Published by Avon
ebook and paperback : 28 December 2017
Welcome to my turn on the publisher blog tour for Games with the Dead and I’m delighted to host a guest post from James.
The Rise of the E Gangster
by James Nally
One of the joys of writing novels set in the early 1990s is that my ‘research’ is often nothing more than a self-indulgent bath in unashamed nostalgia. But with the benefit of 20 odd years’ hindsight, reviewing newspaper cuts and TV archive from the era throws up some real surprises.
In my third book, Games with the Dead, rookie cop Donal Lynch goes undercover to smash a gang peddling Ecstasy in Windsor. Looking back, it’s fascinating to see how demonised Ecstasy had been in the late 80s – and how dismally ineffective this government-backed scare-mongering proved to be.
Somewhat bizarrely, the Sun newspaper first seemed quite smitten with the rave scene, and even got in on the action by marketing their own Smiley t-shirt. On August 17, 1988, the paper reported with typical restraint: ‘Scandal of the five-pound drug trip to Heaven.’
It went on: ‘LSD, a favourite with 1970s drop outs, is now popular with Yuppies. Junkies flaunt their cravings by wearing T shirts sold at the club bearing messages like ‘Can You Feel It’ and ‘Drop Acid Not Bombs’. On the packed dancefloor, youths in surf shorts stripped to the waist flailed their arms to the pounding beat… the youngsters, mainly in their mid-20s, try to escape the pressure of work by getting high on acid every weekend.’
Inside, they provided a useful ‘Acid House fashion guide’ and a reader offer of a Smiley t shirt for ‘only £5.50 man’. ‘It’s groovy and cool,’ said the blurb.
One week later, the Sun had dramatically changed its tune, warning readers of ‘the evil of Ecstasy, the danger drug that is sweeping across the nation and ruining lives.’ Sun Medical Correspondent Vernon Coleman warned ‘you will hallucinate. For example, if you don’t like spiders, you’ll start seeing giant ones… hallucinations can last up to 12 hours… There’s a good chance you’ll end up in a mental hospital for life… if you’re young enough there’s a good chance you’ll be sexually assaulted while under the influence. You may not even know until a few days or even weeks later.’
Hysteria took hold immediately. Sir Ralph Halpern banned Smiley t shirts from his Top Shop retail chain; Top of the Pops declared a moratorium on all records containing the word ‘Acid’.
A year later, the Sun whipped itself into an even frothier frenzy when undercover reporters ‘infiltrated’ a rave. ‘Spaced-out girls, some as young as 12, rub shoulders with sinister dealers while drug-crazed youths writhed to alien rhythms, tearing heads off pigeons in their frenzy as a mere six policemen look on helplessly.’ The Mail railed: ‘Those responsible for this gigantic exercise in hooking our youth on drugs must be brought to book and the stiffest penalties imposed’.
Despite the moral panic, Ecstasy didn’t just revolutionise drug culture, it normalised it. According to Customs, E coming into the UK increased 4000 per cent between 1990 and ‘95. That’s because people didn’t see it as a drug like heroin or cocaine. As John Jolly of drugs agency Release noted sagaciously: ‘Many of the people who are taking Ecstasy at acid house parties and in other places are the sort who would not normally dream of taking illicit drugs.’
Soon, in every suburb of the UK, kids in Top Shop clothes popped an E every Saturday night as unconsciously as they might swig a bottle of lager. There was no bohemian revolution or ideological quest for enlightenment, just people looking to suspend transmission from the gloom. With a biting economic recession and a Tory government smashing unions and entire industries wholesale while preaching morality, we needed it!
What we didn’t see coming was the criminal element, who completely took over the scene. It was so easy for them…
In hundreds of towns across the UK, local gangs followed a well-trodden route map from armed robbery to prison to overnight drugs barons.
Thanks to recent developments like cheap international flights, laptops and mobile phones, integration with Europe, deregulated banking and, of course, the demand for E, at the touch of a portable phone they’ve been propelled into a stratospheric world of mass cash and wildly disproportionate power.
As a source from customs explained to me: ‘Once the criminal gang takes over, they take complete control of the scene. They take over clubs, often by force, they import the tablets, supply them to dealers, then charge these dealers to gain entry to the marketplace, their clubs, so their profits are vast.’
But for some gangs, vast profits weren’t enough. The firm Donal is charged with infiltrating in Games with the Dead were sadly typical of those that ran the ‘E scene’ – steroid-pumping, coke-snorting, out-of-control bullies with an insatiable appetite for sadistic violence.
Somehow, he’s got to win them over, betray them and survive…
| About the Book |
Irish runaway. Insomniac. Functioning alcoholic.
Life is about to get complicated for DC Donal Lynch.
When a young woman is kidnapped, Donal is brought in to deliver the ransom money. But the tightly-planned drop off goes wrong, Julie Draper is discovered dead, and Donal finds his job on the line – a scapegoat for the officers in charge.
But when Donal is delivered a cryptic message in the night, he learns that Julie was killed long before the botched rescue mission. As he digs further into the murder in a bid to clear his own name, dark revelations make one thing certain: the police are chasing the wrong man, and the killer has far more blood on his hands than they could even imagine.
A gripping, brutal and addictive thriller, perfect for fans of Ian Rankin and James Oswald.
| About the Author |
James Nally was a journalist for 15 years, before leaving to become a producer and director of TV and film. Games With the Dead is his third novel.