Ted Lewis is probably best known for his 1970 novel Jack’s Return Home and/or its subsequent film versions – Get Carter (1971) starring Michael Caine, Hit Man starring Bernie Casey (1972), and Get Carter (2000) starring Sylvester Stallone.
GBH was Lewis’ final novel – published in 1980- and it’s pretty damned fantastic. The book’s title is an abbreviation of ‘grievous bodily harm’, a term used in English criminal law to describe a particularly violent form of physical assault. GBH is the story of the decline of London gangster and pornographer George Fowler, and it is cleverly told in two alternating time periods. The earlier period is set in London and is titled The Smoke. The later period is set in an off-season seaside down and is titled The Sea.
GBH has the lot – great characters, sharp dialogue, richly descriptive prose, a cold clammy atmosphere, a powerful sense of time and place, and a cruel, dark humour. It really is a cracking read and is well-deserved of its classic status.