A little while ago I was very kindly given another beautiful old paperback. And yes, it’s another Penguin, another Colin MacInnes and with another Peter Blake cover – it doesn’t get much better than this!
Like my copy of ‘Absolute Beginners’ (see post Feb 2011) this is an endearingly worn 1964 edition with toast-brown pages and a front cover the colour of single cream. It is the story of two young men – one an ex-seaman who finds himself involved with a prostitute and working as her pimp, and the other a newly appointed Vice Squad officer; inevitably their paths cross and their lives become irrevocably intertwined.
Turn the book over to look at its characteristic orange binding and the blurb on the back from the Daily Telegraph and the Evening Standard sums it up well:
“….Trainee cop and apprentice ponce both have their problems and we learn with them as this modern Mayhew takes us on an eye-opening tour of the corner-caff, cellar-club world of off-street London vice…”
“A penetrating, riveting, and convincing analysis of the relations between the criminal and the Force”
As in ‘Absolute Beginners’, MacInnes displays an incredibly sharp understanding, awareness and perception of the subjects he writes about, in this instance the different but yet not so dissimilar workings of both the leading characters’ lives and careers. I found myself rooting for Frankie, the book’s lovable criminal, and his prostitute girlfriend in ways I had not expected. I also found myself feeling mistrustful and cynical of the police in so many aspects portrayed here (but in ways that perhaps I did expect…)
‘Mr Love and Justice’ presents an insightful view of late 1950s London – perhaps superficially quite different from the city that exists today and yet, in essence, it seems little has changed. MacInnes’ lead men are multi-faceted enough to seem very real and his anti-police stance surprisingly blatant. He manages to express this skilfully in a way that shows no prejudice by presenting the thoughts and words of his characters with honest and realistic conviction.
On putting this book down I just found myself singing this great song by the Equals (I wonder why!) – also later covered nicely by the Clash….
Don’t you just love this?