In Human Punk
, the coming-of-age tale of a Thames valley likely lad, John King yet again delivers an unflinching, frank insight into British male working-class culture. King's best-known previous novels, The Football Factory
and England Away
, centred on the brutal subject of soccer hooliganism--of the domestic and export variety.
The antihero of Human Punk is Joe Martin: poor white trash from the council estates of Slough. In the novel's first third, set at the "arse-end of the 70s", Joe is a teenage no-hoper into cheap booze and cheaper girls. He's also into the new punk music that has finally percolated down to the Middlesex hinterlands.
King captures Joe's humble yet never-to-be-forgotten adolescent excitements--"the tingle of the cider" and the "smell of Bev's perfume banging into me"--with such empathy and verve that, in its praise, you can't help sensing the autobiographer at work rather than the novelist.
Unfortunately, the following sections of the novel aren't as telling. First it flashes forward to the late 1980s, when Joe is a backpacker returning to Blighty, as the prodigal son, on the Trans-Siberian railway; then it moves on to glitzy New Labour London of the millennium, where Joe is a moneymaking DJ. Throughout it all Joe broods on a childhood incident when a friend was nearly drowned, and the solving of this "puzzle"--his pal's fate--is what provides the book with its denouement. However, these later sections fail to grip the reader as it is difficult to afford the older, harder Joe the same sympathy one gave his youthful incarnation, and without such identification the whole book lacks psychological Semtex.
Fans of King's bleak, staccato, first-person narratives will not be disappointed by his now familiar but explosive insights into the male psyche.--Sean Thomas
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"In its ambition and exuberance, Human Punk
is a league ahead of much contemporary English fiction" (New Statesman
"King's eye for detail is as sharp as his characters' tongues, and his creations are eminently three-dimensional: insightful and funny one minute, bigoted and ******-up the next" (The Face
"Unique and brutal fiction...King is a master of idiom and street slang" (The Times
"King's most accomplished and compelling story to date" (Esquire
"Evokes the punk era superbly" (Independent on Sunday