Archive for March, 2013

When In Doubt, Stigmatise Pleasure

March 29, 2013

hunter_200I have come across libertarians who believe that there’s nothing wrong whatsoever with smoking and that the dangers from secondhand smoke are nonexistent. Me, I tend to trust the medics on this. Smoking kills and I think there’s certainly a case for some restrictions on smoking in public, if only for reasons of etiquette. But what to make of this report from the British Lung Foundation?

Smoking may be a sign of psychiatric illness, experts say. Doctors should routinely consider referring people who smoke to mental health services, in case they need treatment, they add.

The controversial recommendation from the British Lung Foundation, a charity, comes in response to a major report, Smoking and Mental Health, published this week by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Psychiatrists with the Faculty of Public Health. It says that almost one in three cigarettes smoked in Britain today is smoked by someone with a mental disorder. When people with drug and alcohol problems are included the proportion is even higher.

The reason is that smoking rates have more than halved over the past 50 years, but the decline has not happened equally in all parts of society.

‘Smoking is increasingly becoming the domain of the most disadvantaged: the poor, homeless, imprisoned and those with mental disorder. This is a damning indictment of UK public health policy and clinical service provision,’ the report says.

The Independent’s health editor adds: ‘The nation’s dwindling band of smokers, skulking outside office doors, already resent being treated as pariahs. The suggestion that they may be dotty, too, will only enrage them further… doctors would be remiss if they did not consider whether a patient’s fag habit disguised an untreated mental disorder.’

So cigarettes cause craziness. Er, wow! But is it really that simple? Premier mental health blogger Seaneen Molloy has pointed out potential flaws in the Lung Foundation’s thesis. She writes that ‘causation does not equal correlation.  A lot of people who have mental health issues smoke, ergo, people who smoke must have mental health issues?’ Seaneen also outlines the obvious practical problem with referring every single presenting smoker to an already overworked mental health service. And she draws on her experience from both sides of mental health care. ‘But in this environment, where you enter and go through the mortification process… the freedom to smoke is an important one. It gives a sense of bodily agency and autonomy in an environment where such things are flagrantly disrespected.’

I would add that there is an ideological movement against smoking, made up of government funded ‘charities’, career activists and public sector organisations that appear to be immune from national austerity. These are professional anti smokers who came up in the 1980s when Big Tobacco was the enemy. The world has changed since then, tobacco companies are nothing compared to the pharmaceutical cartels, but the caravan never moved on.

In 2007 ASH got its dream of a public smoking ban, but people continue to smoke. The tobacco control industry has never understood that some of us, more of us than the Independent’s health editor thinks, know the risks and make the decision to sacrifice potential quantity of life for quality and short term pleasure. All the No Smoking Days and glossy PR and Department of Health money can’t change that. So the tobacco control movement demands more petty tinkering – plain cigarette packages, restrictions on vending machines – without ever arguing for what it really wants: a complete ban on the sale of tobacco. Tobacco control activists don’t come out and have that argument because they know it’s an argument they’re going to lose.

There is also the question of enforcement. Pubs got round the 2007 ban by introducing heated outside smoking areas. The ones that didn’t went to the wall. Plain packages, if and when they come in, will likely flood the black market with cheap, easily manufactured smuggled tobacco. You’re not supposed to be able to buy cigarettes in pubs, but every one of my locals sells packets openly behind the bar. And some pubs will simply defy the ban. Last year a hilarious ‘special investigation’ by the Manchester Evening News found that at least fifteen of Rusholme’s shisha bars were letting people smoke inside. This put the city’s political elite in a difficult position between the Scylla of wanting to police people’s leisure time and the Charybdis of not wanting to offend Asian cultural traditions.

Seaneen writes that poor people are more likely to smoke because the working classes have never shared the ridiculous bourgeois taboo against tobacco. It’s a taboo with a long and reactionary history. Feminists of the late nineteenth century were smeared as ‘pallid, tired, thin-lipped, flat-chested and angular’ women, living in an ‘atmosphere of tea-steam and cigarette smoke’; women for whom ‘[t]he time of night means nothing until way into the small hours.’ And the Lung Foundation’s press release reads like something from the fevered drug wars of the 1980s.

We know more or less how lungs work. The mind is a stranger place. Anxiety, depression, psychosis, entropy and disorder are things we are only just beginning to learn about. The reasons some people develop mental health problems are complex, all bound up with biology, genetics, environment, and the circumstances of a unique human life. Simplistic general solutions help no one. And this particular idea could set a bad precedent for the principles of free healthcare. There are already resentful whisperings to the effect that people who overeat or drink too much have somehow ‘brought it on themselves’ and shouldn’t be treated. Should people who have smoked all their lives be turned away from crisis centres?

