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John Barker

 

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John Barker was born in London in 1948. In 1969, along with six others, he ripped up his Cambridge University Finals papers as part of a campaign against education as a system of exclusion. In 1972, in what was called the Angry Brigade trial, he was convicted with three others of conspiring to cause explosions. He served a ten-year prison sentence. A crafted memoir of this time, Bending the Bars was published many years later. He worked as a dustman and welder before being implicated in a conspiracy to import cannabis in 1986. In 1990 he was finally arrested and served a five-year sentence. Since then he has worked constantly as writer and book indexer.

From the 1970s onwards he has published a number of texts of political economy, writers and writing, and on the capitalist psyche and ideological opportunism. These have appeared in Red Notes; Mute; Adbusters; Capital and Class; Telepolis; MELA; Science as Culture; Variant; and Scottish Left Review. He has written an essay dealing with the colonial political economy of cocaine, From Coca to Capital, for the Potosi Principle exhibition in Madrid, Berlin, and La Paz. His short stories have appeared in The Edinburgh Review, 3ammagazine; Passport; Brand; and in the anthology Incendiary Device edited by Stewart Home.

More recently he has been collaborating with the Austrian artist Ines Doujak as writer and performer in the ongoing work on cloth and colonialism Loomshuttles Warpaths, parts of which have been shown in Vienna, Malmo, Stuttgart, and London.

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Futures
Author: John Barker
Publisher: PM Press
ISBN: 978-1-60486-961-3
Published May 2014
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5
Page count: 352 Pages
Subjects: Fiction
$17.95

Carol is a small-time cocaine dealer in 1987 London. On her own with a young daughter, she is a good mother who is especially careful in her working life. For some punters, this involves being Simone. One of these customers is Phil, a financial analyst in the City who, with his longtime pal and fellow analyst Jack, fantasizes a cocaine futures market while on a coke binge. They look at it as they would look at any other commodity.

At the top of the wholesale business are Gordon Murray and his brothers, who have an “in” with the Drug Squad and are prepared to shop anyone to keep it that way, on top of the violence they use as and when needed.

When the cocaine futures market becomes a reality, Carol has an opportunity to go for the big deal that could get her out of the business altogether. Meanwhile, a stock market crash creates havoc, and a once-in-a lifetime hurricane sweeps across London, ripping down trees and the communication systems of the stock market itself. Carol must make her choice, as three very different worlds are about to collide.

Praise:

“In Futures, John Barker has produced a fast-paced, hard-boiled novel that pulls you back, effortlessly, into morally corrupt Thatcherite London. Barker's crisp, laconic, prose, eye-for-detail storytelling, command of the art of narrative, and his ear for fluid and convincing dialogue makes him, in my view, Hackney's worthy successor to Tom Wolfe.” —Stuart Christie,
author of Granny Made Me an Anarchist 


“John Barker's prose is so downbeat he leaves even the most gritty of crime novelists looking like they're aiming for the preteen market. But if you want to get beyond the fairy tale version of the sordid underbelly of life, then you gotta check Futures out.” —Stewart Home, author of 69 Things to Do with a Dead Princess


“In this fast-paced, streetwise take on eighties London, boundaries blur between the cocaine trade and newly deregulated financial markets. High and low life don't look so different, as everyone tries to make a killing. Barker's portrait of a cynical, money-hungry culture skewers a moment in history that for good or ill (and mostly for ill) made Britain what it is today.” —Hari Kunzru, author of The Impressionist 


“The prose grabs you by the throat and squeezes. The characters are by turns reckless, ambitious, vulnerable, and weak. The story is set in the past but couldn't be more relevant. Futures is funny, frightening, and very dark.” —Ronan Bennett, author of The Catastrophist

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What Others Are Saying...

