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The eldest son of a textile magnate, Cook spent his early years at the family's London house, off Baker Street, tormenting a series of nannies. In 1937, in anticipation of the Second World War, the family retreated to the countryside, to a house near their Kentish castle. In 1944 Cook went to Eton, which he later characterised as a "hotbed of buggery" and "an excellent preparation for vice of any kind". He dropped out at the age of 17. During his National Service, Cook attained the rank of corporal (latrines). After a brief stint working for the family business, selling lingerie in a department store in Neath, Wales, he spent most of the 1950s leading the life of a Chelsea layabout which he describes in his first, semi-autobiographical, novel The Crust on its Uppers (1962), from 1957 on enjoying a long affair with Hazel Whittington the deserted wife of Victor Willing At some time he is said to have lived in the Beat Hotel in Paris, rubbing shoulders with his neighbours William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, and danced at fashionable left bank boîtes with the likes of Juliette Gréco. In New York City he resided on the Lower East Side and was married to an heiress from New England for all of sixty-five days. He claimed that he was sick of the dead-on-its-feet upper crust he was born into, that he didn't believe in and didn't want, whose values were meaningless. He was seeking to carve his way out — "Crime was the only chisel I could find." Cook smuggled oil paintings to Amsterdam, drove fast cars into Spain from Gibraltar, and consummated his downward mobility by spending time in a Spanish jail for sounding off about Francisco Franco in his local bar.
Odd books and irregular jobs
Cook returned to London in 1960. He soon fronted a property company for Charlie Da Silva, an associate of the Krays. After undergoing interrogation by the Dutch police force in connection with an insurance scam related to the apparent theft of a Rembrandt painting, Cook claimed to have given up a life of actual crime for good in favour of a life of writing about it. Published under the name of Robin Cook, his study of one man's deliberate descent into the milieu of London lowlifes, The Crust on its Uppers (1962) was an immediate succès de scandale upon publication. Lexicographers mined it for authentic usage of Cockney rhyming slang and thieves’ cant. But glowing reviews failed to produce great riches. Cook was unfazed by this disparity, commenting later: “I’ve watched people like Kingsley Amis, struggling to get on the up escalator, while I had the down escalator all to myself." He supported his second wife, Eugene, and first child, Sebastian, by combining further novel-writing with stints as a Soho pornographer in St Anne's Court or running gambling parties. In conducting these affairs, Cook soon found himself inspired to depart from England. He spent much of the 1960s in Italy. The Tuscan village in which he settled declared itself an independent anarchist state, and appointed Cook in a dual capacity of its foreign minister and minister of finance.
By the end of 1970, Cook had a third wife, Rose, a stepson, Nicholas, an infant daughter, Zoe, a house in Holland Park, and a job as a taxi-driver. His books earned no royalties, his third marriage was in shambles, and he lost his London house. Cook relocated to France and bought a derelict 15th-century fortified tower in Aveyron, to the north of Montpellier. He abandoned writing through all of the 1970s, working as a vineyard labourer with occasional sidelines in roofing, driving, and livestock slaughter. His family rejoined him for a while, but by 1979 the marriage had broken up for good. Nearing 50, Cook eased himself back into literature with a potboiler that was published only in a French translation. He returned to London, married his fourth wife, Fiona, then divorced again. He worked as a minicab-driver on the night shift. He was collecting the material for the first of his "black novels".
Cook published He Died With His Eyes Open (1984) under the pen name of Derek Raymond. He adopted his new pseudonym because he did not want to be confused with the other Robin Cook, best-selling author of Coma, "nor with the bloody shadow minister for health, come to that". In France, his books kept being published under his real name, generating some confusion with the American novelist.
