England Away is the third part of the loose Football Factory Trilogy, in which characters from The Football Factory and Headhunters come together as they head into Europe for an England game in Germany. Tommy Johnson leads the charge, narrating a Channel crossing and overland journey to Berlin via a stopover in Amsterdam that soon leads to trouble with the locals. For Tommy and the likes of Mark, Rod, Harris, Harry and Carter this is an international beano where the usual rules no longer apply. Germany in the Fatherland – it doesn’t come much bigger.
Back in London, Bill Farrell meets up with old friends for an army reunion, and while it is a day of beer, laughter and comradeship, a familiar face triggers a series of memories. Later, Bill finds himself retracing his own route through Europe as a British soldier fighting a war. The romance is stripped away and the horror exposed. Bill relives a terrible incident and finds himself questioning his actions. At the same time, Tommy is about to challenge his own behaviour as another generation of English and German men clash on the streets of Berlin.
While Tommy is living in the moment and Bill is embedded in the past, Harry is thinking about the future in the light of a friend’s death. His time spent talking with a prostitute in Amsterdam and a chance meeting with an elderly German woman raped by the Russians towards the end of the war makes him more determined that ever to shape his path forward.
England Away takes on the idea of enemy creation to be found in The Football Factory, as the rivalries between the various football firms are forgotten and friendships are made. The excitement and adrenaline rush of an England away trip is relayed as new enemies appear. Yet as the journey progresses, and the inner conflicts of Tommy and Bill are confronted, a bigger unity develops, and it is one that goes beyond mere borders.
“King ventures beyond the normal bonehead caricature, working over themes such as sex, drugs, work and national identity. His mission is to boldly go where no authors have gone before.”
“The words of Wilfred Owen come pounding through the prose: ‘I was the enemy you killed, my friend.’ The literature is in the sordid truth and crude, raucous, mob-like poetry of King’s lifesaving and lifewasting that bursts from his pages, confronting the reader with questions of culture, nationalism, violence and class that are not easily put aside.”
“Easy to read, finely balanced and often brutal in its sexual and physical imagery. There was never any serious doubt, but this book confirms John King as the nation’s finest writer of football fiction. Immense.”
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