those you can borrow, but also the ones being discarded and sold. It’s the normal day-to-day work of any large library, and it’s also been happening to prepare for our move to the new building. Over the past few months, we have had an area of shelves on the ground floor where any unwanted stock has been offered for sale to the public. First, the non-fiction, which was less interesting to me (although not everybody: we had a full set of encyclopaedias, all 20-odd volumes, which someone actually bought; even in these days of the all-seeing Google, you’d be surprised how much interest there is). But once the fiction started coming out, I kept a regular eye on any new additions – and today, my persistence finally paid off.


I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of GBH, the final novel by Ted Lewis, for the ridiculous sum of 10p. Lewis is one of those authors I’ve heard a lot about, never read anything by, and have been meaning to take a look at – so (at the risk of going all New Age and flaky) today’s find felt like something of an omen. Whilst you may not have heard of him, you’re probably aware of his work – Lewis’s earlier novel Jack’s Return Home was the source material for the 1971 Michael Caine film Get Carter. Lewis went on to write two further Carter novels, and died prematurely in 1982 at the age of 42.

The back cover blurb for GBH reads: ‘In the twilight world of London’s gangland, a porn king with a priceless and far-reaching empire is on the run from the mob in yet another stunning Ted Lewis thriller of violence, corruption and – grievous bodily harm…’ This would be enough in itself, but Derek Raymond (author of the extraordinary ‘Factory’ series, and another favourite author of mine) also wrote that GBH ‘is an example of how dangerous writing can really be when it is done properly, and Ted Lewis’s writing proves that he never ran away from the page.’ I can’t think of any higher praise, and I look forward to reviewing GBH on these here pages.

I also picked up a copy of Simenon’s Maigret Sets A Trap, again for 10p (and still in the original 1965 dust jacket; the original price was 13s 6d.). I read my first Maigret novel earlier this year (Maigret and the Lazy Burglar) and thought it was excellent -simultaneously concise, human and complex. I’m now looking forward to diving into this one as well and rambling on about it right here. Bet you can’t wait.

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