Thursday, 20 November 2008

Richar Allen - Boot Boys

Boot Boys
(NEL 1971)

I was thinking about Allen yesterday (as you do when you've had a few), and I decided that he'd jacked in his teen hooligan series a few decade or more too early for my liking. Think of the potential for "Goth Girls" and "Industrial Poster Boy." That was before I made a start on "Boot Boys" and, the horror, the horror ...

Blimey. Only 110 pages and still it requires considerable fortitude on the part of the reader to see this one through. As mentioned before, the casual racism of these books is pretty damned hard to read around, and the gang-rape of a Jewish woman - made all the more appalling by having her confess her guilty enjoyment of same to a crusading journalist - doesn't make this an easy book to like.

Anyway, the first seventy-five pages are devoted to the misadventures of The Crackers, a teeny gang from priviledged backgrounds who follow Arsenal F. C. (not much has changed in thirty-odd years then ). When they're not bashing men and molesting women, the gang devote their free time to drinking Haig in their clubhouse and a variety of pubs on Hampstead Heath ("The Spaniards", "Jack Straw's Castle" and "The Bull & Bush" get a namecheck. We even learn that Tom smokes Consulate).

There's a power-struggle going on between head Cracker, Tom Walsh and his would-be usurper, Benjy, and their attempts to sort out who's the hardest become increasingly desperate. Just as things are getting a bit monotonous, Tom remembers that he's been interested in Aleister Crowley for years and decides that Black Magic is the answer to all the Crackers' problems, otherwise they're just a bunch of skinheads with hair. I perked up a bit at this development - especially as it dawned on me that the nearest cemetery to the action is most likely Highgate - and it does get a little livelier as the boys dig up a corpse, orgy in the grave, desecrate the church and chant weird spells. But then you realise that all the violence has done awful things to Tom's brain or something because he's having an instant breakdown, and Allen seems keen to wrap everything up and churn out the next one.

Still, if they were selling a million a time, he'd not be much of a hack if he didn't rattle off as many as he could.

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