on 5 September 2011
BOOT BOYS is another of the ever-prolific Richard Allen's novels about (usually violent) youth subcultures. Tom Walsh, ex-skinhead (he gave up because the "uniform" made it too easy for the police to arrest them), is now a boot boy, that is, a football hooligan rooting for The Arsenal. He and his gang, "The Crackers", go to games and beat up fans from the other teams. However Tom also finds himself facing a leadership challenge from within the gang by the Jewish Benjy (who is upset at having been forced to daub swastikas on the doors of Jewish householders - not out of Nazism or anti-Semitism but merely out of a desire to cause pain), a crusading newspaper editor who wants them off the streets (and who, in a rather unattractive subplot, has an affair with a woman gang-raped by "The Crackers") and dealing with a crooked garage owner who hires them to steal cars but tries to cheat them out of the agreed price.
This is a deeply unattractive book. Tom Walsh is a nasty thug, a rapist and a sex pest. Mr Allen makes no excuses; Tom is what he is because he is a villain, not because of society. Tom's only desire is to cause mayhem, culminating in a pseudo-Satanic rite in a Church (he's a fan of Aleister Crowley). The writing is almost voyeuristic, a slow-motion car-crash of sadistic violence and sexual depravity, that Mr Allen's pen lingers on a little too much to be comfortable. It is an interesting book, for its portrait of 1970s thuggishness, but also a revolting one.