Thug, Two Tales in Poésie Noire, by David Jonathan Jones

I was ready when the parcel fell through the door. It came with a bullet-hole in the wrapper. I opened it. The hole was on the front cover, just below and to the right of the head of a shadow. The shadow that mostly fills the rain-glossed pavement of the darkened street. Stalking prey in the urban night, the shadow looks down... The background is the bleak existentialism of New York cop noir, with its jazz, its hard liquor and harder drugs, its seedy clubs where the opportunity for deadly violence is ever-present. So elegantly. With so much fucking style.

The car, radio
Night voices and soft bebop,
A blood requiem

And this world is invaded by an ancient goddess and her cult of sacred murder.

Skin, luminous dark,
Axe like nothing of this world,
Those still, ancient eyes.

Like nothing I'd seen,
Exotic beyond foreign,
Even in this hell.

I've never read anything remotely like Thug. This is meticulously-constructed epic poetry for a very unheroic age, built from Anglicized haiku, seventeen beats over three lines, forming a rhythm of cool, merciless witnessing.

The companion piece in here is The Gullveig Working, a deep, deep dive into desire and addiction, laced with the language of psychogeography as the protagonist scours the streets for glinting pieces to feed his gold-lust. If you were at Festival 23 in 2016 you may remember David's performance, done with George Rogers' haunting music.

As you pan on and on
On the cities' hidden tracks of fuck and fight,
For the cursed Rhinegeld, you Alberich, you Uber-prick,
Mired in the midden
Of others' loss, bad luck and tough fucking shit.
She is in that glint.
Like the shooting star flash
Of gusset in the cross of legs

Gullveig, or Goldie, becomes the very Goddess of hopeless desire, leading the seeker into gleaming gutters of détourned culture, deep mythological learning displayed lightly, Odin mashed up with William Burroughs, Elvis with Edgar Allen Poe. And we are all Her slaves, never to find fulfilment:

That broad in the red velvet dress
Is elusive beyond Elysian
And I'll claw my way through concrete
For a hint of a whisper of a rumour
Of her perfume
In a room she thought about going into
Once a thousand lifetimes back
When I was still hint and dust and starlight.

If you like these excerpts, if you like this poésie noire, buy this and take the ride. You won't regret it.


  1. Having now read Thug in it's entirety, I have to agree with Dave's excellent review. The writing is elegant, stylish, and flows so beautifully you could almost miss the meticulous care that has so obviously gone into this work. It's an intelligent, compelling, intense and surprisingly funny read/ride that I did not regret taking!


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