It is what Ben Goldacre identified as the dark side of the ‘you are what you eat’ philosophy. As Goldacre says, this is ‘a manifesto of rightwing individualism – you are what you eat, and people die young because they deserve it. They choose death, through ignorance and laziness, but you choose life, fresh fish, olive oil, and that’s why you’re healthy. You’re going to see 78. You deserve it. Not like them.’

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What Passes For Knowing

March 23, 2013

Philip Roth’s novel The Human Stain tells the story of a brilliant classicist, Coleman Silk, who is fired by his university because he uses the word ‘spooks’, about a couple of black students, while taking register. The word is not used as a racial epithet (Silk says about the two perpetual absentees that ‘Do these students really exist, or are they spooks?’) but nevertheless the professor is railroaded out of his job.

I love the novel, but always thought Roth’s hook was farfetched. Then, the journalist Suzanne Moore wrote a long essay about the position of women in the 2010s. In it, she threw this line: ‘We are angry with ourselves for not being happier, not being loved properly and not having the ideal body shape – that of a Brazilian transsexual.’ For three solid days, Twitter went insane. It seems that Moore had used a stereotypical phrase to describe trans women and was therefore guilty of transphobia. The reaction was intense. Twitter went for her like she was Nick Griffin. Moore left the site temporarily, complaining that ‘They say I haven’t apologised enough and I probably haven’t. No one has apologised to me for saying that I should be decapitated and I support the English Defence League.’ People in Britain like to feel morally superior to others. The method of so many on the left is to quotemine mainstream journalism for taboos and then unleash the dragons.

And now Lucy Meadows is dead. Meadows was a trans woman and primary school teacher who a few months back made the decision to live as a woman. This was picked up by the tabloids, with obvious results. Hacks camped outside her house and ransacked her social networks. Particularly nasty was a column by the Daily Mail’s Richard Littlejohn, who wrote: ‘He’s not only in the wrong body, he’s in the wrong job … The school shouldn’t be allowed to elevate its ‘commitment to diversity and equality’ above its duty of care to its pupils and their parents’.

We don’t know that Meadows killed herself because of the coverage, although that obviously wouldn’t have helped. The MEN is full of supportive local community voices, but maybe they weren’t so supportive when Meadows was alive. We don’t even know for sure that Meadows committed suicide.

Sometimes you can make that environmental link. Suicides have gone up because of the recession. And politicians make decisions that destroy people’s lives. The poet Paul Reekie was found dead with DWP letters left on his desk, telling him that his sickness and housing benefits were being cut. I have no doubt that welfare reform kills. When the government takes away your ability to support yourself, suicide becomes a valid option.

Saying that Richard Littlejohn killed Lucy Meadows by writing a stupid column is a big leap from that, although one that plenty of people are prepared to make. One blogger rants: ‘Well, now Dicky Windbag has his scalp and I hope he and his legendarily foul mouthed editor are happy about it. Lucy Meadows is dead, and those impressionable young children are having to deal with one of their teachers no longer being there, as the actions of another fearless pundit cause them to have another of those challenging realities of adult life forced down their throats.’

Don’t get me wrong. Littlejohn is a scumfuck piece of shit, one of the worst in the business, who is not only vulgar and offensive, but isn’t funny and can’t write. Only in Britain could this guy get rich from writing. In any other country he would have starved to death long ago. Still, I don’t see the point in signing a petition calling for him to be fired. Why? He will only be rehired by some other scumfuck yellow newspaper. Once someone’s so deeply entrenched in the British establishment, it is almost impossible to fall from grace.

It would only compound this tragedy to make Lucy Meadows into a Leveson martyr. Changing your gender is the ultimate leap of faith. It takes balls, so to speak. The process is long and difficult. The trans comic Bethany Black has a brilliant in depth post about the transgender journey:

When I came out to my mother I’ll never forget her response, she said ‘But we’ve just had a conservatory built!’ at the time I didn’t understand what she meant, and I talked about it in my comedy set years later, it was only then that she fully explained to me.  ‘When you told me you were trans, the only think I knew about transsexuals was what I’d seen in the media, that you’d be sad and lonely, and that people would want to attack you for being weird and different.  I’m you’re mother, and I love you and I wanted to protect you and even though we’d just spent a massive amount of money on the house I was prepared to move away and start somewhere new with you as long as you were protected.’