The book inaugurated the Factory series, nominal police procedurals narrated by the unnamed protagonist, a sergeant at London Metropolitan Police’s Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14. A14 handles the crummy lowlife murders, in contrast with attention-grabbing homicides handled by the prestigious Serious Crimes Division, better known as Scotland Yard. It is "by far the most unpopular and shunned branch of the service" (He Died With His Eyes Open, p. 6). As befits his lowly professional standing and departmental affiliation, the detective is surly, sarcastic, and insubordinate. His first case in the series is an inquiry into the murder of one Charles Locksley Alwin Staniland, an unemployed writer aged fifty-one, of upper class breeding but apparently down on his luck. He appears to be making little headway in an investigation that his departmental betters would be expected to treat as trivial. His ensuing relations with authorities proceed along the lines of this conversation with Inspector Bowman:
‘Christ, it’s you,’ he said. You still on that Staniland case?’
‘Still?’ I said. ‘I’ve only been on it four days.’
‘Four days? You should have had the geezer in half the time. You’ll be working weekends if you don’t pull your finger out.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ I said. ‘If you solved them that fast, they’d start stripping you down for the microchips to find out how you did it.’
‘How are you getting on with it, anyhow?’
‘I can’t get my proof,’ I said. ‘You know me — slow, quick, quick, slow, Mr. Foxtrot they call me. That's why I’m still a sergeant while you’re shaping up for superintendent on the Vice Squad. All I can say is, when it happens, don't get done for looking at dirty pictures on the taxpayer's time.’
‘You really make me laugh, you do,’ Bowman said. ‘You come out with better jokes than a villain.’
—Ibid., p. 146
The detective displays similar manners whilst intimidating villains who pop up as witnesses in his investigation:
‘Oh, sorry. Yes, that one. Yes, I get you now.’
‘Do you?’ I said. ‘Lucky for you. Because you could find yourself in a bit of bother if you didn’t look out. I might decide I wanted to wind you right up tight if you misled me, just to see what would happen. And do you know what would happen, fatty? You’d go off pop! Like that.’
‘Okay, okay,’ he said.
—Ibid., p. 33
Such social shortcomings find their counterpart in a nearly psychotic identification with the mutilated bodies of murder victims whom the hero relentlessly avenges. The detective finds Staniland's recorded journals. He listens to the voice of the murder victim ruminate on his sense of being trapped in his body and the possibility of release through death. The tapes convey a poetic diction infected with haunted sensibilities:
The next tape of Staniland’s I played started:
I dreamed I was walking through the door of a cathedral. Someone I couldn’t distinguish warned me: ‘Don’t go in there, it’s haunted.’ However, I went straight in and glided up the nave to the altar. The roof of the building was too high to see; the quoins were lost in a dark fog through which the votive lamps glowed orange. The only light came through the diamond-shaped clear panes in the windows; it was faint and cold. This neglected mass was attached to a sprawl of vaulted ruins; I had been in them all night; I had wandered through them for centuries. They had once been my home; burned-out rafters jutted like human ribs above empty, freezing galleries, and great doors gave onto suites soaked by pitiless rain. Angry spectres, staggering with the faint steps of the insane, paraded arm in arm through the wrecked masonry, sneering as I passed: ‘The Stanilands have no money? Good! Excellent!’
In the cathedral there were no pews or chairs, just people standing around, waiting. No service was in progress. Knots of men and women from another century stood about, talking in low voices to bishops who moved in and out of the crowd, trailing their tarnished vestments.
I realised with a paralysing horror that the place really was haunted. The people kept looking upwards, as though waiting for an event. I managed to overcome my fear and went on up the nave towards the altar. As I passed, groups of people crossed themselves and said nervously: ‘Don’t do that!’ I took no notice, but opened the gate in the rails and went and stood in front of the altar. Behind it, instead of a reredos, hung a tapestry with a strange, curling design in dark red; the tapestry was so high that it lost itself in the roof. As I watched, it began to undulate, to flow and ripple, gradually and sensuously at first, then more and more ardently, until it was rearing and thundering against the wall like an angry sea. I heard people behind me groan and mutter, praying in their anguish and fear. Then my waist was held by invisible hands and I was raised from the floor; at the height of the roof I was turned slowly parallel with the ground and then released so that I floated, immobile and face downwards, far above the people whose faces I could make out in the half-dark as a grey blur, staring up at me. After I had floated the length and breadth of the building I descended quietly, of my own accord, and landed lightly on the spot from where I had been taken, whereupon I walked directly out of the building without looking back. As I walked swiftly away down a gravel path someone like Barbara came running towards me in a white coat, approaching from a thick hedge that surrounded the graveyard.