 

Chronicle of a Crash Foretold'
By Tom Jennings
Mute Magazine
7 May 2015

In John Barker’s Futures, an expertly crafted crime novel exploring cocaine trafficking in Thatcherite London, Tom Jennings finds a parable of neoliberalism with considerably broader resonance

"Equally three-dimensional in nailing its setting, and convincingly true to its time, Futures trumps them both in certain respects: even-handedly rendering the agency available and prominence given to those on vastly different rungs of the dealership ladder; withholding an omniscient overview to which all of its fallible embodied subjects are, or should be, philosophically subordinated; and, most notably, being persuasively suggestive of things to come. It can then be read as a minimalist allegory of general features of neoliberalism, which could also be projected into the forthcoming years after the first flushes of Thatcherism – and with an underlying political sensibility which is precisely a critique, rather than denial, disavowal or displacement, of the ideology now often described as ‘capitalist realism’ – i.e. that ‘there is no alternative’....In summary, then, the achievement of Futures is that it can be enjoyed as a simple, and extremely effective, crime yarn – but can also easily prompt such extensive speculation. This is surely no mean feat."

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Futures: A Review
By Woody Haut
Los Angeles Review of Books
December 19th, 2014

A Dirty Baker’s Dozen: My Favorite Crime Novels of 2014

British author Barker (Bending the Bars, a memoir of his time in prison) ventures into fiction with this acerbic look at Thatcher’s Britain. In 1987 London, posh stock traders mix comfortably with polished criminals, and cocaine fuels already out-of-control self-confidence. The profit potential of a grand drug deal is irresistible, particularly with the advent of the cocaine futures market. Single mother Carol Curbishley, a minor drug dealer attracted to the riches of a life of crime, is pulled into the middle of one such deal, despite her fear of the consequences it may have on her and her nine-year-old daughter, Sheila, if she’s caught. Carol faces some difficult choices when the stock market crashes and a hurricane hits London. Some unconventional punctuation diminishes readability, but Barker’s characters ring true and his story is an enthralling portrait of an era whose legacy still haunts us.

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Futures: A Review
Publishers Weekly
September 2014

British author Barker (Bending the Bars, a memoir of his time in prison) ventures into fiction with this acerbic look at Thatcher’s Britain. In 1987 London, posh stock traders mix comfortably with polished criminals, and cocaine fuels already out-of-control self-confidence. The profit potential of a grand drug deal is irresistible, particularly with the advent of the cocaine futures market. Single mother Carol Curbishley, a minor drug dealer attracted to the riches of a life of crime, is pulled into the middle of one such deal, despite her fear of the consequences it may have on her and her nine-year-old daughter, Sheila, if she’s caught. Carol faces some difficult choices when the stock market crashes and a hurricane hits London. Some unconventional punctuation diminishes readability, but Barker’s characters ring true and his story is an enthralling portrait of an era whose legacy still haunts us.

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Futures: A Review
By David Pitt
Booklist
August 20th, 2014

In the 1970s, Barker was a member of the British anarchist group the Angry Brigade; he served time in prison for conspiring to carry out bombings in London. Later, in the mid-1980s, he was convicted of being involved in a scheme to import cannabis into England. The novel, which tells the story of a group of people who create a new kind of cocaine market in late-1980s London, was written over a period of a couple of decades and is being published now after a successful Kickstarter campaign. It’s a fascinating backstory, but what’s most interesting is how very good the book is. The characters are fully realized, the dialogue is snappy and appropriately vulgar, and the story is a riveting mixture of ’80s greed and violence (think Bret Easton Ellis). Obviously, Barker brings a certain firsthand experience to some of the story’s criminal elements, but it would be a mistake to write the book off as just another crime novel by a guy who did time. This is a serious literary achievement, a remarkably well told story that has real emotional depth.

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The Angry Brigade's John Barker, 40 years on: 'I feel angrier than I ever felt then'
By Duncan Campbell
The Guardian UK

June 3rd, 2014

Just over 40 years ago, John Barker appeared in the dock at the Old Bailey charged, as a member of the Angry Brigade, with conspiracy to cause explosions. He was jailed for 10 years at the end of what was then Britain's longest trial. Now he has written a novel, Futures, a tale about crime, the financial markets and cocaine dealing, set in 1987 amid the first signs of the City mayhem that would bring such chaos in its wake.

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