Ian Rankin on Get Carter


To celebrate Book Week Scotland 2015, we asked author Ian Rankin to introduce one of his favourite book-to-screen adaptations. He’s gone for a belter: Mike Hodges’s 1971 directorial debut Get Carter. Both a strikingly brutal thriller and a vivid social history of Tyneside in the early ’70s, it’s a British crime classic that slams the door shut on the swinging ’60s.

Ian Rankin

Get Carter (18) Wed 25 Nov, 9.00

Director: Mike Hodges. Starring: Michael Caine, Britt Eckland, John Osborne. UK 1971. 112 mins.

Neil Hepburn, marketing manager at The Cameo, asked Ian about Carter, Caine and the Ted Lewis novel that the film is based on.

When did you first see Get Carter and what were your initial thoughts on the film?

I probably first saw Get Carter on TV back in the 1970s. I remember liking the grittiness of it all – the sordid backdrop, against which we get a terrific portrayal of a doomed hero.

Did it influence your writing?

I wouldn’t say it was a direct influence on my writing, but there was probably osmosis – all the cop stuff on TV seeped into my subconscious. Jack Regan in The Sweeney – compromised heroes, villains with a conscience, cops who cross the line. And then there’s the attempt (by author Ted Lewis) to write a kind of American urban noir but make it definably British in tone. Maybe William McIlvanney tried something similar in Glasgow with his Laidlaw books and those were a definite influence.

What did you discover first, the Ted Lewis novel Jack Returns Home or the film?

I only read Ted Lewis’s novel after seeing the film. He didn’t write many books, and some people think GBH is his masterpiece. But I do have a soft spot for Carter – and Michael Caine was the epitome of London Cool at the time, wasn’t he? From what I remember of the other Jack novels there are diminishing returns, but my appetite is whetted to give them another go.

get-carter_2470708bHas Caine ever been better than as Jack Carter?

Well, he did make some great films. But he is so restrained as Carter, so unflappable and yet radiating menace. It’s a stunning portrayal of a difficult role.

As music fan, what kind of impact did Roy Budd’s fascinating, diverse score have on you?

The score to the film is bleak but effective. I think we know from the start that there is going to be no happy ending – we know because the music tells us. There’s tension in the score, but also poignancy.

Book Week Scotland and Cameo Curated By present a 35mm screening of Get Carter, introduced by Ian Rankin, on Wednesday 25 November, 9.00.

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