Written by Ted Lewis in 1970 and also known as ‘Jack’s return Home‘ the book was retitled as ‘Get Carter‘ to capitalize on the success of the 1971 film starring Michael “you’re a big man but you’re out of shape” Caine.
The movie ‘Get Carter‘ (1971) is my second all time favorite film behind ‘Taxi Driver‘ and the book doesn’t disappoint either. It’s a thrilling page turner that’s almost as good as the movie itself. It’s Michael Caine’s acting and Mike Hodges’ Direction that elevate it to something else.
‘Jack’s Return Home’ though is not just a good read, it’s a significant book in the history of noir fiction. It did for Britain what Chandler and Hamet did for America with their hard boiled novels. The differences are vast though. While characters like Marlowe and Spade are tough, wise cracking and irresistible men, Carter is a gritty, down in the depths of hell and brutal to say the least. He could be considered an anti hero in some ways but there is not one redeemable thing about him. He will do whatever it takes to have revenge against anyone who was involved with his brothers death. His revenge too is not even based on a love for his estranged brother, it’s not a moral obligation. It’s just an eye for an eye. It’s something Jack feels he HAS to do whether he cares or not.
While this novel is set in a different location to the movie they are visually the same in terms of the bleak cityscape the novel and film present. Ted Lewis’ descriptions of his actual hometown are burned into memory in vivid detail. In fact at times it’s like reading a Tolkien story because there’s so much detail and description of the surroundings. Almost unnecessarily so. Still, it’s a book that once you start reading you can’t put down as I foolishly learned when I picked it up thinking a few pages would help get me to sleep. This novel has the “oh fu*k!” moments that the movie does and I was delighted to have a deeper insight into the character of Jack Carter who tells us his story from the first person perspective. Fantastic stuff.
Soho Press has recently re-released this book along with it’s two prequels which I have heard are just as good and another novel titled ‘GBH’ which is said to be Lewis’ best. It seems I have more sleepless nights ahead.
Favorite quote: “‘Cliff, you’re a big bloke – you’re in good shape. But I know more than you do.” – Jack Carter