‘Vivid, stylish, funny’ Mick Herron

The first time I met Harold Challenor, he frisked me for weapons –
I was ten years old.

Bent is the explosive story of the rise and fall of SAS commando, and notorious Detective Sergeant, Harold ‘Tanky’ Challenor.

During the Second World War, Challenor was parachuted behind enemy lines into Italy and France, performing remarkable feats of bravery.

In the grimy underbelly of 1960s Soho, he was a ferocious and controversial presence, mediating between factions of club owners and racketeers, and cultivating informers.

But just how far will he go to break the protection gang that has a grip on his manor?

It can be a fine line that divides hero and villain.

Praise for BENT:

‘Vivid, stylish, funny’ Mick Herron, author of the Jackson Lamb novels

‘Brilliant. Bent compellingly re-imagines a shocking true story of bravery and deception with all the manic energy and terrifying presence of its subject’ Jake Arnott, author of The Long Firm Trilogy

‘A wildly stylish and hugely entertaining read, Bent brings the worlds of sixties Soho and Nazi-occupied Italy thrillingly to life.  It’s taut, evocative and laugh-out-loud funny – and, like its anti-hero, Challenor, slick, pacy and just crooked enough to keep you guessing, right up until its gut-punch of an ending’ Lucy Caldwell, winner of the Dylan Thomas Prize

‘From the cool spine of Italy to the burning heart of London, Bent merges war and peace as it shows how our traumatised heroes helped shape Britain in the decades following the Second World War. While the Sixties swing, one man’s need for order is undercut by a seething anger and some righteous violence. Written with love and respect, Bent is a snappy, thoughtful, moving novel’ John King, author of The Football Factory

Bent makes me remember Fridays bunking off work early, slipping and sliding on mashed fruit and veg through a deserted old Covent Garden, down to Berwick Street market to buy a few ex-jukebox 45’s for half a dollar each, then to the Nellie Dean for a couple of pints of Guinness, followed by a nap in Soho square gardens if the weather was clement. Shoot off home to change into something sharper, and back up for an all-nighter at the ‘mingo, all pilled up and glassy eyed. We were far from innocent, but they seemed like innocent times. Not bent at all. Happy days!’ Mark Timlin, author of the Sharman novels

‘Perhaps the most notorious copper of the post-War era, Harold 'Tanky' Challenor has taken many literary guises, his contradictory, charismatic presence and catchphrase 'You're nicked, me old beauty' muscling its way into work by Joe Orton and Jake Arnott. But no one has delved so deeply into what turned a Wartime hero of the SAS into a peacetime detective whose attempts to 'clean up Soho' led to igimony and the epithet most readily applied to him – Bent – until Joe Thomas braved his way into Tanky’s skull, effectively channeling Challenor in this vivid recreation of the events that forged and then destroyed his reputation. Utterly brilliant’ Cathi Unsworth, author of That Old Black Magic and Bad Penny Blues

‘Had James Ellroy and David Peace collaborated on a novel about a corrupt 1960s Soho copper, they’d have written something like this. Bent has left its Size 12 boot-prints across my memory’ Paul Willetts, author of Members Only, filmed as The Look of Love

'Bent is a slick, highly readable yarn.' Buzz Magazine

‘Told in sparse, energetic, fragmented prose, this is a crooked copper story that hits hard … For Challenor, the thin blue line was as narrow as a switch-blade’s edge, and Thomas perfectly captures every cut and slice along the way.’ Jeff Noon, The Spectator

Price £: 
30 Apr 2020
Available from:

About the author

  • Joe Thomas

    Joe Thomas

    Joe Thomas is the author of Paradise City, Gringa and Playboy. The final part in his São Paulo quartet, Brazilian Psycho, is scheduled for publication in 2021. His first London novel, Bent, is published in Spring 2020.

    Titles by Joe Thomas

    Brazilian Psycho
    Gringa by Joe Thomas
    Paradise City