John King is the author of nine novels – The Football Factory, Headhunters, England Away, Human Punk, White Trash, The Prison House, Skinheads, The Liberal Politics Of Adolf Hitler and Slaughterhouse Prayer.
The Football Factory tells the stories of Chelsea boy Tommy Johnson and British tommy Bill Farrell, a World War II hero, and is set against a background of contemporary England, dipping into a series of related lives. Inspired by George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and its power-of-the-proles message, the book has been adapted as a play by Brighton Theatre Events and as a film by Vertigo Films. It has also appeared on the stage in Germany and Holland.
Headhunters focuses on the lives of five men who form a light-hearted Sex Division, a league dedicated to female conquest. Carter is a charmer, Balti and Harry more dedicated to drink and curries than women, Will a thinker happy to settle down, while Mango is a wide boy in a smart car, an angry character traumatised by the loss of his missing brother. The Sex Division soon fades away, the so-called sex war meaningless when matched to the on-going class war, a tit-for-tat argument and prophetic dreams leading to a final explosion on the streets of London.
England Away is the third part of The Football Factory Trilogy, and in this novel characters from The Football Factory and Headhunters come together as they head into Europe for a football match against Germany in Berlin. Tommy Johnson narrates their passage through Amsterdam to Berlin, while back in London Bill Farrell retraces his war-time route to confront a horrific war memory, both men confronting their own demons, with very different results.
Human Punk is the first instalment of The Satellite Cycle and charts the life and times of Joe Martin, a Slough scruff who is changed forever by the arrival of punk rock in his school playground. Set in 1977, 1988 and 2000, the book follows his life through the eras of fading Old Labour, rampant New Tory, and emerging New Labour governments. With a soundtrack that features everything from The Clash to Argy Bargy via King Tubbys and The Ruts, Human Punk is about the importance of informal education and the power of friendship.
White Trash records the world as seen through the eyes of Ruby James and Jonathan Jefferies, at the same time dipping into the lives of a succession or men and women who are full of wisdom yet considered worthless by the money-motivated elite. Ruby is a hard-working nurse, while Jefferies is a mysterious time-and-motions expert, a sinister presence in the corridors of the hospital where she works. White Trash reflects the clash of two opposing mentalities and is essentially a celebration of everyday life and a defence of the NHS.
The Prison House is set in a foreign prison, Seven Towers, and is split into seven sections, each dealing with a deadly sin. Inmate Jimmy Ramone is a drifter, running from a truth he has yet to face, though it isn’t until the end of the novel that the reader learns the nature of his secret – and the crime he has committed. The Prison House deals with love and imagination and the will to survive, moving into split personalities and reality-splitting road trips across America and India, Jimmy finally able to confront the the nightmares lurking in the shadows.
Skinheads completes the loose The Satellite Cycle (which includes Human Punk and White Trash) and focuses on Terry English (original ska-loving skinhead), his nutter-nephew Nutty Ray (Oi skin and Orwell fanatic) and Terry’s son Lol (a fifteen-year-old ska-punk more than happy to embrace his family heritage). The futures of Terry and Ray are threatened by dark clouds, stories from their late-60s and early-80s youths weaving into the main narrative as they seek salvation. Skinheads is rooted in honour, decency and pride in self, family and culture.
The Liberal Politics Of Adolf Hitler imagines a corporate-driven, closet dictatorship that disguises its true nature behind big smiles, easy debt and lots of empty liberal rhetoric. Set fifty years into the future, the USE promotes New Democracy and a cheesy but rigid conformity. Digitisation has been fully enforced and history is edited, rewritten and deleted. Physical copies of books, audio and film are illegal. Doublespeak merges with babytalk and the internet has morphed into the propaganda/surveillance tool InterZone. With the major cities controlled by Good Europeans, locals live as second-class citizens. Across Europe resistance groups fight back. Britain is no different.
Slaughterhouse Prayer confrontsthe realities of the meat and dairy industries through the character Mike Tanner, a man who is at a crossroads in his life and must decide whether to take his beliefs to another level and become a vegan soldier or block out the truth forever. Two stories from his past run through the novel. As a boy he is shocked to find out what is happening to the animals, but should he tell his friend Piggy Norton and break his heart? As a punk-loving youth, can he keep his animal-liberation activities non-violent and resist a desire for revenge? For Mike Tanner, the big question now is whether showing the killing of innocents in a truly human context will finally convince the masses to end the slaughter.
John King’s short stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and his books have been widely translated abroad. He edits the fiction fanzine Verbal and lives in London.