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King Jude

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NEL, London, 1971
price: 30p (6/-); 128 pages
(first published in the USA by Simon & Schuster, 1969)

dedication: For Kim

The blurb on the back:

JUDE - twelve-fingered, six-foot-six, sprung from the Texas desert and fed on wind and railroad songs.
JUDE - never without a woman, but always alone. Heir to a voice that can tear the hearts out of young girls.
SPOOKY JUDE LUKAS - out of New York and back to the desert, leaving behind him two fingers and one lung. A rock 'n roll idol who waits in fear for the ultimate savagery of the groupies ...
KING JUDE - a powerful and tragic book that smashes out of the American night like tomorrow's express train in full tilt.

opening lines:
Jude came up from the subway and a flake of ash settled into the corner of his eye.

According to the very fine Bomp Bookshelf, Kim Fowley claims that this novel was based on him. Certainly it’s dedicated to him and I assume that David Helton (about whom I, of course, know nothing) did talk to him, but don’t go expecting any great insights into the King of Trash, cos they ain’t there. The one bit that he probably did contribute – it’d be in keeping – is the idea of fanatical groupies who collect bodily fluids from their chosen stars, buying up vials of semen and blood which are then consumed ritualistically.

It’s a nice idea, and there are other cool elements in the novel (a pop star who is ‘the ugliest man alive’ and has the stagename Garish Hideous), but they’re peripheral to the main story. Which is about a folk singer with twelve fingers and twelve toes and can play a guitar just like ringing a bell. Until he gets involved in a bar brawl and loses some fingers. Then he becomes a recluse and ultimately a reluctant star.

It tries to be hip, but ends up a mess, with a fragmented narrative that would take a much better writer to make work. Interesting, but very period, I fear.


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