Reg Calloway strides through life carrying bruises, cuts and several other wounds like a jazz-hating colossus. Pills & Soap is wildly accurate depiction of post-WW2 London, a city of spivs and muscle-bound ex-servicemen (I’ve read some history books, and lived through almost all the 50s!).
From the trackside dirt and deaths of Blood & Cinders, Calloway has moved on. He is head of security at a film production company where his imposed day off is torn apart by a bomb – a device that tore apart his boss’s prize Bentley.
The Troubles of Northern Ireland are in their infancy, but Centurion Pictures is filming an IRA-based shoot ‘em up, and a politically motivated Irish actor has gone missing. An easy target for Special Branch, so Reg Calloway is brutalised into finding him.
This follow-up thriller is defined, again, by great, measured and fast-paced writing, but also in terms of capturing 1950s East End of London – complete with Mosley, rabid nationalism and anti-Semitism, and rampant prostitution. Pills & Soap is a big step up. The atmosphere is a fog of menace that switches into physical violence, political rioting, and instant sexual satisfaction. Through it all, Reg Calloway is fighting for justice and right, but with so many wounds and so many battles on different fronts, success is always a long way off.
PS. Lay off the saxophone! While others played air guitar, I was always wielding an air-sax.