Oh my God, I was not ready for this. Not at all. I absolutely bloody loved it. It's utterly jaw dropping stuff. But sweet Jesus! John Niven you sick, depraved genius.
I've been in two minds telling people about this book. On the one hand it's one of the best books I've ever read. On the other it a debouched, misogynistic, horrifically violent, ugly snarling beast. It's hard to recommend a book called `Kill your Friends' to well.... your friends; what are they going to think of me? Are they going to get it? Are they going to think that I identify with the characters, that this is something I aspire to? God I hope not but like I said, I loved this book. I read disbelieving, like staring at a train wreck or a grisly internet video.
The story concerns the music industry during Brit Pop's heyday. Steven Stelfox is our Protagonist and what a creation he is. A lazier man than me would describe him as a Patrick Bateman for the Music Industry, there are definite parallels: The money, the life of privilege and excess, a predilection for prostitutes, murder and doing anything to get ahead but Steven Stelfox is not Patrick Bateman. Bateman was a Sociopath, Stelfox definitely isn't, he's an unbelievably nasty piece of work, but he is very much a complete person with the full gambit of human emotions. it's just that they're buried deep under layers of greed, ambition Rage and lust. Niven is also not Easton-Ellis, American Psycho was cold, clinical, emotionless and bloody hard going. Kill Your Friends is an absolute riot. Niven has a way with words that will make your eyes water and in Stelfox he has the chance to voice every None PC, hateful and `you know it's wrong but...' thought that has ever entered his head. There are some awesome rants to be had, withering tirades against Wannabe Bands, fat ugly women and the industry types he works along side. When he writes about the Music business Niven speaks with absolute authority, remorselessly exposing the jet black heart of an industry where image is everything and no one knows anything. We witness the reaction to Radiohead's OK Computer, industry types claiming they'd lost it, an arty mess, no obvious hits, the first single Paranoid Android; rambling, dreary and utterly un-commercial. That is until we find Steven off his face watching Radiohead define an era, Thom York singing `rain down on me' as the heavens open over an adoring awestruck Glastonbury crowd. Easy in hindsight isn't it but would you have seen that coming? All this means Stelfox is permanently on the verge of massive success or epic failure, debts to dealers, brothels and designer boutiques spiralling out of control. Manipulating, cheating and stealing from those around him, going to any lengths to get ahead, get a hit record and somehow keep his head above water. Owning clubs, inhaling inhuman quantities of cocaine, destroying restaurants and eastern European prostitutes when he's on the up. Breaking down in week long fits of tears and masturbation when he's down. Yes, I felt like I needed a shower and a good scrub down after spending time with him, but damn is he good company.
I think it's worth pointing out, if you haven't guessed already, that this book will not be for everyone. There's some pretty explicit subject matter and some points of view which should come with a health warning but it's so funny, so audacious, so utterly, brilliantly written that if any of the above sounds remotely in the vicinity of `your thing' then run out and buy it