Monday, 5 October 2009

The Take by Martina Cole

Returning to a gangland theme, I recently picked up a copy of Martina Cole’s The Take, a story of organised crime and family betrayal from Britain’s best selling author. I was drawn to Cole by this fantastic interview in The Guardian ('The Booker prize money wouldn't even keep me in cigarettes') and finally got about to taking one of her novels out of the library.


The Take follows the life of career criminal Freddie Jackson, East End ‘face’ and drink and drug fuelled nutter. Freddie puts away the sauce, but not quite to the same degree as his long suffering wife, Jackie, who is slipping into alcohol dependency. Finally, it looks like Freddie has gone too far, even for Jackie. At eleven in the morning, self-destruction beckons:

She burped, and tasted the tannic cheapness of the wine, then she topped up the glass and drank once more. She need oblivion and she knew that today of all days it was not to be hers. This was far too serious to anaesthetise with wine or vodka. This needed brandy or even whisky.

There are some great descriptions of the ravages of booze throughout the book: A copper with the beer gut and the weather beaten look of a man who had drunk too much too soon, the electric pain of a hangover. Speaking of hangovers, there’s a cracking one when Freddy’s best friend wakes up after his stag night:

The night before was a complete blank, and he know that was how this was meant to be. He had been drinking brandy and port, a lethal combination, and he felt as if someone had hit him over the head with a billiard ball in a sock.

For all the heavy drinking and drug taking, the swearing and the ultraviolence, The Take is at heart a morality tale about hubris and nemesis. And I’m enjoying every minute of it.

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