The blurb on the back:
The Human Pipeline:
The Sweeney, as though you needed reminding, was one of the great triumphs of British TV and of ITV in particular. Everything about it was wonderful: top theme tune and title sequence, shaky, handheld camerawork for the action sequences, great guest stars and superb acting from John Thaw, Dennis Waterman and Garfield Morgan. Above all, it had fabulous scripts, full of tough but tender observations on the existential loneliness of the professional plod.
Before the series kicked in, there was a feature-length pilot in the Armchair Theatre strand titled Regan, which gave some indication of where the original emphasis lay: not in the relationship between the two central characters, but solely on Thaw’s portrayal of the hard, embittered bastard with a heart of gilt. This book also comes from that angle though, as far as I know, it’s a stand-alone novel rather than a transferral from the screen. Here Carter is a ruthless careerist, not Regan’s side-kick but his rival – the prince who will one day depose the king and is seeking to hasten that day – and Regan consequently stands alone, beleaguered on all sides.
It’s a decent thriller, for long periods of which I lost sight of Thaw altogether, being carried away instead by the book itself. There’s an American cop who’s even harder than Regan, there are the IRA running around building links with the criminal underworld, and there’s plenty of seedy London scenery (including a nod towards the late-lamented Compendium Books, Camden’s and London’s best radical bookshop until its closure a few years back). And then there’s the you-don’t-mess-with-us solidarity of the Force:
Bit disappointing that the IRA plot didn’t get more political in its motivation, but other than that, it’s well worth a read: pacey, rugged and belligerent.
By the time of The Human Pipeline, writing duties had been taken over by Joe Balham, which is said to have been 'a pseudonym for a well-known author of crime and war thrillers'. (Anyone know who this is?) The relationship between Regan and Carter has settled down, and we're into much more familiar territory. So familiar, in fact, that the IRA are back. And this time they're personal. Mind you, at least they’re working hard in England, even if it is only in the interest of:
Again, though, that’s a sideline. Our main focus is a people smuggling syndicate that’s bringing assorted criminals and extremist politicos from Germany into Britain. Of course (this being Britain) the smugglers are also bringing in illegal immigrants, and (this being Britain in the 1970s) the immigrants are Pakistani rather than Kosovan or Rumanian or Morrocans or whoever the current tabloid scare story is blaming for all our woes.
For those of who are fascinated by the social history of Britain in the ‘70s, this is interesting stuff. There’s a lot of dodgy stuff here – characters referring to ‘Pakis’ is one thing, but an omniscient narrator doing so is something much more disturbing – but there's also the occasional opportunity for a dissenting voice. Here, for example, is a German cop railing to Regan against the need to stop people moving around without a passport:
As a book? Yeah, it’s alright, y’know. Not a bad piece of work at all, though not as strong as the first.
from the creator of