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He kills coppers
Arnott, Jake.
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Publication Information:
New York : Soho Press, 2002.

Physical Description:
327 pages ; 24 cm
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The smoking-hot bestseller from London A chance encounter in broad daylight. Three London policemen pull over a car and are gunned down. A number of people are irrevocably affected. Sid, a tabloid journalist who himself harbors more lurid personal scandal than anyone he condemns in print. Detective Sergeant Frank Taylor, officially on the rapid promotion track but increasingly conflicted about his identity as a cop and the hidden corruption in the department. Ex-soldier Billy Porter, who has drifted into a life of crime and onto the rapid track to perdition. His violent skills for survival are all he has. He is immensely sympathetic, and a killer. Like Puzo and Robert Daily before him, Jake Arnott finds in the private realities of marginalized, desperate people, a longing for redemption that transforms their discontent into the forces and truths that underlie our lives.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

Imagine a British version of James Ellroy's L.A. Confidential minus much of its imagination and blazing energy and you'll have some idea of this disappointing follow-up to Arnott's highly regarded 2001 debut thriller, The Long Firm (soon to be a BBC miniseries). Like Ellroy, Arnott chooses to tell his period story through multiple voices in this case, three young men whose lives and fates intertwine over the course of many years: Billy Porter, a soldier who becomes a criminal and winds up killing three police officers in 1966; Frank Taylor, an ambitious copper whose best friend and former partner was one of the victims; and Tony Meehan, a gay journalist with a psychotic streak. Using a real case (the killer's name was Harry Roberts, and British football hooligans and later Vietnam protestors used to sing, to the tune of "London Bridge Is Falling Down," "Harry Roberts is our friend,/ is our friend,/ is our friend./ Harry Roberts is our friend,/ He Kills Coppers!") and newsreel-like flashes from such actual events as the World Cup Final game between England and Germany and police raids on Soho vice dens, Arnott tries to paint a picture of a country crippled by moral decay, and usually succeeds in that department. Fans of the first book will recognize a few of the characters who make appearances here; the trouble is that none of the three protagonists is very interesting or original, and the words Arnott uses to bring their thoughts and feelings to life (Tony's "As I fought with my own personal Enemy Within I could content myself with voyeuristic pleasures in the slow surcease of my desperate longings" is fairly typical) fizzle rather than sizzle. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Chapter One Billy's hand rested against the trunk of a tree.     The tree was damp.     He felt along the ridges of bark.     Damp. Warm.     He sniffed his fingers. They smelt of piss.     Human piss.     He looked down. At the base of the tree wet moss bubbled.     He turned to the men behind him. A four-man Reconnaissance Patrol. Tony Wardell, Ronnie Allen, Chin Ho, their SEP tracker, and himself. Billy Porter, Service Number 32265587. Acting Corporal, Section Leader. Lance Jack. Not bad for a conscript. Drafted into National Service straight from Youth Detention. 1st Battalion of the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment. Basic Training at Mill Hill and Canterbury. He found the discipline easy compared to borstal.     He caught the eyes of the rest of the patrol. Everybody froze.     He sniffed again. The sharp tang of urine cut through the funk of jungle humidity and he caught something else in his nostrils. A whiff of exhaled smoke. The unmistakable smell of Chinese cigarettes.     After Basic Training they were shipped out. Malaya. The Emergency. Anti-terrorist operations. Jungle bashing. Stationed at Kuala Kubu Bharu. Taken up-country in Whirlwind helicopters. Fighting Patrols secured rubber plantations and cut into the jungle to set up ambushes against Communist Terrorists. CT. The Charlie Toms. Bandits. Seek out and destroy. They were on a four-day op in the Selangor valley. The Assault Group had sent out Reconnaissance Patrols to track down a CT camp in the area, fanning out into the jungle like the fingers of a hand. A Recce Patrol was supposed to avoid contact with the enemy, seek information and report back to the main patrol. But they had to be ready for anything. Billy was Patrol Leader. He had to decide what to do.     He leaned up against the piss-stained tree and gently pulled a vine to one side to look beyond. Three bandits were sat in a clearing, sharing a cigarette. Their rifles in their laps, they talked in singsong voices. He turned to the rest of the patrol and gave hand signals. A thumbs-down sign meant CT. He then held up three fingers.     If they withdrew now their movement might alert the bandits. They were so bloody close. If they started firing they could disclose the presence of the whole Assault Force. He only had seconds to decide what to do.     He gave the sign for Immediate Ambush. A hand placed over his face.     Immediate Ambush. This drill is designed to deal with an ideal situation, when there is no problem in gaining the initiative but rather one of making the best use of such an initiative. It is a drill which depends on a very high standard of discipline and training--and the ideal circumstances. Given these factors the killing potential is extremely high.     He pointed to where the bandits were. Tony and Bonnie moved slowly and silently into position. Tony crouched low and brought his .303 up to his shoulder. The clearing where the bandits were resting gave them a good killing ground. Ronnie found a standing position, his Owen gun held against his hip. Billy unslung his Sten and slowly and quietly cocked it.     