Monday, 4 January 2016

Post-Xmas Problems: Grumpy London Life



Don’t Leave me This Way by Joan Smith


published 1990


Dont leave me



[Academic and series sleuth Loretta Lawson is investigating. At the end of a women’s group meeting:]

Sue came back with her own and Loretta’s coats in her arms.

‘Weighs a ton’ she said disapprovingly, handing Loretta her fake fur.

‘It’s very warm,’ Loretta pointed out. ‘Ready?’

[Later. Loretta meets a policeman in Hampshire. He says to her:]

‘You local?’

‘Me? No, I live in London.’

‘Thought so, dressed like that.’ He grinned and gestured towards her coat, which was draped over the empty chair next to her….

She finished her tea and got up. He was already pulling on the heavy overcoat he had brought with him from the police station, and he did up the buttons while she put on her fake fur.

‘Great coat,’ he remarked, leading the way to the door. He opened it and stood back for her.

Loretta felt a welcome blast of cold air on her face and realized how warm it had been inside the café. She tuned up the collar of her coat and stepped gladly out into the street.
 
 
commentary: I’m working my way through Joan Smith’s splendid Loretta Lawson books – this follows on from a blogpost on two earlier books in the series.

In this one a friend – or more of an acquaintance – turns up to claim Loretta’s hospitality just before Christmas. Smith shows in full all the ways in which houseguests can be annoying, and inconvenient, even if they are the nicest people in the world – and Sandra isn’t, she is a pain. All this is funny and wince-making. But then Sandra disappears. Loretta does some investigating, in between her academic work and her affair with someone from a previous book. The weather is cold, the university is just getting going after Christmas, and it’s a great picture of grumpy London life in January. Joan first met Sandra in a long-disbanded women’s group – they meet up again to discuss Sandra (as in the first extract above) in a brilliant and again all too recognizably awkward event. Recriminations and bad memories (‘you were all so bloody het’) feature prominently.

Loretta also ends up with Sandra’s teenage daughter in her flat – another person worried about the fake fur coat:
‘Is that real?’ Lizzie asked in a disapproving voice, hanging her duffel coat on the next-door hook.
‘Good God no’ said Loretta… ‘Have you ever seen an animal this colour?’
‘It might be dyed.’ Lizzie said dismissively.

There was in fact a claim at one time that fake fur was of itself politically incorrect, simply because it looked like real fur – but I haven’t heard that theory for a while. Some people in this book would certainly espouse it if they could.

Anyway, this is another intriguing investigation for Loretta, and a lovely picture of a certain kind of life and time, and very much of certain people – Smith does great characters.

Joan Smith liked my previous entry on the Lawson books – wouldn’t it be great if she wrote some more?

Thanks to Leah for trying on the coat….


















12 comments:

  1. Oh, yes, Moira, that 'housemate' bit in this novel is funny, isn't it? And I do like the Loretta Lawson character an awful lot. In my opinion, the series strikes a solid balance between welcome wit and a serious focus on the mystery - not easy to do. I agree; it'd be great to have more Loretta Lawson novels.

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    1. It was a great series wasn't it? As well as being solid crime stories, they gave a very real picture of life in those years....

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  2. I remember a scene in, I think it was Byker Grove, the teen soap opera of the '90s, where someone is encouraged to throw red paint over her friend doing a catwalk show and when it happens they're like "But it's FAKE fur!" and the instigator says "Well it's the principle of the thing!"

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    1. Confirmation of my theory! I was sure it was a real trope, glad you know of it too, from the well-known historical resource that is Byker Grove....

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  3. Glad you enjoyed these, but I'll pass. Not that I probably wouldn't enjoy the odd one....

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    1. You probably would in fact, anyone who lived through the 80s/90s would find plenty to recognize. But will let you off.

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  4. The BBC did a couple of TV movie versions of Loretta Lawson stories in the early '90s. There was this and A MASCULINE ENDING. Lawson was played by Janet McTeer. For a time it looked as though there might be more, or even a series, but nothing materialised. I still have the newspaper publicity around somewhere, and it's mainly about how extraordinary it is to have a detective series where the main protagonist is A WOMAN!!! I'm not sure that McTeer wore the fake fur, but until the film is either repeated or released on DVD my curiosity will remain unsatisfied.

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    1. Thanks for this - I went and looked it up, and did you know you can see bits of it on YouTube? A Masculine Ending, and at least some of this one, I haven't looked in depth yet. The quality of the clips looks terrible, but I'm looking forward to trying to watch anyway, so thanks for the tipoff! What high standards of acting they had - Imelda Staunton too. Janet McTeer a great choice.

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    2. Thanks for steering me towards the bits on YouTube. It looks like the second story is complete, althugh like you I haven't fully checked yet. Lovely to see them again after all this time.I wonder if they didn't do any more because Imelda Staunton was getting neck strain constantly having to look up at McTeer!

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    3. There was certainly a height contrast there!

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  5. This sounds like an author I would like to try. I love mysteries written and set in the 80s and 90s. I have not heard of the author before. Will have to wait a while because I am not buying books until April at the earliest.

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    1. Oh I think you'll like these, Tracy. Very English and quite political. Probably out of print now, but you might find copies some time.

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