Brilliant. Bent compellingly re-imagines a shocking true story of bravery and deception with all the manic energy and terrifying presence of its subject
A wildly stylish and hugely entertaining read, Bent brings the worlds of sixties Soho and Nazi-occupied Italy thrillingly to life. It's taut, evocative and laugh-out-loud funny and, like its anti-hero, Challenor, slick, pacy and just crooked enough to keep you guessing, right up until its gut-punch of an ending
Vivid, stylish, funny
From the cool spine of Italy to the burning heart of London, Bent merges war and peace as it shows how our traumatised heroes helped shape Britain in the decades following the Second World War. While the Sixties swing, one man's need for order is undercut by a seething anger and some righteous violence. Written with love and respect, Bent is a snappy, thoughtful, moving novel
Bent makes me remember Fridays bunking off work early, slipping and sliding on mashed fruit and veg through a deserted old Covent Garden, down to Berwick Street market to buy a few ex-jukebox 45's for half a dollar each, then to the Nellie Dean for a couple of pints of Guinness, followed by a nap in Soho square gardens if the weather was clement. Shoot off home to change into something sharper, and back up for an all-nighter at the mingo, all pilled up and glassy eyed. We were far from innocent, but they seemed like innocent times. Not bent at all. Happy days!
Perhaps the most notorious copper of the post-War era, Harold 'Tanky' Challenor has taken many literary guises, his contradictory, charismatic presence and catchphrase 'You're nicked, me old beauty' muscling its way into work by Joe Orton and Jake Arnott. But no one has delved so deeply into what turned a Wartime hero of the SAS into a peacetime detective whose attempts to 'clean up Soho' led to igimony and the epithet most readily applied to him Bent until Joe Thomas braved his way into Tanky's skull, effectively channeling Challenor in this vivid recreation of the events that forged and then destroyed his reputation. Utterly brilliant
Had James Ellroy and David Peace collaborated on a novel about a corrupt 1960s Soho copper, they'd have written something like this. Bent has left its Size 12 boot-prints across my memory