Needles by William Deverell

performed by Steve Scherf and Maggie Scherf 

Needles has been around for almost thirty-five years. In 1979, it was the winner of the $50,000 Seal First Novel Award. And justly so. Characterisation and plotting are original and gripping: the novel is brim full of bizarre, twisted unforgettable characters and the storyline is a stylised satire.  

There is so much to admire in this that it repays more than a single listen. And you will find yourself looking forward to returning to such a fine piece of audio theatre. The dramatised performance of the book by Steve Scherf and Maggie Scherf is simply spectacular. When great actors come to a great narrative the results are unforgettable.

The plot centres on the heroin trade in Vancouver and a legal fight between the failing, drug-addicted lawyer Foster Cobb and the sadistic Dr Au, head of the Chinese drug trade in the Canadian city and its murky hinterland. Au has always in the past managed to avoid prosecution, mainly through blackmail, torture and murder. He is unswervingly cruel: a vindictive and despicable nemesis. Peopled by bent cops, criminals, hoodlums, pushers and prostitutes, Needles is tough, uncompromising, and brutal with a thoroughly unsavoury world view.

No one can escape from his or her flaws and peccadilloes, which stalk and haunt everyone, and provide evidence to threaten and to undermine surface respectability. Will Cobbs marriage survive his job and its lifestyle? Can the justice system finally nail the recalcitrant hoodlum? Will justice be done and be seen to be done?   

Unrelenting and dramatic, this is postmodern crime writing at its best.

Highly recommended.

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