John King exposed the world of male violence in his debut novel The Football Factory. Now he is up to his eyes in the world of lust and lager. Oh, and sex. Words: Teddy Jamieson
When boys talk. as obscure 80s disco outfit lndeep once said. they don‘t talk politics.
London novelist John King would seem to agree. The five male characters at the heart of his second novel llead/tunlers are unlikely to start chatting about the prospects of the new Labour government when they meet up in their local boo/er. Harriet Harman might get a mention. but only as the MP whose Ministerial briefs they would most like to get into.
For a perfect example of the legendary one-track mind. look no further.
King‘s first novel. the Irvine Welsh-approved The
men.’ John King
l-‘(mr/m/l I‘m-mry. tackled the contentious topic of
football violence from the hooligans‘ point of view. Headhunters is likely to be just as controversial as it again gives voice to the literary dispossessed — the white working class southern linglish male.
llarry. Balti. ('arter. Will and .‘V‘lango are the soccer casuals of The Font/ml! [Var/my ten years on. .\'o longer excited by the possibility of violence. though still tip for a spot of aggro if it‘s needed. they
are more concerned with (‘helsea's prospects under
Ruud (iullit. whose turn it is to buy the next round and. tnost pressineg. which of them is going to be the next to pull.
In one drunken evening they launch a sex division. devising a points system for their sexual conquests as they vie with each other to see who can
’l’m trying to look under the surface of my culture and give it some more humanity, because it’s just dismissed as a wasteland of right-wing Sierra
John King: explores a heady world of lust and lager
carve the most notches on their bedposts.
All of which might make Headhunters sound rather like Loaded without the pictures. Fortunately. King is rather more ambitious and less blinkeer than that. The idea of the sex division is just a starting point for an elaborate striptease of the 'lad’ image. What follows is an odyssey into southern English blue collar manners as King deconstructs the stereotype of “Essex man’ and his outer London contemporaries and finds rather more complex attitudes towards gender and class than the tabloid image suggests.
In effect it is an attempt. the author says. to ‘get beyond the language people use and find out what‘s really behind it.‘
In this. 36-year-old King. who grew up in Slough in Berkshire. is exploring his own background. He is. he admits. not 100 miles removed from the characters he is writing about.
‘I always go to football. I like to go out drinking. maybe not so much now as I‘m getting older. I‘ve always been into music. punk and stuff like that.
Sure that's my culture. But I‘m trying to look under the surface of it and give it some more humanity. because it’s just dismissed as a wasteland of right-wing Sierra men.‘
(‘ritics may take issue with King‘s notion that language and action can be so easily separated. And King is certainly guilty of a rather romanticised view of male-female relations. 'l‘o wit: ‘Most men if they could fall in love. have a woman they really respected. that was their dream. then they‘d be totally different people.
"l‘hey‘d never admit that and maybe that’s why male language is so harsh. it’s trying to deny that. bill I think it's true. just from people you see through the years who are suddenly getting married and are out doing the garden.‘
lirom planting rival fans to wielding a watering can. .\'ow that would be the power of love.
Headhunters is published by Jonathan Cape at £9.99.
preview BOOKS The Write Stuff
The Clive Owens TV series may be a thing of the past, but Shannan creator Mark Timlin, Britain’s only convincing private eye novelist, is still going strong.
NAME: Mark Timlin
AGE: Fucking hell, that's cheeky! I’m younger than Mick Jagger, but older than Liam Gallagher.
PREVIOUS JOBS: I've done everything in the music business. Tour manager, road manager for The Who, sold records to shops, worked in record shops. And I've worked in an advertising agency and a skateboard factory.
ROUTE TO BECOMING A WRITER: It was from hunger really. I was on the dole and I thought: 'I must do something with my life because all I can see in front of me is social security stretching to a pension — and I thought I'd write a book, and literally it was as simple as that and luckily I got my first one published.
DAILY ROUTINE: Get up early, go and get the papers, work for two hours and take the rest of the day off.
INFLUENCES: On this side of the Atlantic, radio and TV heroes. PC 49, 2 Cars, stuff like The Sweeney and Haze/l. Not too many books. As for pure influence, Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard, though not so much now. He's not hungry any more. John D. MacDonald, Ross MacDonald, all sorts of private eye writers. Robert B. Parker, James Lee
Burke. We're talking the bad boys of
the bayou and the LA nutcases.
AMBITION: Sell more books, reach more people, because the TV series has blown itself out really. It broke every rule going. So my ambition is just to keep writing.
FEARS: The main fear is that crime lists are getting cropped fiercely by British publishers. It's okay if you're doing the cosy, psychological stuff — that gets to the shops, but the pulp fiction end, that’s just not happening. I don't see anybody coming up behind me.
INCOME: Anything from 105 6d a week to £100,000. When you're on the telly they throw money at you and when you're suddenly dropped you think: ‘I’ve got to live on my books again.’ All I can see my future being is meals on wheels and sheltered housing, really. (Teddy Jamieson)
I The /atest Nick Shannan thriller, The Street That Rhymed A! 3.31:), /‘C ,xzitifis/‘iet.’ by Go/lancz at [ 75 99
16-20 May m; mausr 85