It would appear that I immediately circled and ticked the fifth attempt (where two bars are used to form an inverted chevron above the central cross-piece), as if to say, ‘That’ll do.’ once, when Smith came and did a talk to our year on the Fine Art course at the then Sheffield Poly in perhaps 1988.
I had practically fallen out of my chair to see that the film’s central character was played by an old friend of mine at the time.
is long out of print, but see below for information on a strictly limited number of mint-condition copies that are newly available for sale.
The manuscript was written over the course of a two week period in 1995.
After the screening I asked Smith how he’d come to cast John Harding in this role and he said something like, ‘Oh they were just some Psychic Youth art school skinhead types who lived down the road from me in Forest Gate.’ There is another surprise in this chapter plan.
Events take place in a number of expedient and/or contingent locations around Well Street and London Fields: in the Pub on the Park, on Hackney Central railway station and the trains of the North London Line, in the Hackney DSS office and a still markedly pre-gentrification Broadway Market that would be unrecognisable now. Looking at the chapter plan again, my gaze is drawn to the blue felt-tip pen drawings at the foot of the page.
, getting it published, was a way of contributing to what I saw as a kind of ‘conversation’ about London, about British pulp fiction generally and the ‘Richard Allen’ skinhead novels in particular that was being conducted around the east London where I lived at the time.
This appropriation of Allen’s novels had been anticipated in the mid-1980s by the aforementioned Roy Bayfield who incorporated the books into his rambling spoken-word-act-come-job at the Zap in Brighton.
From memory I wrote this plan about halfway in (i.e. Strange too to remember the writing process, which was: do no research whatsoever, write a minimum of one chapter per day, and try to ensure there is at least one ‘transcendent act’ (as I would say when talking about this at the time) of sex or violence per chapter.
once I’d reached about Chapter 7 or 8) because I needed to organise the remaining chapters. It is odd to see this piece of yellowing A4 and its sparse contents; the cringe-making use of words like ‘shag’; the ‘daisy-wheel’ printer type from the Amstrad word processor I used at the time. The idea to write ‘a crusty novel’ along these lines, using a process that consciously explored connections between an imagined pulp productivity and automatic writing, had been reinforced in a throwaway conversation one afternoon in Endcliffe Park, Sheffield with friends Tim, Roy and Robin when I was visiting that city.
It was also prefigured by the appropriation of skinhead imagery in the work of artists including Gilbert and George, Psychic TV, and independent artist film-maker John Smith with his short film , but I’d wanted to make a connection, too, with Michael Moorcock’s pulpier sword-n-sorcery novels from the late 1960s and early 1970s which were written at the breakneck speed of three days per volume (putting my ‘chapter-a-day’ regime to shame of course).
takes some liberties with the ‘sprawling consensual hallucination that is Hackney’, chiefly by relocating a lightly-drawn (no research, remember) analogue of the then M11 Link Road protests (which centred around the proposed ‘East Cross Route’ in Leytonstone) a few miles west to Well Street, E9.