1978: The National Front is gaining ground in Hackney. To counter their influence, anti-fascist groups launch the Carnival Against Racism in Victoria Park. Observing the event is Detective Constable Patrick Noble, charged with investigating racist attacks in the area and running Spycops in both far-right and left wing groups. As Noble’s superiors are drawn further into political meddling, he’s inveigled into a plot against the embattled Labour government.
1983: Under a disciplinary cloud after a Spycops op ended in tragedy, Noble is offered a reprieve by an old mentor. He is dispatched in the early hours to Stoke Newington police station, where a young black man has died in suspicious circumstances. This is Thatcher’s Britain now, a new world that Noble unwittingly helped to usher in, where racial tensions are weaponised by those in power.
Thank you to Corinna at Quercus for getting in touch and inviting me to be involved in the social media around publication day for White Riot. Aside from the opportunity to read books prior to publication, which I love, one of the things I truly appreciate about being a book blogger is being offered books which I otherwise would not pick up. White Riot is one such book, and while I am sure it will hold huge appeal to some, in truth it is a book that would not ordinarily have hit my radar. Read on, because that is in no way a criticism, merely an observation.
White Riot is an edgy political crime novel, drawing upon real events in the late 70s and early 80s. Racism is rife and explicit, police brutality and corruption is endemic and unemployment is at an all time high. Undercover policing; spycops are used to infiltrate left and right, shrouded in secrecy this brings a lack of accountability promoting dubious methods. Thatcher is coming and immigration is blamed for lots. Told from multiple perspectives the story is fast paced as ‘excerpts’ are used as the narrative. A cast of characters linked by time and location are documented in short sections, most living in East London, politically on the left wing, all with a role in fighting injustice.
With a vibrant soundtrack and a speaking role for Paul Weller this book entertained as well as informed, the murder of Altab Ali and the death of Colin Roach were central to the plot as the National Front grew and racially motivated attacks were common. Police corruption and collusion were evident. The unions were vociferous as rights of the masses were stripped back. Thatcherite Britain.
And hear we are today over 40 years later and definitely some parallels themes in our story now, which makes Thomas’ powerful novel especially timely. It was a gripping read, edgy, pacey but easy enough to follow, the narrative was sharp but vague, lots of characters, identifiable by their stories but not always their names, but the finished product was a story of its time, raw, vibrant and revealing.
A satisfying read to start the year with, enlightening and hard hitting but somehow right for now. Will you be reading White Riot?
About the Author
Joe Thomas was born in Hackney in 1977. He is the author of the acclaimed Sao Paulo quartet – Paradise City, Gringa, Playboy and Brazilian Psycho, which was nominated for the CWA Gold Dagger – and Bent, which was a Guardian Best Book and Irish Times pick of the best crime fiction of 2020. White Riot is the first in a trilogy of novels set in East London followed by Red Menace and True Blue.
3 thoughts on “White Riot by Joe Thomas @arcadiabooks #WhiteRiot #JoeThomas #TheClqrt #BookReview #BookBlog #Fiction #HistoricalFiction #CrimeFiction”
Thanks for this great review. I shall definitely be looking out for a copy of this. As you say, forty years on and stories about institutional and individual racism and misogyny in the police are still making news.
I remember the lates seventies vividly, although I was living in a little village in North Leicestershire- a long way from inner city turmoil – and was also drawn by your reference to the music of the time, of which I have clear and (mainly) fond memories.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I think you would really like this book.
LikeLiked by 1 person
Yes – it seems similar to ‘London Burning’ by Anthony Quinn, which I thought was marvellous (although similarly grim in aspect).
LikeLiked by 1 person