BBC Radio 4, 28 August - 18 September 2012
This classic example of British crime noir fiction was transformed into the film Get Carter starring Michael Caine. Gang leader Jack Carter (Hugo Speer) returns to his home town of Scunthorpe after a spell in jail to find that his brother Frank has mysteriously died in a car accident. He determines to find out what has happened, and enters into a murky world of crime and intrigue, where no one is quite what they seem.
Toby Swift's and Sasha Yevtushenko's production was constucted as a first person narrative, in which Jack had an imaginary conversation with Frank. This suggested two things: first, that Jack felt in some way guilty for his brother's death; and second, that Frank was the only person whom Jack could trust. Everyone else around him - even his niece Doreen (Laura Molyneux) - proved an object of suspicion. As a result, most of Jack's conversations with other people were restricted to civil banalities or monosyllabic statements. Any attempts to penetrate beyond that surface might put Jack in a weak position.
As portrayed by Speer, Jack came across as an ambiguous character. On the one hand we sympathized with him, as he tried to rebuild his life in a world where everyone showed a marked indifference towards him. He remained a loner trying to discover the truth of what happened. On the other hand, we were made aware of just how dangerous he was; if anyone crossed him, they could expect a violent reprisal. Barperson Eric (Ben Crowe), who had worked with Frank, tried his best to conceal the fact that he was in the employ of a rival gangland leader. However Jack soon found out, and Eric was left cowering, fearful of what might happen next.
The production evoked the world of the early Seventies, where one-night stands were perceived as a way of life (Jack believed it was his bounden duty to sleep with his landlady Mrs. Garfoot (Tracy Wiles)), and where the idealized world (symbolized by the Radio 2 jingles) seemed particularly at variance with the grimy ambience of post-industrial Scunthorpe. This was a world where no one really had any prospects; the only way they could survive was to participate in the gangland culture, with all the attendant risks involved. In the second episode in particular, the violence was pronounced as Jack went deeper and deeper into the Scunthorpe underworld.
This kind of drama is often described as "gritty." I'd call it "callous."