A London porn king tries to ferret out the insider who’s destroying his operation in the final novel by noir specialist Lewis (Get Carter, 1970, etc.).
This novel, now having its first American publication, appeared in Britain two years before Lewis’ early death in 1982. The title is a British legal acronym standing for Grievous Bodily Harm, which occupies pages in this tale of the fall of smut magnate George Fowler. Fowler and his wife, Jean, preside over a lucrative business producing and distributing illegal hard-core movies. When Jean realizes someone is skimming money, George determines to identify the embezzler. His method is torture, usually with Jean watching excitedly, eventually with her eager participation. Narrated almost entirely by George, the novel alternates between London as he looks for the traitor and an oceanside hideaway after his search has left a pile of bodies and he's presumed dead. The dominant note is George’s mounting paranoia, though he’s not a large or varied enough character to inspire pity or terror. For all the mayhem on display and the direct brutalism of Lewis’ style, the copious scenes of George and associates spinning endless scenarios to identify their lowlife Judas begin to feel like being forced to sit in on the world’s sleaziest contract negotiations.
What stays in the mind is the seediness of an offseason resort town and the mix of swank and rot in the Fowlers’ London life. Lewis’ death meant the loss of an impeccable sociologist of the gutter.