‘Quick,’ she said over her shoulder, ‘don't let him get out!’
But I walked straight into a wood that confronted me without a qualm; no one had any power over me now.
—Ibid., pp. 188–190
The sacred relationship between the dreamer's body and the cathedral finds its immediate complement in the profane preoccupations of his waking life.
The passage that I was listening to now ran:
Unhook the delicate, crazy lace of flesh, detach the heart with a single cut, unmask the tissue behind the skin, unhinge the ribs, disclose the spine, take down the long dress of muscle from the bones where it hangs erect. A pause to boil the knives — then take a bold but cunning curve, sweeping into the skull you had trepanned, into the brain, and extract its art if you can. But you will have blood on your hands unless you transfused it into bottles first, and cure the whole art of the dead you may, but in brine — a dish to fatten you for your own turn.
What better surgeon than a maggot?
What greater passion than a heart in formaldehyde?
Ash drops from the morgue assistant's cigarette into the dead mouth; they will have taken forensic X-rays of the smashed bones before putting him back into the fridge with a bang; there he will wait until the order for burial from the coroner arrives.
Those responsible for the end of his mysterious being will escape or, at best, being proved mad, get a suspended sentence under Section Sixty.
—Ibid., pp. 191–192
Earlier on, the detective heard Staniland's detailed account of his participation in the slaughter of a hog, which recapitulates one among many menial occupations of his creator (Ibid., pp. 102–103). His systematic inversion of vitality drains his favourite characters of life's essence or its principal characteristics, even as it imbues their environment with ominous animation, after the manner of French Symbolists. Uncharacteristically for a writer of crime fiction, Cook expressly and primarily identifies his authorial persona with the murder victim. Accordingly, his detective plays the part of the difficult reader favoured by the Symbolists. In response to Staniland's taped lesson in forensic pathology, he recalls another underappreciated artist:
I switched the player off and began thinking for no apparent reason about a friend I had once when I was a young man. He was a sculptor who used my local pub in the Fulham Road; his studio was just opposite. He wore sandals but no socks, whatever the weather, and was always powdered with stone dust; this gave him a grey appearance and got under his nails. He wore his white hair long and straight over his ears. He was a Communist, and he didn't care who knew it, though he only said so if people asked. They didn't bother often. He was a Communist as an act of faith, like a Cathar. He accepted the doctrine straight, as Communists used to before they won and everything turned sour. But he rarely spoke to anyone about politics; there were so many other things to talk about. He and I used to stand at the bar together and drink beer and talk about them. But few people talked to him. That suited him. Most people couldn't be bothered because he was stone deaf and could only lip-read you. He was deaf because he had fought for the Republic with the XIIth Brigade in the Spanish war. He had fought at Madrid (University Buildings), and later at Huesca and Teruel with the XVth. But at Teruel he had had both eardrums shattered when a shell exploded too close to him.
‘It was worth it.’
‘No, of course not.’
One of the greatest forms of courage is accepting your fate, and I admired him for living with his affliction without blaming anyone for it. His name was Ransome, and he was sixty-five when I first knew him. He got his old-age pension and no more; governments don't give you any money for fighting in foreign political wars. People like that are treated like nurses – expected to go unseen and unrewarded. So Ransome had to live in a very spare, austere way, living on porridge and crackers, drinking tea, and getting on with his sculpture. It suited him, luckily. He had always lived like that.
