Dr Joe Thomas’s ‘White Riot’ is out now, set in London in the 1970s and 1980s
Dr Joe Thomas, who lectures in Creative Writing at City, University of London, is the author of a gritty new crime trilogy with Arcadia Books, the first instalment of which has just been listed by The Times as part of a “best thriller books of 2023” feature.
The trilogy, containing the books White Riot, Red Menace, and True Blue, is set in London during the 1970s and 1980s. The trilogy starts at the 1978 Rock Against Racism concert in Hackney and ends with the Poll Tax Riots of 1990.
The first book in the trilogy, White Riot, was published in hardback and e-book in January 2023. White Riot sets the scene in an alternate history version of Hackney, Dr Thomas’ birthplace. It follows Detective Constable Patrick ‘Chance’ Noble in his struggle against corruption and racism within the Metropolitan Police.
White Riot is “supercharged by the music and counterculture of the era, all against the darker backdrop of far-right nationalism and virulent racism that were key markers of Thatcher’s Britain”.
The Times’ feature describes the book as “enthralling and multilayered”, while describing Dr Thomas as an author with a “concern to get the history right” when trying to capture “a time of misery for many but liberation for some”.
Another recent review, in The Guardian, said of the book: “White Riot unfolds as a propulsive crime novel. Thomas ably captures local community anger, interracial tensions and especially the foreboding atmosphere around anti-fascist marches that led to violent clashes.”
This is not the first time Dr Thomas has published with Arcadia. His previous novel, Bent, a historical crime novel based on the war hero and detective Harold Challenor, was deemed book of the year by The Guardian, Irish Times and CrimeTime, in 2020. Additionally, it was the pick of the month for The Times, Mail on Sunday, and The Spectator.
Dr Thomas is also the author of the São Paolo Quartet: Paradise City, Gringa, Playboy and Brazilian Psycho. The political crime novels have been published by Arcadia in the UK, Commonwealth and the United States. They have also been published in Italy by Carbonio Editore.
That series begins by following detective Mario Leme as he navigates the seedy underbelly of corruption and crime in Brazil. It is set against the backdrop of important events in recent years, such as the inauguration of (now former) president Jair Bolsonaro in 2019.
Writer David Peace called Brazilian Psycho “a riveting and explosive masterpiece” declaring Dr Thomas “one of our very best contemporary crime writers”.
Dr Thomas has written essays, journalistic and opinion pieces for publications such as The Guardian, The Irish Times, GQ, and The Quietus. His research interests lie in examining transnational concepts that underpin the literature of the city in contemporary crime fiction. He previously lectured at Royal Holloway, University of London, where he completed his PhD and MA.
Words: Ruth Almodal
Find out more about studying for a master's in Creative Writing at City, University of London.