A real period piece. It describes a culture that thank goodness has now almost gone. At the time people made the best of the situation they found themselves in but it was pretty sordid. This book describes the whole thing extremely well though it does romanticise somewhat.
I found this a rather strange book - or perhaps frustrating may be a better word. There are a number of issues with the book that interrupt the unfolding story. The book is in serious need of an editor - not to shorten it for its own sake but there are paragraphs that appear totally out of chronological order. You know what the author is trying to achieve but these paragraphs add nothing to the plot. They should have been omitted or placed at the end of the book in a stand-alone chapter. The beginning - the narrator's time in Detroit - makes no sense as it constitutes about 10% of the book but if it were omitted would hardly impact on the story at all. A sizeable proportion of the Derbyshire dialogue is phonetically included which can be really annoying and distracts from easy reading. It's not too disturbing if you can voice over the writing with the accent but if you are not familiar with this heavy accent then it can become impossible to follow the plot. "Did a `ell as like! Ya don't kill t'goose that lays golden eggs, do ya? Nay, lad, sold em back ta Stonch, dint a" (p 280).
The last 65 pages of the 285 page long novel are devoted to a possible murder mystery but this investigation just seems to come from nowhere and doesn't follow on from the previous 220 pages - it just starts as though the beginning of another book were inserted here to extend the book or there were a few chapters left over from another novel. It seems incongruous that the plot should go from a young man's travels around Derbyshire to a murder mystery albeit concerning the characters in the first 220 pages.
A lot of the characters are also very unsavoury and the author gets some satisfaction it would seem in the constant descriptions of these people from their nicknames - Toad, The Goblin, Guzzly Grandad, Becksitch Betty etc etc.. And proud of it too. The author laments the passing of this `hidden' gay underworld but perhaps it should have remained hidden. This underworld revolves largely around public conveniences that many of the characters have made their second homes. One of the characters `Dolly' has a side line in giving guided tours of these now vanished places.
Despite all the above I still found it a good read, but it could be a much better read if a good editor takes a knife to it.
Narvel Annable is for me, one of the UK's most prolific Gay Authors. He has, with this book, created a masterpiece documenting much of our non recorded Gay History.
Scruffy Chicken is his second Gay semi-autobiographical novel, and captures life in the mid 1960's, not only here in the UK but in the USA, a definite first for this type of novel.
Set in both Detroit and Derbyshire the book chronicles the very `misspent' youth of a Gay young man as he stumbles toward adulthood. The journey, which is essentially what it is, features some rather strange people in extremely bizarre situations. Annable manages to interweave an ingenious mystery as part of the plot, the disappearance of `Becksitch Betty' a rather nasty drag Queen cum washed up stage act. Not surprisingly, most of the bizarre characters come under some form of suspicion!
To describe the book as ` a novel' is somewhat disingenuous, it brilliantly documents the homophobia, fear and clear hatred faced by Gay men in the early to mid sixties and cleverly manages to transport the reader to less tolerant times
The journey of Simeon Hogg - the book's central character, and Annabel's alter ego - begins in Detroit in 1963, and beautifully describes Simeon's observations - of both Gay life here and `stateside'.
The encounters with the 60's Gay underworld will be enlightening for anyone under forty yet very real to those for whom Queer life was so different to today. The Derbyshire, Detroit and Nottinghamshire `scenes' are vividly portrayed together with the local dialect and it is hard to imagine that some of the bizarre characters in the story ever really existed - thankfully, they did!
Scruffy Chicken depicts a time when homosexuality was illegal and as such this alone makes for a somewhat darker tale. If you are looking for titillation this is not the book for you, although the life experiences, sexual and otherwise are well documented.
I can truly say, this is one of the best books I have ever read and a must for all Gay men, whatever age.
Scruffy Chicken is a real tour de force of a read!