Nobody who mattered liked his sculpture; when I went over to his council studio I understood why. His figures reminded me of Ingres crossed with early Henry Moore; they were extraordinarily graceful, and far too honest to mean anything whatever to current trendy taste. There was a quality in them that no artist nowadays can seize any more; they expressed virtues – toughness, idealism, determination – that went out of style with a vanished Britain that I barely remembered. I asked him why, with his talent, he didn't progress to a more modern attitude, but he said it was no use; he was still struggling to represent the essence of what he had experienced in the 1930s. ‘What I’m always trying to capture,’ he explained, ‘is the light, the vision inside a man, and the conviction which that light lends his action, his whole body. Haven't you noticed how the planes of a man's body alter when he's in the grip of a belief? The ex-bank-clerk acquires the stature of an athlete as he throws a grenade – or, it might be, I recollect the instant where an infantryman in an attack, a worker with a rifle, is stopped by a bullet: I try to reconstruct in stone the tragedy of a free man passing from life to death, from will to nothingness: I try to capture the second in which he disintegrates. It’s an objective that won’t let me go,’ he said, ‘and I don’t want it to.’ He had been full of promise before he went to Spain; he grubbed about and found me some of his old press-cuttings. In one of them he was quoted as saying: ‘A sculptor’s task is to convey the meaning of his time in terms of its over-riding idea. If he doesn’t transmit the idea he’s worth nothing, no matter how much fame he acquires or money he makes. The idea is everything.’
—Ibid., pp. 192–194
The traditional detective hero of American noir fiction exemplified toughness, idealism, and determination in his private pursuit of justice unattainable by official means. Stripped of idealism by postwar disillusionment, his English counterpart transmutes his toughness and determination into an obsessive pursuit of an inexorable existential conundrum. The victimised pretext of this pursuit was readily identifiable with the implied author of the narrative in his physiological and metaphysical anguish. In his definitive statement of literary convictions, Cook postulated that the black novel "describes men and women whom circumstances have pushed too far, people whom existence has bent and deformed. It deals with the question of turning a small, frightened battle with oneself into a much greater struggle – the universal human struggle against the general contract, whose terms are unfillable, and where defeat is certain." (The Hidden Files) By the general contract, the writer understood human life at its most exigent. The idea was everything.
His first black novel soon made Cook famous in France. It was filmed in 1985 as On ne meurt que 2 fois, with Charlotte Rampling and Michel Serrault in the lead roles. Its successor, The Devil's Home On Leave (1985), featured an informer turning up in five posh supermarket bags as boiled meat, and provided greater insight into the motives of its unnamed protagonist. It was also filmed in France in 1987 as Les Mois d’avril sont meurtriers. How the Dead Live (1986) had its detective sent away from London to a remote village called Thornhill, looking into the disappearance of a local doctor's wife and gleaning unique insights into consensual justification of homicide. Cook, in his trademark black jeans, black leather jacket and black beret, became a star act on the Continental literary circuit. When his Factory novels were reprinted in paperback in the late 1980s, Derek Raymond began to gather momentum in the English-speaking world.
Cook's notoriety crested following the 1990 publication of what many consider his best – and most repulsive – work: the tortured, redemptive tale of a masochistic serial killer, I Was Dora Suarez. As the fourth novel in the Factory series opens, young prostitute Dora Suarez is axed into pieces. The killer then smashes the head of her friend, an 86-year-old widow. On the same night, a mile away in the West End, a shotgun blows the top off the head of Felix Roatta, part-owner of the seedy Parallel Club. As the detective obsesses with the young woman whose murder he investigates, he discovers that her death is even more bizarre than he had suspected: the murderer ate bits of flesh from Suarez's corpse and ejaculated against her thigh. Autopsy results accrue the revulsion as they compound the puzzle: Suarez was dying of AIDS, but the pathologist is unable to determine how she had contracted HIV. Then a photo, supplied by a former Parallel hostess, links Suarez to Roatta, and inquiries at the nightclub reveal her vile and inhuman exploitation.
To Cook's delight, the ensuing novel caused Dan Franklin, who had become publisher at the company which had issued the earlier three Factory novels, to proclaim the book had made him feel sick. As a result of this reader response, Secker & Warburg the publisher declined to make an offer, and his new agent, writer Maxim Jakubowski offered the book elsewhere and it quickly found a home at Scribner who took over the publishing of his books until his death. Writing for The New York Times, Marilyn Stasio proclaimed: “Everything about I Was Dora Suarez […] shrieks of the joy and pain of going too far." Filmmaker Chris Petit described it in The Times as "a book full of coagulating disgust and compassion for the world's contamination, disease and mutilation, all dwelt on with a feverish, metaphysical intensity that recalls Donne and the Jacobeans more than any of Raymond's contemporaries." Showing up its surfeit of intestinal fortitude, the French government named its author a Chevalier of Arts and Letters in 1991.