This is human experience. This is life as it’s lived and sometimes it ends in tragedy. When we marshall these tragedies into political goals, we turn human beings into political ciphers. Meadows deserves better.

Suicide’s a tricky thing. People say ‘He seemed like the last person to kill himself’ for a reason. People who kill themselves often have everything going for them on the surface, and they tend to be good at concealing their emotions. And once someone’s got themselves into a certain place in their head, it’s hard to get them out. As Zuckerman says in The Human Stain: ‘Nobody knows, Professor Roux’:

What we know is that, in an uncliched way, nobody knows anything. You can’t know anything. The things you know you don’t know. Intention? Motive? Consequence? Meaning? All that we don’t know is astonishing. Even more astonishing is what passes for knowing.

Update: David Toube has recommended this piece, by Paul Canning.

According to Canning, the media harassment of Lucy Meadows began with a story in the Accrington Observer, part of the MEN/Trinity empire.

The journalist who first ‘monstered’ Meadows is Stuart Pike of the Accrington Observer.

He was the one who went out of his way to find controversy and an angry parent, which was the picture accompanying his story.

Pike’s story is then what was repeated by the Daily Mail, which was then covered by Littlejohn. Yet Pike’s possible breach of journalistic ethics has had no consequences, for either him or his Trinity Mirror owned Newspaper.

There’s no evidence that Meadows referenced Littlejohn at all.

It just shows the arbitrary and sporadic nature of these web campaigns.

The targeting of Lucy Meadows was very much a local affair.

Further update: Paul Canning has written a follow up post, and links to another in depth post by former news agency hack Dan Waddell.

The question for me is: what happened at the Accrington Observer?

What was it about this story that Stuart Pike thought the world needed to know?

From what I’ve read about the profession, it seems like journalists are under a lot of pressure. Nick Davies’s Flat Earth News features hard pressed regional journalists who have to fill quotas for stories. Maybe Pike was getting hassled by his editor for story ideas. Then the phone rings. It’s Wayne Cowie the angry parent who’s angry that his kids are going to be taught by a trans woman. Pike could have said ‘It doesn’t matter whether you’re cis or trans or whatever, it’s whether you can do the job.’ He could have written about something else that day.

That’s supposing that Pike was called by Cowie and not the other way around. In my experience people approach the local paper on just about anything. But Dan Waddell, who’d know better than I do, takes the opposite view: ‘I’ve been in touch with both Pike and Cowie to see who was chicken and who was egg. Neither have replied. Experience tells me it was the Observer that sought out Cowie’.

What we do know, Waddell says, is this:

The article appeared on the Accrington Observer website at midnight on December 18/19th. Stuart Pike tweeted a link to the story at 9.57 a.m on the morning of the 19th.

Less than four hours later the story appeared on The Daily Mail’s website, Mail Online.

There’s also this comment at Paul’s blog, from Julie Carpenter:

I agree that not enough emphasis has been made on the local and other press behaviour over this, and I tried with my little twitter account to raise that yesterday. I even posted on the Accrington Observer’s comments, but oddly there was a cull of any posts that criticised their involvement and it (and other) posts doing the same disappeared after a few hours.

There is a huge ‘anti-DM’ movement and it’s a shame they have pinned themselves to the coat tails of this. I guess Littlejohn makes a good pantomime villain and it has raised awareness, but there is a risk that the core point about the  on-the-ground behaviour of the press is getting lost in the calls for his sacking.

I wonder what Pike thinks of all this now. He reported Meadows’s death on Twitter, without comment. And apparently he won’t return Waddell’s calls.

I am not a journalist and a lot of this is beyond my knowledge or experience.

But I think that Meadows’s MP, Graham Jones, was probably right that ‘The Leveson debate was too often glowing about the innocence of local newspapers.’

I agree that the role of local media deserves more scrutiny than it has so far received.

This scrutiny has not taken place, because 1) we naturally focus more on national scandal than local scandal and 2) the debate has been dominated by people who think all the suffering of the world would end if Paul Dacre was hit by a bus tomorrow.

Lucy Meadows primary school

(Image: Guardian)

Leveson, Workfare: Labour’s Double Betrayal

March 20, 2013

Oh, there was such hope at first. But Labour have done two things this week that made me seriously consider whether it’s worth voting for them any more.

