SKINHEAD FEATURE .
Marshall prefers to see Allen as an exciting writer who did a useful job of chronicling the youth scenes of the 705. ‘Teenage youth cults are what he was famous for and without him a lot of those cults would have been lost. you wouldn’t have heard of suedeheads. So a lot of people like his writing because it’s a way of recapturing lost youth. The books have become really collectable, not because of their content — some people don’t even read them — but because it’s trendy to collect the
All the same, it’s difficult to get away from the grim fascination with the political viewpoint ofAllen’s writing. Marshall suggests the racism was only in the characters. but some of Allen’s authorial interventions in Skinhead suggest otherwise: ‘Nobody dare question the right an East Ender had to voice his opinion regardless of Race Relations Board and governmental sympathies. “Spades” or “wogs” didn’t count. They were impositions on the face of a London that should always be white, Cockney, true-British . . . (Skinhead)’
‘In one of his introductions Allen does say that he is just telling it how it was, not condoning it,’ says Marshall. ‘He did say that one of the reasons he knocked the Skinhead books on the head in the 705 was that he was under pressure to make Joe join the National Front and become an NF figure, and he didn’t want to do that. That
Marshall owns up to being impressed by the violence of the books when he first encountered them at the age oftwelve. ‘That was when I was first discovering the skinhead cult. and the violence definitely was part of the appeal. You always want to be thought of as a little hard man at that age. As you get older you take that a little less seriously. I’m not expecting skinheads nowadays to go out and start bashing people just because they read the book. Give them
Richard Allen lives in obscurity in England and iace-to-tace interviews. lie did 3;.“ however. to answer some questions by
I Are you surprised that there continues to , be a strong iollowing for your books?
Very much so, since my then publishers decided they did not wish to accept yet another book. Proof, again, that some new faces in an editorial department can cost both author and the company a loss of revenue.
Ittoesympathetlc wereyoutowards your horses, particularly Joe llawltins?
Very sympathetic. I understood their concern, their working-class backgrounds and other problems confronting them individually and as a cult.
’Iliowrnuchresearchdidyoudotoensure thatthe bookshad a grounding in reality?
I have said this dozens of times, but I’ll repeat my attempts to get it right. The time given to me for Skinheads ﬁnished manuscript was just over one week. I had to drive to London and venture into a public house seeking those I thought were skinheads. I found them, and once I said there was a book about the cult about to be
written. those blokes could not stop telling me everything. They were fantastic and very generous with ‘next rounds are on us mate‘. From them I had the basic background and Joe Hawkins was born.
I no you agree that your novels became almost a blueprint for Skinheads to follow?
Yes. And this because skinheads all over Britain wrote to me and told me what was happening. Even teachers wrote thanking me for helping their pupils when I replied to each and every letter I received.
I Do you agree thatyour gloriﬁed the violent and racist attitudes oi the characters?
This is a difﬁcult question to answer. Every book was written to satisfy readers who took time and trouble to contact me. Really the storylines came from those fans and I could actually feel the torment inside them as I typed each page. Some were definitely aggro merchants, some pleading with me to say something about the loss of their traditional homelands and others just passing along their deeply patriotic beliefs.
IDoescrltlclsmotyourbooltsbotheryouor metre you regret certain phrases or incidents?
Never. An author must be prepared to accept criticism and putting pen to paper, even in an ordinary letter. leaves doors wide open. In a way I feel there were
a little more credit than that.’
Marshall’s magazine harks back to a more innocent age when skinheads were the clean-cut antidote to slovenly hippydom, enjoying sharp clothes and cool music. He bemoans the fact that skinheads are nowadays regarded as a byword for thugs; ironically a situation for which Allen’s books must take a share of the blame.
‘The problem is that everybody in the media wants to write stories about skinheads being Nazis,’ says Marshall. ‘The swastika sells things, the Sunday Times knows that. People always want to accuse some small group of being fascists and the easiest one is
skinheads, because they’re very visible. People are scared of them. Skinheads have
chapters which could have been eliminated, but, looking back, considering how many, many former and new skinheads - plus those collectors who were never members of the cult — pay fantastic sums for old copies of the paperbacks, I must admit to a certain amount of satisfaction that my efforts are still in demand.
I Did you ever restrain yourself in any way because you realised you were writing for a young and impressionable audience?
Not ever. I too was young once and enjoyed doing things then considered . naughty. Too many people —trendy types and the like - tend to tell the majority what they should or should not do according to some standard recently accepted by them, and them alone. I believe young people will always have in their hearts and minds the values taught to them by responsible, decent parents. Those who break the code come from homes I would never have wanted to have been a member of at any moment in my life.
At the moment, practically none. Oh , there are some former skinheads who are now journalists and keep in touch. But since any letter sent to my former publisher is probably placed in the wastepaper basket that is that. There was a time, as I mentioned, when I received
got all sorts of political views and some of them are Nazis, some because they believe in it and others because they’ve seen it in the papers and that’s what they think being a skinhead is all about. But for the rest of us I reckon the colour of a football scarf is more important than the colour of the skin. Richard Allen’s version of the skinhead was only accurate in the sense that he was an author who was asked to write about skinheads. He had a very short time to research it and obviously he’s going to turn to what the papers were saying. They were ﬁlled with Paki~bashing and aggro so he picked up on that. What he missed was the style and the music, reggae hardly gets a mention at all.’
Richard Allen is now pushing 70, living the life ofa recluse after severe ill-health and a heavy drinking problem, due in part to the pressures of churning out novel after novel in the 705. Marshall says Allen was enthusiastic about the opportunity of seeing his books reprinted, and is planning to dust-down a previously-aborted Joe Hawkins novel for future publication. The image ofa menopausal Joe pulling on the boots one more time, ﬂexing the fading tattoos and hitting the mean streets looking for bovver is a strangely poignant one.
‘Joe's cosh lashed out, striking the helpless guard across the cheek. The crunch of breaking bone was a glorious sound for Joe’s mob. Like a pack of wolves they swarmed forward, bent on the kill. Boots found their target, tools slashed viciously, fists landed with dull, sickening thuds . . . '
The Complete Richard Allen Volume 1 featuring Skinhead, Suedehead and Skinhead Escapes is published by S T Publishing, PO Box 12, Dunoon, Argyll PA23 7BQ. Skinhead Times is available from the same address.
thousands of letters and replied to each and every one sent to me. With the reprints through ST Publishing 1 have guaranteed to answer every letter my old
and new fans write — and I mean that.
IDoyouthlnt there's still a massmarketior these kinds otstorles, or has the paperback been superseded by“! and iilrns?
Skinheads are a patriotic cult and neither TV or film distractions ever stop them, it seems, from enjoying a Richard Allen book. I imagine that W.H. Smith. who selected me as their soar-away author of the 705. will again promote the million-selling books this time around. l hape so. for them and myself.
There is a valid reason for this publicity-shyness. When i first wrote Skinhead I was not exactly a skin nor a younger person. I could feel for those going through a traumatic period in working-clam off-spring's lives, but I did not want them to think that Richard Allen was much older and, therefore. less able to relate to them. Now, they know that whatever my age . I am still one of them. Older, maybe a little wiser, but always in their corner whatever ﬁght they have to battle against. I ‘m with them and whatever others think about skins I personally believe their cult is based on genuine patriotism and never mind political wheeler~dealing, they’ll survive.
The List 31 July— 13 August 199211