Monday 7 November 2016
WILLIAM MARSHALL - YELLOWTHREAD STREET (1975)
The first in Marshall's unforgettable, classic series of police procedurals - suspenseful and hilarious in equal measure.
Yellowthread Street is the sort of place that breeds more crime than any cops can handle.
Among the gangsters and the goldsmiths of Hong Bay, Chief Inspector Feiffer and his police department had their hands full . . . tourist troubles, a US sailor turned stick-up artist, and the jealous Chinese who solved his marital difficulties with an axe.
Then the Mongolian with a kukri brought an extra touch of terror to the district . . .
Yellowthread Street brings to vivid life a seamy world where people called Osaka Oniki the Disemboweller, Shotgun Sen and The Chopper feel at home, a world of surreal possibility recorded with unique humour and a poignant sense of humanity.
Praise for the Yellowthread Street series –
“Marshall has the rare gift of juggling scary suspense and wild humor and making them both work.” – Washington Post Book World
“Marshall’s style – blending the hilarious, the surreal, and the poignant – remains inimitable and not easily resisted.” – San Francisco Chronicle
“Marshall has few peers as an author who melds the wildest comedy and tragedy in narratives of nonstop action.” – Publishers Weekly
A series opener from Australian born author William Marshall, Yellowthread Street was originally published back in 1975. Set in British controlled Hong Kong it was followed by 15 more books with the last To the End coming out in 1998, the year after the British Handover to the Chinese took place.
At first I found Marshall's writing style quite confusing and had to re-read the first couple of pages several times to see whether I had missed something in respect of our opening crime scene. I soon settled into the book.
It kind of reminded me of an episode of Hill Street Blues as we have more than one crime occurring and a team of officers dipping in and out of the narrative each following their own particular case.
There are seven or eight police officers in the team at Yellowthread Street police station. In the course of the book we get to know them a bit better, understand their rivalries and get a slight feel for their lives outside the job with a couple of them.
We have a double murder with an axe, a stake-out at a cinema which was previously held up by a US sailor when his ship last docked at the port, a report of a missing American tourist by his wife, the aforementioned missing American tourist getting drunk and out of control at a bar and finding himself arrested for attempted rape and a Mongolian extortionist removing fingers, hands and ears with a ceremonial Nepalese knife. Oh and one of his victims also steals a wheelchair from the hospital where she was treated. Plus the Chinese have turned the water supply off again.
All in 128 pages - so it's non-stop busy.
Enjoyable without being the best book ever and its definitely a series and a set of characters I'll be interested in returning to, which is probably just as well as I bought the first ten in the series blind.
Plenty of humour in the narrative, especially in the scenes between the cinema owner and the detective working the ticket booth on the stakeout. He gets continually harangued for allowing customers to access dearer seats at cheaper prices. Little touches like that which add to the enjoyment of the book.
Overall 4 from 5.
William Marshall has penned another eight books outside this series. I can't find a website for him, but according to Fantastic Fiction he is still with us. There a Wikipedia page for him here.
Read in October, 2016
Paperback copy bought secondhand a couple of years ago.
Page count - 128.