First, Labour has conspired to implement state regulation of the media, which would impact upon not just Murdoch’s evil empire, but also small publishers, bloggers and websites. As the NYT puts it:

The parties agreed to replace the newspaper industry’s self-regulating body with an independent agency that could levy fines of up to £1 million, or $1.5 million, order editors to issue prominent corrections and provide arbitration for people who believed they had been wronged by the press. Publishers who do not agree to subject themselves to the jurisdiction of this body — and many have already said they will not — could still take their chances in court but could be hit with higher, punitive fines if they were found liable.

Prime Minister David Cameron has argued that the plan will keep the press free because it will be enacted through a royal charter, which is technically not a law because it is formally issued by the queen, not Parliament. But that is a distinction largely without substance. In reality the proposal would effectively create a system of government regulation of Britain’s vibrant free press, something that has not happened since 1695, when licensing of newspapers was abolished. But the proposals do not stop there. Lawyers who have looked at the proposal say it would also cover Internet news and opinion sites outside the country that could be read in Britain.

Hang on, though: isn’t Leveson about protecting people from the excesses of Britain’s tabloid culture? Certainly Ed played it that way. Miliband’s leadership is defined by Leveson and initially, sure, I think he was brave to break with Murdoch at the height of the phone hacking scandal. But censorship never comes to the ball as censorship and there is a reason serious people are worried about this. Kenan Malik explains why this is a bad precedent:

To those who insist that the regulator will wish to curb only the obnoxious practices by which we are all appalled, I would suggest that they study the history of every recent law restraining liberties. From the Public Order Act to the Regulation of Investigatory Power Act (RIPA), every such piece of legislation has, once on the statute books, vastly expanded in scope, and been used for restricting speech and actions far beyond that for which it was originally intended; collectively, this expansion has had a chilling effect on liberties.

But this week Labour delivered a double blow. As well as showing it didn’t care about liberal freedoms, Labour also gave a derisive salute to its struggling heartlands. The story begins way back when the geology graduate Cait Reilly took the government to court, after she was yanked off a voluntary placement to work unpaid in Poundland. Reilly took a lot of shit for this (her co claimant didn’t appear in much of the coverage, possibly because as a middle aged ex haulier he was harder to portray as a pampered ‘job snob’) but eventually the Appeal Court ruled in her favour. The DWP faced having to pay out millions to claimants wrongly sanctioned for not attending workfare placements. Iain Duncan Smith’s workfare schemes are worthless, both in terms of GDP, and in terms of finding people work. He lost the argument and lost the case. But instead of taking his defeat like a man, the Secretary of State rushed through retrospective legislation to avoid the big payout. And Labour stood by with folded arms.

Premier welfare blogger Johnny Void takes up the story:

The nasty little bill rushed through Parliament by IDS means that money illegally taken from claimants who were wrongly sanctioned will now not be paid back. This shocking move, which has even appalled right wing think tanks, means there is no longer any real point in taking the government to court as they can simply backdate changes to the law – seemingly with cross party support – to avoid any consequences resulting from their crimes.

The Labour Leadership could have stalled the timing of this bill until it had proper scrutiny. They could at the very least have voted against it. But instead they chose mass apathy, with just 44 Labour MPs defying Liam Byrne and voting with their consciences.

In a squirming piece on the Labour List website, Byrne claims that benefit sanctions were ruled illegal simply because Iain Duncan Smith bungled the legislation when he introduced workfare. The truth is that this is only half the story as Byrne himself well knows.

The judgement which ruled many workfare schemes, and the benefit sanctions which resulted from them illegal, was about much more than poorly drafted laws. The Appeal Court judgement also slammed the information given to claimants as inadequate, warning it was ‘unclear and opaque’ with one judge stating ‘the answer to my mind is plainly that there could be no question of sanctions being validly imposed if no proper notice of the sanction consequences was given.’

Simply put, claimants were not given the correct information about what would happen if they didn’t attend workfare. And many lost vital benefits as a result, plunging them into immediate poverty and in some cases probably facing homelessness.

No issue better illustrates the disconnect between the political class and the public. IDS’s legislation was a mean-spirited fuck you to the strivers, the struggling precariat, working class people looking for work in a stagnant job market, graduates entering the real world without the certainties and safety net enjoyed by their parents. Labour lost more support than it knew.

I have always voted whenever given the opportunity, but am seriously wondering whether there is a point now. Is it responsible of me to help the people who devise and implement these policies? If I lose my job, should I have to work unpaid for a failing retail chain, removing a paid job from someone else, and wasting time when I could be looking for an actual paid job for myself? Should I have to go bankrupt and my WordPress blog shut down because of some vexatious complaint from Milo Yiannopoulos, Stephen Leather or the BWA?

