Here’s the books I read in May…
Doctor Who and the Krikkitmen by James Goss
Based on a plotline from Doctor Who’s then script editor Douglas Adams, this tale never actually saw the light of day – though much of it was later recycled to form the basis of a plot for one of the author’s Hitchhiker’s Guide novels. James Goss , who had previously adapted Adams’ City of Death, once again captures the irresistible wit and surrealism of his unique authorial voice really well, but there’s no denying that the plot itself is deeply episodic. After a while, it was a bit of a slog to be honest.
Excavate! The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall by various authors, edited by Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley.
The first of this month’s reads to feature The Fall is a series of essay that celebrate the world of band, rather than the band or its back catalogue itself. Each explores the things that interested or influenced Mark E. Smith, or things that Mark E. Smith influenced and the people interested in him. Quite what MES himself would make of it I do not know; I suspect he’d find several essays pretentious and wide of the mark – I know I did. But some really hit you between the eyes. Valuable ephemera also populates the book throughout. Quite why no one thought to ask Stewart Lee for a contribution is beyond me.
Rule of Night by Trevor Hoyle
First published in 1975, this is a reissue from Pomona, who have rediscovered and published some really good stuff over the last twenty years. Set in Rochdale, the novel follows sixteen year old Kenny Seddon and his adventures rioting on the terraces, P*ki bashing, gang-fights, robbing meters and shagging. Remember the Skinhead novels that Richard Allen wrote for NEL in the 70s? This is like a proper, mature version of those, written by someone who has actually done some research and is not a hack. Kenny is a vile and reprehensible protagonist, he’s also an idiot whose comeuppance is often delivered, either by Clockwork Orange inspired thugs, his own father or the law. There’s no sympathy to be had for Kenny, but Hoyle writes in such a way that none of that seems to matter. It’s full of bleakly, beautiful prose and a tremendous sense of time and place – it’s certainly a very Northern 1970s book. I have heard it went on to inspire many subsequent football hooligan novels of the 90s and 00s, but this is a nook that really deserves to be better known. A cult classic.
The Otherwise by Mark E. Smith and Graham Duff
The second Fall book of the month and the first of two screenplays I have read in May, The Otherwise was a book I was eagerly anticipating – a screenplay for an unmade horror film penned by Duff (who wrote Ideal, a sitcom I love) and MES. It’s hard to appreciate how effective the chills for this would be on paper, as horror is a very visual medium, but the screenplay possesses an obviously mordant wit that hit the spot for me. I really hope that it will finally get made – filmmakers Ian Forsyth and Jane Pollard have expressed a keen interest in getting it to the screen, with the likes of Jared Harris and David Thewlis both mooted to step into Smith’s shoes, and I imagine Duff will be playing the head of Pendle’s biker gang, Sons of Witches. Perhaps Ideal alumni Ben Crompton can play the hapless hero?
Accidental Death of an Anarchist by Dario Fo
This play book is the English adaptation from Gavin Richards whose Belt and Braces theatre company staged it in the late 70s. It remains a remarkable play, Brecht via Spike Milligan’s Q/Karl Marx via the Marx Brothers. You laugh at the farce but the reality of the situation, the stupid, monstrously cavalier attitudes of fascist authority slowly dawns on you. Belt and Braces subsequently staged the piece for television in the early 80s starring Richards in the lead role of the Maniac – it’s on YouTube and I urge everyone to watch it, because it’s simply superb. Richards, and his adaptation, is arguably the greatest gift to British theatre in the late 20th century.
Number of books read in 2021 so far: 23