Digging about on-line recently, I came across the book review I wrote in Class War issue 82, way back in 2001.
"He Kills Coppers" by Jake Arnott, (Sceptre, £10)
Arnott's second novel takes its title from the ever popular song about your friend and mine, Harry Roberts. Roberts, re-named Billy Porter is one of three core characters - the others a policeman struggling to avoid the corruption of the Met, and a particularly odious tabloid journalist - whose lives are followed from the 1960s to the 1980s.
By taking historical characters and re-naming them for fictional stories (Arnott's previous novel "The Long Firm" was clearly based on the Kray Twins) one of the essential requirements for a novelist - the need to create believable characters - is removed. Equally Arnott seems incapable of writing about women, who are absent from the book virtually throughout. You do not have to be that well read to discover that Arnott has digested books like "The Fall Of Scotland Yard" by Cox, Shirley and Short, "Anarchist" by Ian Bone or that he watched the BBC series "Our Friends In The North" on video a few times before putting pen to paper.
That said the book does take you into and give you a feel for 1960s London. Moving on from the 60s, it stands (and falls) on its twist surrounding one of the three central characters. Its observations of the 1980s Anarchist scene (and Class War) are somewhat predictable and lazy - all the more disappointing in that no Anarchist group has tried harder to avoid a 'crustie' image than Class War, and that Arnott himself was allegedly involved in the movement during the 1980s.
There is a great book to be written about Harry Roberts, both as an individual and how he impacted on the lives of others. This is not it.
Whether as an author Arnott is more than a one trick pony it is too soon to tell, although the planned televising of "The Long Firm" will no doubt guarantee best seller status for this and subsequent books.