The conservative journalist Willard Foxton said it best: ‘Congratulations to the Labour Party on managing to fuck the country even when out of power.’

labourparty

[Humorous caption pending assessment from Leveson Web Images (Amusement and Jocularity) Sub-Committee]

(Image: Telegraph)

Rough Justice: Stephen Leather’s Sturm und Drang

March 18, 2013

roughjusticeWhen Jeremy Duns was undergoing his investigation into the fraud, bully and thriller writer, Stephen Leather, he mentioned a Leather novel called Rough Justice, and linked to a talkboard where commenters shared their impressions of the book. One comment runs: ‘I have just finished reading a Stephen Leather book, and afterwards I was left with an uncomfortable feeling that he could well be a racist. Yes – his characters are doing the talking, but they get their strange ideas from him.’ Another: ‘This man in my opinion if he is not a racist, he does a very good impression of being one.’

A few weeks back, I came across a copy of Rough Justice in a second hand bookshop, and was curious enough to buy it. I’ve just finished the novel. It’s extremely disturbing. In it the hero, ex SAS man turned undercover cop Spider Shepherd, is tasked with investigating a group of undercover TSG officers who have taken it themselves to rampage around the city, killing and torturing violent criminals. As his investigation progresses, Spider becomes conflicted and develops a sympathy with the vigilante cops that is at odds with his stated mission to destroy the rogue cell. The ethical issue here is obvious and worth exploring, with hard questions about the limitations of blind justice, courts that let victims down, and the consequences of taking the law into your own hands.

So far, so reasonable. Many crime writers have written on these timeless themes, the obvious recent example being the Dexter novels of Jeff Lindsay, which chronicle the adventures of a serial killer who targets only other villains. Leather’s book carries the same flaws as many airport thrillers, with clunking dialogue attribution, cheesy horseplay, two-dimensional characters and a fetish for military gadgetry: ‘Shepherd’s bergen was a GS issue, general service. The troopers were running with SAS-issue, bigger, with a zipped compartment on the lid, a zip on the outer central pouch, buckles on the side lids’ – etcetera. Someone should also tell Leather’s crowdsourced editors that you don’t need to capitalise common nouns like ‘regiment’ or italicise the word ‘latte’. But Leather does the job, he can tell a story and keep you reading. He’s also done his research, or at least paid someone else to do it. The procedural details ring true.

But here’s the thing. Leather is obsessed with race and immigration. The villains targeted by his vigilante squad are overwhelmingly black minority ethnic, and they are killed and tortured in loving detail. Leather is smart enough to throw a few white bodies onto the pyre, British paedophiles and child killers, but mainly the bad guys are sex-trafficking Romanians, Ba’athist cab drivers, Jamaican gangsters. Even when they are not getting hanged and castrated by his TSG squad, immigrants are mostly portrayed in a bad light. Spider Shepherd, waiting to board a ferry to Ireland, sees a ‘group of Romanian gypsies… the men unshaven and wearing cheap suits, the women with gold hooped earrings and brightly coloured skirts, several holding small babies.’ Soon as boarding is announced, ‘The gypsies pushed their way to the front of the queue.’

It’s those little details that are the most unsettling, because they show that Leather can be subtle when he wants to, but mostly the master storyteller lets his characters speak freely. Interrogating a black London-born criminal, his TSG squad laugh when the gangbanger declares: ‘I’m as British as you.’

The policeman looked pained. ‘Two words, Denzel. Dog. Stable.’

Holmes frowned. ‘What?’

‘Just because a dog is born in a stable doesn’t make it a horse.’

This Powellite racism is the very least of it. Barely a section passes without an anti-immigrant tirade. Here’s a few from pages arrived by flipping through the book at random.

‘All we ever get over here are the bad ones,’ said the policeman. He took a long drag at his cigarette and blew smoke at Mironescu. ‘We get the pickpockets, the gypsy beggars, the hookers, and that’s about it. Why do we never hear about Romanian doctors or Romanian engineers or even Romanian cockle pickers?’

‘All right, that’s a joke,’ he said. ‘And maybe not a good one. But it’s a joke based on what’s really happening to our country. We’re becoming the sort of country where the English worker has to bust his gut and pay taxes to support a flood of foreign so-called asylum seekers and spongers, people who’ve never lifted a finger to help this country.’

