THE SCORE by Howard Marks
Review by Steven James Pratt (Fly Agaric 23)
Howard Marks writes fiction with a natural melody and swish turn of phrase, digging deep into his myriad of encounters with all walks he teases out subtle observations and explores the inner workings of the UK crime game and double-cross system.
The Score follows DC Price, a Welsh female cop who’s coming off prescription tranquilizers after her last case, Howards previous book ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ DC Price carries drum rolling tobacco and on occasion relaxes with a light sprinkle of canna’ on top, like old Sherlock Holmes used to, and smoking seems to help her psychic powers expand into the wide reaching scenarios and puzzles under investigation by her inner prose.
I personally enjoy the subtle telepathic and enhanced sensory articulation of Cat, how she often feels peoples gaze on her, intuits tiny anomalies others would not register, her delicate sense of reasoning is not unlike that of agent Starling from the Thomas Harris novels. This kind of hologrammic detective consciousness allows for many threads to run simultaneous, and the fact that Howard is writing from the perspective of a female character makes his feat of psychological insight border on the majestic.
I felt the dire importance and horror of the subjects explored, the despair of teenage rebellion, the psychology of runaways, excessive drug use and dependence, suicide and/or crimes made to appear like suicide, organized and un-organized crime, torture tactics, rape and physical abuse, collusion between police and crime gangs. This is serious stuff here and I think we should listen up and follow Howard’s narrative voice that brings insightful wisdom and reasoning to these too common daily horrors, and can help his readers begin to process the ‘real’ criminal activities going on around us which only receive a shallow dull description, hardly ever considering the mosaic like constellation of causes at play. Howard drills into such complex cluster fucks to investigate and exercise good philosophy, leaving the reader with a better conception of many Horror stories from the news. To me, this outlines the broader benefits of good fiction and literature in general, in that it helps one to pre-prepare for life scenarios, and often without the sugar coating of hyper-present mainstream TV, radio and loose-papers. I feel that the Novel in the write hand can emit a unique bond with the human psyche, favouring a slower and somewhat richer flow of ideas, allowed to amplify and resonate in the free mind of the reader. Howard seems to understand this strange pickle and serves up all the right flavours at the right moments to create a full bodied taste.
A friend of mine once recommended writing a passage stoned, re-writing it straight, reading it stoned and then reading it straight so as to percolate a fair balance between the left and the right hemispheres of the brain, bubbling and oscillating into a nice harmonious literary brew. I do not know anything of Howard’s writing habits, but I can feel his deep sense of focus and attention to detail, often dazzling the reader with a poetic and descriptive sense of location, wide emotional geographies and of an uncanny ability to scaffold suspense and deploy surprise in just the right dose. Howards prose pills are made with precise proportions.
While reading The Score, I began to think of Howard and his own life story that is well known and respected by millions across Wales, England and the world due to the success of Mr Nice, the book and the movie. While reading the book I naturally found myself imagining some of the scenarios and characters within it and the possible parallels to characters and events in ‘real’ life and history, a rather foolish endeavour but great fun for the life of the mind.
In my estimation, Howard understands the psychology of crime and international crime on many levels, and from many multiple points of view (MPOV) essential pluralistic thinking for a good novelist/ story teller/communicator. Therefore, in his fiction Howard can explore many minds at once and many crimes at once, his portal evokes the general feeling of what it is like ‘out there’ where the criminal underworld and the authorities meet and mingle and conduct secret wars on the streets. Howard’s seen, heard, watched, tasted and read first hand his share of the last 50 years of criminal history, and he holds a master’s degree in ‘the philosophy of science’ a healthy mix I suspect, and now he’s delivered us a literary testament to what he’s learnt, in some sense, a demonstration of good communication, good bold writing and independent researcher.
Howard Marks turns the crime fiction genre around, pointing the Novel back at the authorities, out smarting and out thinking them, like the best of crime writers, dancing smoke rings around the goons and dullards, most of the criminals and the detectives, telling good stories and forwarding a feeling of what it’s like on the ground dealing with some of the darkest of violent crimes and weird fuckers.
Howard Marks has published by example and proved to me that marijuana consumers often work extremely hard and commit to highly focused work, sometimes resulting in exquisite art. Nice one Howard.
–Steve ‘fly agaric 23’ Pratt