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He Died with His Eyes Open (Factory 1) Paperback – October 4, 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 48 customer reviews
Book 1 of 5 in the Factory Series

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Derek Raymond's Factory Series

"Unrelenting existentialist noir—as if the most brutal of crime fictions had been recast by Sartre, Camus, or Ionesco while retaining something of the intimate wise-guy tone of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett."
—Joyce Carol Oates, The New York Review of Books

"It’s one of the darkest and most surrealistically hard-boiled things I’ve ever read. The detective is at least as scary as the murderers he’s chasing."
—William Gibson, bestselling author of Neuromancer

"There remains no finer writing—crime or otherwise —about the state of Britain."
—David Peace, author of "The Red Riding Quartet."

"No one claiming interest in literature truly written from the edge of human experience, no one wondering at the limits of the crime novel and of literature itself, can overlook these extraordinary books."
—James Sallis, author of Drive

"The Factory novels are certainly the most viscerally imagined of their kind that I've ever read, or reread multiple times. Derek Raymond wrote in a supposedly escapist genre in a manner that precluded any hope of escape."
—Scott Phillips, bestselling author of The Ice Harvest

"I Was Dora Suarez blew me away—beyond hard boiled."
—Patton Oswalt

"More Chandleresque than Chandler... [Raymond] could write beautifully...and, more importantly, what he is writing about in this novel are nothing less than the important subjects any writer can deal with: mortality and death."
—Will Self

“A crackerjack of a crime novel, unafraid to face the reality of man’s and woman’s evil.”
Evening Standard

"The beautiful, ruthless simplicity of the Factory novels is that Raymond rewrites the basic ethos of the classic detective novel."
—Charles Taylor, The Nation

"Hellishly bleak and moving."
—New Statesman

About the Author

Derek Raymond was the pseudonym of British writer Robert Cook, who was born in London in 1931. The son of a textile magnate, he dropped out of Eton and rejected a life of privilege for a life of adventure. He traveled the world, living in Paris at the Beat Hotel and on New York’s seedy Lower East Side, smuggled artworks into Amsterdam, and spent time in a Spanish prison for publicly making fun of Franco. Finally, he landed back in London, working in the lower echelons of the Kray Brothers’ crime syndicate laundering money, organizing illegal gambling, and setting up insurance scams. He eventually took to writing—first as a pornographer, but then as an increasingly serious novelist, writing about the desperate characters and experiences he’d known in London’s underground. His work culminated in the Factory novels, landmarks that have led many to consider  him the founding father of British noir. He died in London in 1993.

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Product Details

  • Series: Factory 1
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Melville International Crime (October 4, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781935554578
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935554578
  • ASIN: 1935554573
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (48 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,345,372 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
If you enjoy the stylings of James Ellroy, Iain Banks, or even Raymond Chandler, anything by Derek Raymond is a sure bet. "He Died With His Eyes Open" is a stunning read. It follows the narrator, a nameless English detective, during his pursuit/descent while trying to find those guilty of a violent murder. Through writings and tape-recorded thoughts recovered from the victim, the detective becomes increasingly attached to the persona of the deceased. The prose is stark, elegant, incredibly philsophical, and yields a wealth of great quotes.
Another reviewer on Amazon.com mentioned that the methods of detection were not convincing, and the ending was "over-the-top".
Well...it's certainly not in the vein of an Agatha Christie mystery; It is a rare, brilliant look at the primal underpinnings of "civilized" society. It is classic noir, in the sense that it is a stylistic meditation on the nature of man/good vs. evil, as seen through the eyes of someone who makes a life out of being on the front lines of misery.
"He Died With His Eyes Open" compares more than favorably to Ellroy's "The Black Dahlia", with proper British style.
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Not for everyone perhaps, it is the first book in the Factory series. Here is real noir writing. This is not the entertaining but carefully sanitized slumming of Raymond Chandler where an amusing line is never out of place. This is the world of inescapable poverty and ignorance, in which even a murder does not interest the authorities very much and viscous exploitation for trivial gain is the rule and nobody. least of all the detective, is having fun. The story drags a bit on occasion and the somewhat cumbersome premise of the victim speaking via taped autobiographical musings to the detective, a nameless Sergeant of the Department of Unexplained Deaths can be trying at times. Nevertheless, I think it worth the read for anyone who really likes mystery fiction.
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Format: Paperback
Derek Raymond (aka Robert Cook) has a biography almost as fascinating as his novels. He smuggled oil paintings, got thrown in Spanish prison for badmouthing Franco, drove fast cars, lived with the beat poets in the fifties, was interrogated by Dutch police, and then wrote British noir.

Raymond published five novels in his nameless detective Factory series and these excellent novels are unique in their format and tone. The narrator is a British detective who works unsolved cases, cases no one in the Department of Unexplained Deaths could give a lesser damn about. He spends an enormous amount of time in these cases, delving into the victim's character and lives, trying to understand what happened.

A man is found on the side of the road, beaten with a hammer, stabbed with a knife, and made to suffer a long slow death. Who was he and who hated him so much? Our detective listens to a series of cassette tapes left by the victim in the form of a diary and tries to understand who this man was and who had it in for him. As it says in this diary, "Anyone who conceives of writing as an agreeable stroll toward middle-class lifestyle will never write anything but crap."

On the way, he brings Britain of the early eighties alive with punks, mods and rockers, junkies, people living as squatters and on the dole.

There may not be the kind of action here present in most detective novels, but it is a smooth, talented read that is worth reading far more than once. This detective is rude, sarcastic, overbearing and altogether one of the most unique characters ever.
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Sometimes you take a chance on a book despite being skeptical, and are pleasantly surprised; this was one of those books. I had not heard of the author, but have since learned that he is an important writer in "British noir." The book is written in the first person, which isn't my favorite style, but it's readable. The lead character is unnamed throughout the book (and, I've read, throughout the whole "Factory" series), but appears a hard-bitten detective. There are some British colloquialisms that were unfamiliar to me, but those don't detract from the overall understanding.
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The eponymous "Factory" refers to a police facility in the UK. It's situated in a grimy, nasty, rotten and decaying section of a decaying city in a decaying remnant of a former empire. Raymond hammers these points relentlessly and successfully. His prose is concise and mostly stripped of embellishment. His characters are classic noir: an unnamed police investigator in a dead-end department investigating dead-end crimes perpetrated against dead-end people by petty, depraved dead-end minor criminals. The lexicon of this low-class element is nicely meshed with the story and is rarely distracting. It's Simenon's dark novels writ small.

There are but two problems with "Eyes": first, it's essentially a standard police procedural and isn't terribly original in any regard and second, the crackpot psychoanalysis of the sadistic, gratuitously violent and perverted murderer(s) is right out of Havelock Ellis as re-written by David Goodis. James Ellroy did a much better job in his "L.A. Quartet" (and a less good job along the same lines in some of his earlier books like "Blood on the Moon"). Raymond's work is best compared to novels by Gene Kerrigan. They both deal with pretty much the same element in pretty much the same setting. Kerrigan's prose is a bit more fluid and his work perhaps a little more polished. Importantly, it lacks the silly pop psychology of "Eyes".

In summary, "Eyes" is entertaining and, if the cover blurbs are to be believed, of seminal importance in the history of noir fiction in the UK. Given that Raymond supposedly lived a lifestyle that more-or-less approximates that of his subjects, an element of verisimilitude can be assumed. It's not a brilliant book, but it's an entertaining one.
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