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The Persecutor

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Panther, London, 1967
price: 3/6; 176 pages
(first published in Great Britain by Constable & Co, 1965)

dedication: for THBB - long promised with many thanks

The blurb on the back:

‘Mr Stephen Quigley?’
‘Yes. Who's calling, please?’
‘Quigley. I'm going to kill you very soon.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘I'm going to put you out of your misery. It won't be long now.’
‘Please. What is all this about? Why? What do you want from me?’
When your phone rings at five in the morning and a voice whispers a promise of death — you're scared. But it's no use calling the police. Not when the 'Persecutor' is after you. No use at all.

opening lines:
A telephone rings its loudest at five in the morning. It corkscrews down into the darkest corners of a sleeping mind and distorts the simplest dreams, and there is no way it can be ignored.

Those sleeve notes leave out a crucial aspect of the story: it’s told by the guy making the phone calls, the Persecutor himself. And, in a twist designed to appeal to me specifically, he’s a DJ working the overnight shift on a Sydney radio station in the mid-1960s. Which means we get to check out what music was making Australia swing in the days when Richard 'Oz' Neville, Clive 'Smug' James and Germaine ‘No Knickers’ Greer were busy getting the hell out of the place: Johnny Mathis, Nina Simone, Dave Brubeck, Shirley Bassey – not too bad, I’d have thought. There’s also, for you nostalgic types, a brief mention of the youth cults of the period:

There are two teen tribes in the city: the surfies and the rockers. The surfies bleach their hair with a brand of kitchen cleaner and the rockers have dark hair and duck-tail haircuts. It must be tough on a blond kid who wants to be a rocker. Both tribes are more or less warlike when the rockers dare to move on to the surf beaches. (p.123)

Of course, all this is entirely incidental to the real meat of the story, which concerns a murder some years previously for which an innocent man went to gaol, where he hanged himself. Our hero, the DJ, links up with the innocent man’s sister to try to uncover the true murderer.

For much of the book, it hangs together quite nicely, but the last 30 pages or so get bogged down in dull chase sequences and pointless revelations. While it’s working, though, it’s quite neat, and it is genuinely nice to see a DJ acting as a tough guy investigator.


another investigative DJ...

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