2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Liked the characters, the setting, the details BUT lacking in plot...,
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This review is from: Skinheads (Paperback)
Ive read every one of King's novels with the exception of The Prison House and find him struggling to recall the form of his excellent Football Factory trilogy and career best Human Punk. White Trash left me cold (although I have resolved to take a second look at it). This book improves on that but still doesn't hit the mark of the earlier books. I approached out of curiousity in the skinhead genre based on the recent This Is England offerings and also from the prespective of being a very openminded music fan who listens to everything from Rock/Metal/Hardcore Punk/Symphonic Metal through to old school Hip Hop through to Classical Music. I did find the author's details on the old school Ska scene of interest (at the moment I'm very taken with SkaCore act Mighty Mighty Bosstones) but found a much lesser focus on the Oi scene and the later wave of US Punk. It's clear where JK's affections lie; back in the original skinhead movement of 1969.
The characters are all well drawn & the period detail is excellent (ala Human Punk) switching from present day to 1969 and the more musically aggressive years of 1981 and 1984. What is missing is a really strong plot. There's no sense of tension and little drama. There's a little bit of kicking & thumping (predictably from the Oi fan) but nowhere near the violence levels of King's Football Factory -anyone buying this expecting something like Romper Stomper will be dissapointed. Football hooliganism from both the past & the present is a small part of the story (but not a central one) with unexpectedly, Chelsea as the author's club of choice for his characters. Just remembered - Tommy Johnson from Football Factory makes a brief cameo part as does Joe Martin from Human Punk. Always good to see an author set his works in the same fictional universe.
The characters sort of drift along, musing over mistakes past & present, worrying for the future but it's all quite laid back and surprisingly sentimental. Now this does NOT make for a poor book by any means, it's just that I got to the final dozen or so pages and could see that very little was going to happen. Still it passed the 3 days or so that I read it in. Would I read it again as I have the aforementioned earlier John King books?? Probably not but neither are they hours of my life that I wish to claim back either!
In conclusion the novel provides some insight into the scene showing the different sub genres and the split between the earlier Jamaican influenced sounds and the later, harsher, 'white' sound of the Street Punk/Oi bands which have nothing in common with the Black influenced ancestors and more with the musical structure of Metal & Punk. This was alluded to in This Is England also. What the novel does stress is that many skinheads are decent, hard working people who are fiercely proud of those values and who see the image as more of a statement of self discipline than one of intimidation.
Worth a read if you like King & enjoyed the Shane Meadows films - just don't expect a UK version of American History X, that's all.