– controversial cover,
– controversial book!
That was certainly the case when the book was first published in Britain by the Do Not Press. People couldn’t get beyond the cover. ‘A book not to be seen with on the tube,’ warned one London reviewer. ‘I wouldn’t want my wife to see it on my bedside table,’ sighed another. And a reader wrote to say he thought he’d been with the cover-girl at school – could he have her address!
No One Gets hurt
by Russell James
“A connoisseur of fear and menace” – said The Erotic Review
It was a strong and controversial book, a story that got deep inside the sex industry. Though not a titillating book, it does contain a lot of explicit sex and violence. It’s quite a moral book, in truth, showing that there are participants on both sides of the screen, and that the last claim anyone can hide behind is that ‘no one gets hurt’.
What’s it about?
By no means is it a ‘male’ book. The heroine, Kirsty Rice, is a video journalist whose friend and colleague lost her life working undercover in the ‘harmless’ sex industry. Kirsty goes undercover too.
Grieving for her friend, sorrowful at the recent break-up with a fellow journalist, Kirsty finds that even that has left its mark. She is pregnant. And as she worms her way in with the pornographers she finds that her ex-boyfriend is already close to them. They know his name. They say they have him on film. Now they have a little job for Kirsty. It’s perfectly simple: just play things their way, do this one little thing – and she can rest assured that no one will get hurt.
Russell James writes:
Why did I write this book?
The book raises an interesting question – one that few present-day authors dare to ask: is commercial sex harmless? How about other commercially driven hobbies, like gambling and drug use – are they harmless too? They were once thought decadent and degrading. Now they’re everyday. But then, we’re sophisticated now, aren’t we? We’re smart. We’re not laughing at the flames that engulf Rome.
It’s not surprising that people pay for sex. They always have (world’s oldest profession and all) because the need for sex is natural and at times can be overwhelming. If you can’t find a willing partner, the only recourse is your hand or someone either paid or coerced into doing it with you. Paying for sex will be with us always – but how about paying to watch someone else have sex? How natural is that?
Perfectly natural, it seems to many. Maybe we draw the line at viewing certain kinds of sex – kiddieporn is not for most of us – but we’ll watch attractive adults perform on page, internet or screen.
When we watch the fantasy we don’t think of the true story behind what we see – that this couple, threesome or whatever has been brought together to enact this for us, for money or for some darker reason. We watch girls brought in from the third world, we watch junkies, we watch those who see this as the only escape from poverty. We watch victims paid or beaten into giving us titillation.
But we don’t think about that. We don’t want the truth; we want the fantasy. After all, if they’re not children, if they’re (we wish) consenting adults, then where’s the problem? No one gets hurt.
So that’s all right then.
Kids at school try ‘adult’ drugs – well, where’s the harm? People stuck in poverty waste their money on state sponsored gambling – where’s the harm in that? Prostitutes hand over their earnings to brutal pimps – why should that matter to me? Women pleasure old drunks in sordid bedrooms, while others flirt with the rich and powerful in expense account bedrooms of top hotels. Why get in a tizz about any of it? After all, no one gets hurt.
As the Encyclopedia of Modern Crime Fiction said: “Russell James shines his torch into the crevices of the British underworld and turns what crawls out into some of the best crime fiction being written today.”
(with another curious cover!)
Ça ne fait de mal à personne is published by Fayard Noir.
The first review appeared in The Erotic Review. Nicholas Seddon’s long and serious review began: ‘It looms, the dread gathers, even before the pages open. In noir fiction – and Russell James is perhaps the doyen of the genre in Britain – death always comes, and it usually comes early…’
Then, not to be confused with the above, Philip Oakes, in The Literary Review called it a ‘busy, bruising thriller that gives the lowdown on Britain’s thriving porn industry, now masterminded by gangland families who deftly deal in call girls, Internet sex and deep blue movies, the high spots of which include rape and sudden death. An investigating journo, sneaking film for a documentary, becomes a victim (her battered body turns up in the Thames), and her fellow reporter Kirsty Rice (raring to go, but inconveniently pregnant), resolves to finish the job. Gangland politics, rough stuff and brutal revenge all set briskly in train. Not a sentence, not a second wasted. James gets on with it and delivers the goods.’
Meanwhile, Crime Time magazine said: ‘This dark, disturbing novel confirms Russell James as one of the foremost exponents of the noir thriller on this side of the Atlantic…a plot with more twists and turns than a barrel-load of snakes…the compulsion to turn the pages is irresistible…This could well be the one that finally propels James into the big time.’
Ahead of publication, the Bookseller picked out No One Gets Hurt as one to watch, calling it “dark and uncompromising” and saying the book “should be controversial”.
The only other pre-publication quote came from the bookshop, Crime In Store, who (after giving a positive summary of the plot) took fright at the provocative cover, saying it was one that “you don’t want to be seen on the tube with”! And I’d thought the shop was trendy.
So what do you think? We can’t deny that this is strong stuff, the most sexually explicit title on the Prospero list. But if you can get past the cover, we’d love to hear what you think of the book.