Cook recognised I Was Dora Suarez as his greatest and most onerous achievement: “Writing Suarez broke me; I see that now. I don’t mean that it broke me physically or mentally, although it came near to doing both. But it changed me; it separated out for ever what was living and what was dead. I realised it was doing so at the time, but not fully, and not how, and not at once. […] I asked for it, though. If you go down into the darkness, you must expect it to leave traces on you coming up – if you do come up. It's like working in a mine; you hope that hands you can't see know what they’re doing and will pull you through. I know I wondered half way through Suarez if I would get through – I mean, if my reason would get through. For the trouble with an experience like Suarez is that you become what you’re writing, passing like Alice through the language into the situation." (The Hidden Files, pp. 132–133.)
Following the amicable break-up of his fifth marriage to Agnès, Cook returned to Britain in 1991. The publication of his literary memoir The Hidden Files (1992) precipitated numerous interviews. The Cardinal and the Corpse, a film made for Channel 4 by Chris Petit and Iain Sinclair, about the search for a possibly non-existent rare book, featured Cook as himself, reunited with such 1960s "morries" (his term for notable characters) as Jewish anarchist writer Emanuel Litvinoff and Tony Lambrianou, an ex-convict corpse disposer for Reg and Ron Kray and alumnus of Mosleyite Jew-baiting. Derek Raymond's fifth novel in the Factory series, Dead Man Upright, was brought out by Time Warner in 1993, regrettably failing to sustain the momentum of the preceding entries. But its author demonstrated his versatile capacity by playing a sell-out gig at the [National Film Theatre on the South Bank in the company of indie pop stars Gallon Drunk, with whom he recorded a musical interpretation of I Was Dora Suarez.
Robert William Arthur "Robin" Cook, also known as Derek Raymond, died peacefully at the age of 63. His cause of death was given as cancer. His literary executor is John Williams, the author of the novels Cardiff Dead, The Prince of Wales, and Temperance Town and Maxim Jakubowski became the Executor of his estate. Derek Raymond's final novel, Not Till the Red Fog Rises, appeared posthumously in 1994. It served up a perverse and funny apotheosis of its protagonist Gust, on parole after serving 10 years for armed robbery. In a review published in The Observer, Jane McLoughlin compared the quality of its writing to that of Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, and Joseph Conrad. A BBC drama series based on the Factory novels and to be produced by Kenith Trodd, plus a third French film adaptation of How the Dead Live, directed by Claude Chabrol and starring Philippe Noiret, were rumoured to be in the works, but never materialised. The first four Factory novels were reissued by Serpent’s Tail starting in early 2006, and by Melville House in the United States in 2011.
It seems to me that no matter whether you marry, settle down or live with a bird or not, certain ones simply have your number on them, like bombs in the war; and even if you don't happen to like them all that much there's nothing you can do about it – unless you're prepared to spend a lifetime arguing fate out of existence, which you could probably do if you tried but I'm not the type.
—Crust on Its Uppers, p. 87
Then we sat in silence, watching the scenery whirring past us in the improving light. I was lighting us both a cigarette when he turned to me and said: ‘Sorry if I got cross, morrie.’
‘That’s all right,’ I said.
‘Bit on edge, I suppose.’
It was all very kosher and British.
‘Not surprising,’ I said. ‘It’s been an angstful sort of night.’
