By Evangeline Jennings
A box of books washed up at my door over the weekend – the latest surreptitious shipment from the UK smuggled into the country inside an oil executive’s transatlantic container and dropped off at my casa by one of my many “cousins” in the import/export trade.
I love it when one of these parcels from the past arrives out of the blue. It’s a treat to open a box and rediscover some more somethings I used to take for granted in my youth. This time, as has been said, it was a box full of paperback books and two authors in particular slipped their hands inside my pants and tickled my fancy.
Mike Ripley and Mark Timlin.
Two very different writers – with two very different heroes – who still have plenty in common. Not least a place in my heart.
Ripley’s Angel is a thirty-something slacker, a libido-driven wisecracking wideboy who lives on his wits and the forbearance of his friends. He plays trumpet in a series of ad hoc pub bands, roadies occasionally, and isn’t averse to impersonating the humble London cabbie – courtesy of Armstrong, his delicensed classic black cab.
Yes, Angel named his cab after Louis Armstrong. What of it? His cat, whose evil cunning is matched only by his psychopathic tendencies, is known to the world as Springsteen. His sleeping bag, I think, is Hemingway. But obviously he hasn’t given his trumpet a name because – as everyone knows – that would be silly.
Of course, there’s another side to Angel. His full name is Fitzroy Maclean Angel. His father is either a Lord or an important politician, or both. Hey! It might have been a decade since I read these books, what more do you want from me? Similarly, his brother may or may not have been in the SAS.
Angel lives in the East End of London. Mark Timlin’s Nick Sherman fetches up sarf of the river in Tulse Hill. Much more hardcore noir than Angel, Nick is a disgraced Metropolitan Police detective who sets up as a private eye and sets out upon a series of high body count adventures.
Ripley’s Angel books all have the word “Angel” in the title (I think). The Sherman series takes its titles from songs or lyrics (ditto). Angel roadies from time to time. Mark Timlin was a roadie for Marc Bolan and the Who and at one point drove a taxicab for a living. Both heroes have an impressive working knowledge of London’s pubs and clubs and both have a wide assortment of interesting friends – mechanics, strippers, models, the usual London fare – and both of them eventually get married.
Over the next few weeks, I shall mostly be reading my Angel and Sherman books – whenever I’m not writing, parenting, or otherwise pretending to have a life – and when I’m done I shall return to this very website to talk about them in more depth and with more accuracy. How well will they have aged? Watch this space.