Skinheads is the double-barrelled story of the English family and the skinhead family. Focusing on three generations and three musical eras, it is definitely and deliberately not about the Nazi stereotype endlessly pedalled by the media. Rather it deals in the records and clothes, the football connections and pride in a culture. Skinheads is patriotic, outspoken, unapologetic. It enjoys a drink, a say, a laugh.
Terry English is an original, ska-loving skinhead from the Class of ’69, the boss of mini-cab firm Estuary Cars operating out of Slough. Sick and still mourning his skinhead-girl wife April, Terry isn’t sure he is going to make his fiftieth birthday, but the likes of Roy Ellis and Laurel Aitken, mod-girl assistant Angie, and especially the discovery of the abandoned Union Jack Club – which he decides to lease, clean up and reopen – lift his spirits and keep him going.
Nephew Ray – aka Nutty Ray – is an Estuary driver firmly in the Oi Oi tradition, someone who was running riot in the early 1980s and prefers the music of Cock Sparrer, The Last Resort and The Business. Plus the novels and essays of George Orwell. While those in the know don’t call him Ray The Nutter for nothing, these days he is a father and in control of his temper. Even so, there are limits, and when a line is crossed his response is righteous.
Terry’s son – fifteen-year-old Lol – is living a different sort of life, but the musical influences are clear in the link between ska and Oi that he finds in ska-punk and the bands he is listening to such as Rancid. As skinhead and punk mutates and reinvents itself, and thanks to the American groups spreads far and wide, the clouds that have gathered around old-firm Terry and Ray are darkening. But these men are solid. Skinheads – a way of life.
“John King is a master of modern fiction and this book is a welcome and recognisable reappraisal of Britain's most down-to-earth youth cult. Skinhead culture is many things – dangerous, thrilling, uplifting, patriotic, creative and often politically incorrect. No wonder it terrified the Establishment. But as King shows, with its roots in Cockney and West Indian culture, skinheads were never just the ‘fick fascist fugs’ of Middle England’s fevered imaginings.”
Garry Bushell, Oi The Godfather
“A great novel. It is realistic, it is funny, and it should be made into a film. I am proud to be part of its soundtrack.” Roy Ellis, Symarip
“The central theme of Skinheads is that family values, the love for your own country and the ethics of hard work are timeless sentiments which anyone and everyone, including members of the British skinhead culture, is allowed to praise and defend in their own way.” New Review