—Crust on Its Uppers, pp. 180–181
By the word existence I mean the one contract valid for mankind; I define it as the general contract. In it are the clauses of human life; its uses, responsibilities, limitations, its inevitable eclipse. This contract is the basis of the black novel, whose loathing of violence, which it describes as precisely as possible in order to remind people how disgusting it is, causes it to rise up against death forced on any person before his time, and that is where it becomes a novel in mourning. Each contract is to be terminated in the way that its clauses are set out; but it is not to be destroyed by any contract-holder. That possibility is contained in no contract. To break his contract is either to invite the breaker's destruction, or else it is evidence that the act of destruction has been carried out by a signatory who has already been destroyed, such as a killer — and that is why my detective picks up Suarez’ battered head and kisses it.
I will go further. What is remarkable about I Was Dora Suarez has nothing to do with literature at all; what is remarkable about it is that in its own way and by its own route it struggles after the same message as Christ. I am not the kind of person that anyone would expect to say such a thing, for although I believe firmly in the invisible, I am not religious. But in writing the book I definitely underwent an experience that I can only describe as cathartic; the writing of Suarez, though plunging me into evil, became the cause of my seeking to purge what was evil in myself. It was only after I had finished the book that I realised this; I was far too deeply involved in the battle with evil that the book became to think any further than that at the time [...]
Suarez was my atonement for fifty years’ indifference to the miserable state of this world; it was a terrible journey through my own guilt, and through the guilt of others.
—The Hidden Files, pp. 98–99
Existence is sometimes what a forward artillery observer sees of enemy lines through field glasses. A distant and troubling view brought suddenly into focus with a wealth of obscene detail.
—The Hidden Files, p. 121
The black novel seeks to present as forcibly as it can the terminal psychic situation that occurs in people who have arrived at a point where they have no hope, no motive, and no longer even the desire to conceal anything from themselves; the black novel intervenes at the moment where a human being approaches his last moment: ‘The first night of death must seem so strange’. A special mood is necessary to make language plastic enough to convey such experience exactly; experience so devastatingly simple that, like love, it verges on the indescribable. Nearly every attempt to convey it can really only be described as another in a seemingly endless series of attempts since we cannot describe what we are not yet in a position to know — and yet it is the black novel's absolute duty to express it. T. S. Eliot, I think, got closest to describing the nature of this challenge when he wrote (I paraphrase): It is not necessary to die to describe death.
—The Hidden Files, p. 144
The bore is the human cuckoo. He will take over anything, usurp any nest. His one outstanding feature is that he has no features. He has nothing whatever to offer society, not the least germ of an original or positive idea – and yet the rest of us somehow find ourselves moving up to make room for him, just as the body makes itself host to a destructive virus. Bores would take the entire world over if they could; sometimes they do. Here is an extract from the diary of one who did: ‘I still lack to a considerable degree that naturally superior kind of manner that I would dearly like to possess…’ (Heinrich Himmler, November 1921).
—The Hidden Files, p. 148
Nothing else much matters once you have achieved the hardest thing, which is to act out of conviction. Even if you have been beaten by evil, in the bitterness of defeat the battle has left a trace for the others, and you can go feeling clean. I recognise that I am a minor writer; but this does not affect the depth of my convictions.
—The Hidden Files, p. 287
‘You’re not very good at it, are you?’ said Gust, ‘they ought to have sent heavies in.’ He thought the man very likely could have got a job playing Hess in this new TV series they were doing on the war, and he would have had a word with a few directors he knew in Soho if he had been a mate of his. But, as he wasn't, Gust kicked him in the stomach as he tried to drag himself up on one leg with the help of the bar-rail, then turned back to the other man.
‘You all right?’ he said. ‘How are you feeling now? Chipper?’ He took one of the man's ears in his thumb and forefinger; the ear was tiny, considering the size of his head, and it had little hairs inside it. Gust picked up a cocktail stick out of a dirty glass on the bar and jabbed it down into the eardrum as far as he could; when he pulled it out the stick was half-way red, and there was some grey stuff in it as well. He shouted down his ear: ‘I think I just broke your foot!’ but the man wasn't making sense any more; he was wailing with his hand clapped to the side of his head, swaying up and down from the waist like a bereaved widow, or else perhaps he just didn't hear, or maybe the music was too loud. Gust realised then that he had pushed the stick in too far and that the man would probably die. Dirty cocktail-stick in the brain? What a bleeding way to go! Now the man with the broken leg tried another naughty stroke; although he only had one hand free because he was using the other one to hold onto the rail, he still managed to smash a glass and try putting it in Gust's face.
