I’m writing a lot about London in the 1960s at the moment, and so to read both London and 1960s set THE LONG FIRM was an absolute treat. A treat which made me turn puce with envious thoughts, but a treat nonetheless. This is really a superb example of how to conjure up a period. Just through little details, catching the era and the idiom and taking the reader on a trip back in time as if we’ve been given our very own Tardis.
We have here the story of Harry Starks, London crime boss and contemporary of The Krays. It’s a gangster piece, it has all the trappings of a dirty under the fingernails crime novel, but it’s also – and probably above all else – a character study. And what a character! Charming, intense and ruthless, Arnott gives us an incredibly vivid and charismatic protagonist.
The decision to split it up into six sections, each narrated by a different person in contact with Starks, could have rebounded – giving more of a distancing effect than something which grabs the reader. But instead we get a novel with depth and heft. One that grips and repulses and tantalises all at the same time.
I’ve been meaning to read THE LONG FIRM since it came out, which I now see was nearly an incredible two decades ago. I don’t know what I’ve been doing these last 20 years, but clearly I’ve been missing out.
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