‘People are fed up with being treated like third-class citizens in their own country. They’re sick of seeing relatives pushed to the back of the housing queue or having to wait for medical treatment while asylum seekers are fast-tracked for whatever they want. You know why the Left hate the BNP and England First so much? Because when they enter into debates with the likes of Simon Page or Nick Griffin they get trounced. They talk sense, and that’s why they have to throw eggs at them and scream, ‘Nazi scum,’ and accuse them of wanting a second Holocaust. That’s not what they’re about, Brian. They’re talking a lot of sense.’

I should say that part of the plot involves the infiltration of a BNP splinter group called England First which has a casual link to the vigilante cops. The infiltrator, Spider’s best friend Jimmy ‘Razor’ Sharpe, goes to one meeting and is immediately dazzled by the speaker (‘Why isn’t he standing as an MP somewhere?’) and drops a fifty into the collection tin. England First is portrayed completely uncritically, and its views are mirrored by characters outside the organisation. Even Spider Shepherd himself concludes that ‘Our country is full of foreign murderers and rapists and we let them live here because nobody can be bothered to send them home… I’m talking about justice… Rough justice, maybe. But real justice.’

It’s a common critical fallacy that the characters represent the author but in this case I think there’s something in it. It’s the sense of creepy consensus that gets you: Leather can’t even be bothered to put up a decent straw man to knock down, the other side of the argument delegated to a politically correct Bramshill detective and a picket of Searchlight demonstrators dismissed as mindless thugs. Also, almost every immigrant we meet in Rough Justice turns out to be a war criminal travelling under a false name. ‘So you spin the old victim story,’ a TSG vigilante snarls at an Iraqi criminal, ‘and you get an Amnesty International lawyer on your case and the next thing you know you’re being fast-tracked to British citizenship.’ A brief chat with a UKBA caseworker is all Leather would need to understand that practically no one is ‘fast-tracked to British citizenship.’ Still, foreigners are welcome in Leather’s world: as long as they know their place. There is the odd amusing Asian IT technician or fluttering Eastern European au pair. Which leads me onto Leather’s portrayal of women. Sure, he has a plucky kickass TSG officer, but mostly the second sex are represented by pouting primary school teachers, flirtatious psychologists and finger-wagging bosses mostly likely promoted under diversity quota.

Is Rough Justice, then, a ‘racist novel’? I hate classifying fiction according to political considerations. What I will say is that Leather doesn’t have the sophistication, or the desire, to take a step back. Here is the fictional TSG officer Barry Kelly talking about black on black crime:

It’s young black men who use knives and guns and the sooner we accept that and get it out into the open the better. But we can’t because it’s racist so we pretend it’s not black crime and we talk in code. We say that the case is being investigated by Operation Trident, which is just a clever way of saying that the assailants are black. But every cop who has ever walked a beat knows that when it comes to knives and guns, it’s young black males that are the problem. If you removed every young black male from the streets of London tomorrow there’d be no knife crime and no gun crime.

And here is Leather, writing on his blog:

A story broke today about a gang of youths in Hackney who killed a schoolboy. What the story doesn’t say, of course, is that the gang was made up of black youths. One of the themes covered in Dark Justice is that the major problem in London at the moment isn’t gun crime, or knife crime, it’s black crime, gangs of feral young black men who have no respect for society or the law. Of course it’s not politically correct to say so, but it’s the truth. Until they’re dealt with and dealt with harshly, the black gangs are going to continue to run riot. I’m not suggesting vigilante cops is the way to go, but we have to do something and soon.

This is what unsettles people about Rough Justice, and Leather’s persona in general: not just his racism but a strong personal viciousness that seeps into his writing, and which everyone eventually senses.

After I wrote about Leather last year, I had an interesting comment on my blog from the bookseller and publisher, Scott Pack. I think it’s worth quoting in full.

Stephen Leather was once interviewed on Open Book. It was a piece about reading in prisons. Leather’s books were the most widely read in Britain’s prisons at the time, might still be for all I know. He was asked something about whether or not he put real people in his novels and gleefully replied that he once used an ex-girlfriend as a character. He had her raped, put in the boot of a car and driven over a cliff.

Beyond (2) Crisis Cell

March 12, 2013

Part 2 of ‘Beyond’ is now up at Three Monkeys Online. Part 1 is here.

Also, a while back, I reviewed the Fleet Street Fox’s diaries, for 3:AM.

Just in: a review of Hassan Blasim’s latest short story collection, also at 3:AM.