This method demands high standards of jungle craft and self-reliance which can only be achieved and maintained by training and rehearsal.     It was Chin Ho, the SEP, he was most worried about. He had stayed crouched behind the rest of the group, staring ahead. SEP meant Surrendered Enemy Personnel. Chin Ho had spent nearly fifteen years in the jungle and it had taken its toll. He'd fought the Japanese with the MPAJA until '45, then the British with the Min Yuen until '55, when he had taken amnesty and had been used to hunt down his former comrades. He was a broken man. SEPs often reacted badly during an encounter. There were even cases of them leading troops into ambushes.     An Immediate Ambush should be sited only on one side of the CT line of advance to avoid confusion.     Billy motioned for Chin Ho to lie flat and got into position himself.     The automatic and split-second reaction to a chance encounter must continually be practised again and again under different conditions of terrain and varying circumstances.     All three of them had acquired targets and were ready for Billy's signal.     The Ambush should have depth.     They fired in concentrated bursts, spraying the whole clearing. The CT fell back in spasms as the bullets tore into them. Basic Jungle Warfare Course. Weapons Training. Classification Course Instructional. Shooting on the Classification Range, the Malayan Range, the Jungle Lane Range.     Good instruction and practice--the constant need for shooting practice cannot be overemphasised. If properly taught and coached on the Classification Range, a man will have learned to align quickly and to release the trigger steadily without dwelling on the aim.     They ceased firing. Gunshots echoed down the valley towards the Selangor river. The jungle clattered into startled life above them. They moved forward to check the bodies. Brass everywhere. All the Patrol officers. The bodies were being searched. Identified. Recovered weapons and equipment lined up on display like a hunting bag. Chin Ho was jabbering away with the JCLO interpreter trying to keep up with him. Not sure if he could actually recognise any of the dead CT. Lots of pointing and crying hysterically. Jungle happy. A Special Branch Liaison Officer was supervising the identification of the dead CT. Everything would need to be collated for police records. The army, after all, were only assisting the civil authorities in their fight against insurgency. The ambush had occurred too far away from a landing zone for it to be feasible to evacuate the bodies by helicopter. So fingerprint kits were issued and an army photographer was on hand. Soldiers were detailed to clean the hands of the dead for fingerprinting. Others washed the faces of the bodies and brushed back their hair so that clear shots could be taken.     The rest stood about in groups talking. The officers in a huddle, assessing the situation. The commanders of the Assault Group and the Support Group in deep conversation. Billy stood near by. He'd already given the brass a short account of the engagement. He could hear the officers chattering away.     'They really should have reported back, sir. I mean, this action's rather given away our whole presence and position to the enemy.'     'That is if there are any other bandits in the area.'     'Well, we won't know that now, will we, sir? They'll be miles away by now.'     'Look ...' It was the Company commander speaking. 'We can't afford to be dogmatic about operational conduct. We rely on junior leaders to make snap decisions. It's what they're trained for, for Christ's sake. It's what this whole bloody campaign depends on.'     'I'm just concerned about discipline, sir.'     'Well, morale is as important as discipline. They've bagged three bandits, for goodness' sake. We don't want the men to think that they've done something wrong, do we?'     The officers moved on. The Company commander patted Billy gently on the shoulder as he passed by.     'Good hunting, Corporal,' he said. 'We'll have a proper debriefing when we're back at base.'     The whole unit was buzzing with the dull euphoria that comes after a kill. Billy stood on his own, looking up at the canopy of the rainforest. The jungle too chattered away. Throbbing with life. Every living thing fighting for the light above. He lit a cigarette. His hand was shaking but his head was calm. Wonderfully calm. Chapter Two A verbal.     It's always good to start with a verbal.     When giving evidence in court, that is.     A verbal isn't just subtly incriminating. It primes the jury. Sets the scene. Lets those twelve people know that there's been a wrongdoing. It sets the scene, all right. The scene of the crime.     A verbal is just a little bit of dialogue that you put in the mouth of the accused. Something he was heard to say just before, or just after, he was cautioned. Something tasty.     Who grassed this time? That's a good one. Read that out of your notebook in court and it places your man for them. It's about language, see? That's why it's called a verbal. The right words, well, they can place someone. You know what I mean? Yeah, I done it but you'll never prove it. Hasn't that one got a ring to it? You see, you're not allowed to mention previous during the trial so the jury isn't to know that the defendant is a villain. That would be prejudicial. But how else are they supposed to know that he's been at it in the past? Do a verbal and it puts them straight. Gives a bit of atmosphere to the proceedings.     It's not as hookey as planting actual evidence on a suspect. You ain't fiddling with the forensics as such. You're just planting the odd word or two.     That's a verbal. (Continues...) Excerpted from HE KILLS COPPERS by Jake Arnott. Copyright © 2001 by Jake Arnott. Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.