I remember reading Cocaine Nights and finding my enjoyment, or actually, more than that, the amount I was able to engage with the book, severely limited by the fact that I simply didn't agree with the main idea behind it. The basic principle from which everything flowed and which thus ultimately provided the motivation for everything that occurred, seemed completely wrong-headed to me, not just slightly off, but completely out of whack.
And, if I remember correctly, that idea was that towns need crime to be alive; to be a real town there must be an underworld with drug-dealing, the risk that if you walked the wrong way home at night you might get your head kicked in; there must be a chance that your home can be broken into and your valuables stolen, your things vandalised. In fact he doesn't stop there, there must at least be the possibility of murder.
And the setting for this was a retirement town in Spain or something. A place where rich old people retire to to live in the sun. I accepted quite easily that towns filled with retired Tories and Union Jack covered pubs called the British Lion serving fish and chips and proper British food are boring places, I just couldn't accept that the solution is petty crime. So for me the book failed completely.
The other day we were talking about areas in Lisbon, which we would prefer to live in. I was talking about how I liked the grimy back streets round the back of Martim Moniz to somewhere posher. How the dirty streets with dodgy characters plotting some dubious schemes had a life to them that others didn't... and it rang a distant bell. I started thinking about that book I read twenty five years ago and it occurred to me that I was unconsciously making the same argument Ballard had made. And I decided to think about this properly and after a while I understood that gradually, over the ensuing time, my thoughts had evolved quite naturally and organically to the exact position I'd rejected as completely ridiculous when I was young and knew everything.