How the Dead Live

Robert William Arthur Cook (12 June 1931 – 30 July 1994), better known since the 1980s by his pen name Derek Raymond, wrote a series of novels about a lonely cop on the beat, a sergeant at London Metropolitan Police’s Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14. The quote below is from the third book in that series, a quote that has sunk down in for many years:

As I stood there I suddenly felt afraid – not of what confronted me but in a general way. I thought and felt that the secret of existence was perhaps to get old with beauty, ironically, coming closer and closer to you as you aged; innocence, everything that you had rejected or ignored as a young man, entering you like music all the time until in the end there was no more time. Then much of what had seemed so hard would be over, after too much work in cities, after patrolling too many streets for too long, after studying too many faces with the sly, fixed look of the dead.

Intelligence is at the service of us all and I believe that curiosity and investigation, like a chicken’s beak, are intended to kill the viper that threatens an egg. Powerful curiosity is the source of all detection and is surely its own end, a field cleared and well ploughed – but it is too simple for us only to have justice and logic; what use are either without mercy? The eternal cycle, the beginning, middle and end of a human being, the incomprehensible dance in the magic of our own theatre will continue for ever. But ignorance of our birth and death makes us largely mad; the majority of us clap at our disasters as though they were a play; but it is a work that we cannot possibly understand. Throughout our obscure race in life our entire frame is intended, is inclined to return to the earth on which our parents lay flat to conceive us; from a great distance our planet is an extraordinary sight, more so than most of us can yet understand, and I think that in the meantime we ought to be very careful about how we treat the flesh that we are.


  1. Raymond, Derek, How the Dead Live (Factory 3) (pp. 149-150). Random House Inc Clients. Kindle Edition.

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