Sunday 15 May 2011

Mr Love and Justice

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?


  1. Nice touch with The Equals video, it lends itself to the multi-racial/cross cultural Britain that was beginning at the time the book was set and obviously have a good effect when some white and black lads from Swindon could form a R&R band together. Cool Britannia!!

  2. Thanks wilthomer, I love seeing the Equals, it's just really heartening - and their performances have so much energy and bounce I almost feel out of breath simply watching them!

  3. I'm also jealous that you own all of these amazing original copies!

  4. I'm just lucky, wilthomer - it's all thanks to a lovely person who got them for me!

  5. Bel Mondo said ......Ah and don't you just love Derv's coat/jacket - would love one like that although i'm not sure I could do the woolly hat/jacket combo ! As for the book - always on the side of Frankie Love, from the moment he reminds the benefit office clerk that the Indian sailor can speak two languages - his and ours, sometimes these benefit office people need reminding of such things, tho sometimes you get a star !

  6. I'm going to have to brush up on my reading.......

  7. Bel Mondo - yes, I lurve that jacket! And doesn't Eddy Grant look cool here'n'all? Love the way this video starts and ends too! As for benefits clerk in Mr L and J, I guess they weren't lucky enough to have had quality training...?

  8. Angry Old Man - yes indeed you do! Get yourself down that library or second-hand bookshop pronto!!

  9. er, point of order, would be very happy to be proved wrong on this but as a professional Swindonian I am pretty sure The Equals do not hail from these parts.

  10. Hello and thanks, Wish-Hound. Indeed I do believe the Equals were from London; must admit I didn't really pick up on nor check about the Swindon bit at the time that comment was left here - so thanks for pointing out and setting straight!


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