“Not since Dickens has a British fiction-writer dealt with murder in a book of such size and seriousness” – SUNDAY EXPRESS
Colin Wilson’s Ritual In The Dark is a cracking read and certainly a very British book. I first got ‘into‘ Colin Wilson– as I did with many writers, artists and filmmakers via music. In my later teens, one of my favourite bands was The Fall. The Fall‘s lead singer, okay dictator, was , and remarkably still is, Mark E Smith.
Like me, Mark E Smith was an over-read, working class, Northern lad who had left school at sixteen, blessed and cursed with an over ripe imagination.
The Fall, of course, were named after Alber Camus‘ best book but their previous name was The Outsiders, after another Camus book. But there was another The Outsider, I discovered after reading a MES interview. And one that wasn’t written by some namby-pamby Continental intellectual but by another ‘ over-read, working class, Northern lad who had left school at sixteen, blessed and cursed with an over ripe imagination.’ (Okay, Leicester isn’t really THE NORTH but you get my drift…)
And so I started to immerse myself deeply in the weird and frightening world of Colin Wilson. Of course, I avoided The Outsider for a long time – philosophy, the great waste of the tax payers’ money- but I’d heard that he wrote dark crime stories, including one, The Killer, which is partly set in my home town of Hartlepool. Hartlepool library, in fact, had lots of his books and you could usually find them in charity shops, which is where I found Ritual In The Dark.
So, ‘Ritual’ is that now over egged pudding, a serial killer story. A ‘modern day’ Jack The Ripper tale which would be called a period piece now. It’s a kind of British Crime and Punishment which takes place in a sexually and socially repressed 1950’s Britain and a vividly drawn Soho. Written in 1949 but published in 1960 it is distinctly pre- The Beatles (pre rebellious youth) and post WW2. It is also a distinctly British exploration of existential extremes featuring a murderer who kills as a creative act, a positive rebellion against the supposed unimportance of his existence.
Ritual In The Dark -Post war angst in a world where ‘we’ve never had it so good’ isn’t good enough.