‘This is just self-defence after all,’ Gust said to himself. He stamped on the man's feet again; this time he definitely felt bones go and the man screamed, dropped the glass and let go of the rail; but instead of letting him fall Gust took him round the waist, ripped his fly open and searched inside his pants until he found his testicles, which he yanked right out into his hand. Their owner can't have been much into baths because they smelled like something tepid from a canteen counter. Gust wrung them like the devil having a go at a set of wedding bells with all the grip he had, until the man was shrieking on the same D minor as the music.
‘It’s nothing personal,’ said Gust, ‘but I’m afraid you’re going to have to learn to fuck all over again.’ He wiped the blood off the man's prick down his face, then pulled the face towards him and drove his nose into his brain with his head. The music boosted into E major on a key change, and the man doubled up under a bar-stool, leaving a lot of blood behind him while Gust receded into the half darkness towards the black drapes on the walls.
—Brand New Dead, pp. 86–87
Rob Humphreys includes this listing in The Rough Guide to London, Rough Guides, 2003, pp. 663–664:
Derek Raymond, Not till the Red Fog Rises (Warner, UK). A book which "reeks with the pervasive stench of excrement" as Iain Sinclair […] put it, this is a lowlife spectacular set in the seediest sections of the capital.
- The Crust on Its Uppers, 1962, originally published under the name of Robin Cook, reprinted by Serpent's Tail, 2000
- Bombe Surprise, Hutchinson, 1963, originally published under the name of Robin Cook
- A State of Denmark, c. 1964, originally published under the name of Robin Cook, reprinted by Serpent's Tail, 1994
- The Legacy of the Stiff Upper Lip, originally published under the name of Robin Cook, 1966
- Public Parts and Private Places, 1967, originally published under the name of Robin Cook, U.S. title Private Parts in Public Places, 1969
- The Tenants of Dirt Street, originally published under the name of Robin Cook, 1971
- Le Soleil qui s’éteint, Gallimard, 1982; translation by Rosine Fitzgerald, of Sick Transit, which remains unpublished
- He Died with His Eyes Open, Secker & Warburg, 1984, the first book in the Factory series
- The Devil's Home on Leave, Secker & Warburg, 1985, the second book in the Factory series
- How the Dead Live, Secker & Warburg, 1986, the third book in the Factory series
- Nightmare in the Street (1988), Serpent's Tail, 2006
- Cauchemar dans la rue, Rivages, 1988, translation by Jean-Paul Gratias, of Nightmare in the Street, first chapter adapted under the same title in Mike Ripley and Maxim Jakubowski (editors), Fresh Blood, Do-Not Press, 1996
- Every Day Is a Day in August, in Maxim Jakubowski (editor), New Crimes, Constable Robinson, 1989
- I Was Dora Suarez, Scribner, 1990, the fourth book in the Factory series
- Hidden Files, Little, Brown, 1992, an essay of episodic memoirs, excerpted correspondence, and emphatic literary principle
- Changeless Susan, in Maxim Jakubowski (editor), More Murders for the Fireside, Pan, 1994
- Dead Man Upright, Time Warner Books UK, 1993, the fifth book in the Factory series
- Not Till the Red Fog Rises, Time Warner Books UK, 1994, excerpt adapted as Brand New Dead in Maxim Jakubowski (editor), London Noir, Serpent's Tail, 1995
- Dora Suarez, Clawfist, 1993, Derek Raymond (Robin Cook) reads from his novel with background music by James Johnston and Terry Edwards (from the band Gallon Drunk)
- Kennedy, A.L. "Darkness Visible: 'He Died With His Eyes Open' is a crime novel like no other". You must read this. NPR. Retrieved 24 April 2013.
- Mills, John, Which Yet Survive. Impressions of Friends, Family and Encounters, Quartet Books, London, 2017