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RICHARD ALLEN
Suedehead


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New English Library, London, 1971
(price: 25p; 112 pages)


The blurb on the back:

A young and brutal bovver boy called Joe Hawkins caused outrage when he was first introduced to the world in the NEL smash hit, Skinhead.
Now Joe has grown his hair and swapped his boots and braces for a velvet-collared Abercrombie coat. His aggro days are over ... but his city-slicker days are just beginning.


opening lines:
As he stood in the dock, Joe Hawkins considered his situation with utter detachment.


Richard Allen was the best-known pseudonym employed by James Moffatt, and his best-known book was Skinhead, to which this was the first sequel. If you were at school in the early-Seventies, you'll probably remember this stuff: it sold in vast quantities and, even more significantly, it was passed from hand to hand by those seeking a quick shot of sex and violence, attracting a readership in places where no skinhead had yet trod. It's quite possible that Skinhead was read more widely amongst teenagers than any other novel of the period.

Allen seemed even more surprised by the instant success of that book than anyone else, and – unusually for an exploitation novel – this sequel comes with an Author’s Preface, in which he insists that his work is not responsible for encouraging skinhead violence. Indeed he’d like it to be known that he thoroughly disapproves of those who have fostered ‘a climate of anarchy’ in Britain. So, if it’s not him, who or what is responsible for the growth of these youth cults? Well, everyone else, of course, argues Allen, pointing to:

leniency in courtrooms, catering to fads by mercenary-minded rag-trade merchants, a soft-peddling attitude by politicians who look for teenage votes to save their seats, and an overwhelming pandering by the news media… (p.5)

As a mea non culpa, it’s not very impressive, but – three decades on – it’s not really our place to judge him on whether he encouraged ‘anti-social behaviour’. So let’s judge the novel simply as a piece of writing. And the verdict is that it’s not very wonderful. In fact it’s nasty, brutish and short. And while the casual inelegance undoubtedly suits the subject, it does prove wearing: for such a brief book, it doesn’t half feel like a long read, devoid of even a single flash of inspiration. Just an occasional phrase that wasn’t completely flat would have been a joy. Worse, the language is not only plain but – by modern standards – terribly tame, so that even the most unpleasant scene (which, as you’d expect, involves a female victim) isn’t really capable of any shock value.

Hard to believe that anyone new would bother, but for some of those who read this stuff at the age of thirteen, there might be a nostalgic appeal, I guess. And at least suedeheads wore better clothes than skinheads.


ARTISTIC MERIT: 2/5
ENTERTAINMENT VALUE:
2/5
HIPNESS QUOTIENT:
5/5


from the maker of...

The Terror of the Seven Crypts

Diary of a Female Wrestler

Teeny Bopper Idol

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