John King is the author of eight novels to date. His first, The Football Factory, was an immediate word-of-mouth success that was subsequently turned into a successful play and high-profile film. Headhunters, England Away, Human Punk, White Trash, Skinheads, The Prison House, and The Liberal Politics of Adolf Hitler followed. His stories reflect his cultural interests – particularly music, pubs and youth cultures – while challenging a range of stereotypes that are often accepted by the established political factions. Common themes are powerlessness and enemy-creation, the contradictions found in every walk of life. Influences include the authors George Orwell and Alan Sillitoe, punk bands The Sex Pistols and Clash, as well as David Bowie’s early albums. His novels have been widely translated abroad.
King has written for various fanzines and alternative publications over the years and has contributed to The New Statesman in the UK, Le Monde in France and La Repubblica in Italy. He co-owns the independent publisher London Books and edits its London Classics list – the mission to highlight the city’s forgotten/marginalised tradition of vibrant, socially-aware, working-class fiction. Other interests include a Human Punk night at London’s 100 Club, with Sham 69 and the Cockney Rejects among the featured bands. He is currently working on an animal-rights story, Slaughterhouse Prayer. He lives in London.
Author: John King
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 320
Headhunters is the story of five friends. Carter USM is a live wire who lives on the edge and tries not to think too much; Mango can’t stop thinking, has made money but is weighed down by family tragedy; Harry is a beer-lover and dreamer; Balti is his drinking partner, out of work and hoping for a fresh start; while Will is the quiet romantic, a voice of reason as the lives of the others become increasingly chaotic and veer towards disaster.
Headhunters is also a story of London. The novel is rooted in its streets, workplaces, pubs and music, but a parallel society exists, where the planet’s wealthy are able to buy and sell whatever they like. This is a world from which the Londoners of this novel are excluded, resentment too often directed against their own kind. The Unity is the boys’ local pub and it is here that they form a tongue-in-cheek Sex Division to celebrate a new year. Based on the idea of a football league, the most Woman can offer Man is four points—unless she leaves her handbag unattended.
Carter is the Unstoppable Sex Machine and soon leads the table, while Mango breaks the rules and buys success. Harry and Balti are overweight and hard up, know they have little to offer apart from their personalities, turn to cold lager and hot curries instead of sex. Will falls in loves and retires. Recognition of the affinities between the sexes soon becomes clear. Background is more important than gender.
Headhunters mixes humor and longing as the real feelings of these men break through, moving beyond expectations. A missing brother, prophetic visions, genuine romance and a tit-for-tat confrontation draw the characters out into the open—revealing the individuals behind the words and their craving for respect. Events run out of control, but several happy endings seem possible.
“John King is the authentic voice of contemporary London.”
“Brutal, honest and poetic in the way that only a tough guy can be, King loads the gun and shoots us into the lager-filled, lust-fueled lives of five London lads. Headhunters is sexy, dirty, violent, sad and funny; in fact it has just about everything you could want from a book on contemporary working-class life in London.”
“King loads his characters up with enough interior life, but it’s the raw energy of their interactions—the beano to Blackpool, the punch-ups, the casual fucks, the family skeletons and the unburied fantasies—that make this excellent book run.”
—Steve Grant, Time Out
“Headhunters is an odyssey into southern English blue-collar manners as King deconstructs the stereotype of Essex Man and his outer London contemporaries and finds rather more complex attitudes towards gender and class than the tabloid image suggests.”
—Teddy Jamieson, The List
“King’s achievement since his debut has been enormous: creating a modern, proletarian English literature at once genuinely modern, genuinely proletarian, genuinely English and genuinely literature.”
—Charles Shaar Murray
Author: John King
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 288
Ruby James lives life to the full, the state-run hospital where she works as a nurse a microcosm of the community in which she was born and bred. While some outsiders might label the people of this town “white trash,” she knows different, reveling in a vibrant society that values people over money, actions above words.
For Ruby, every person is unique and has a story to tell, whether it is skinhead taxi driver Steve, retired teacher and rocker Pearl, magic-mushroom expert Danny Wax Cap, or former merchant seaman Ron Dawes. She encourages people to tell their tales, thrilled by the images created. Outside of work she drinks, dances, and has fun with her friends, at the same time dealing with her mother’s Alzheimer’s and a vision from the past, aware that physical and mental health are precious and easily lost. The epitome of positive thinking, Ruby sees the best in everyone—until the day true evil comes to call.
A mystery figure roams the corridors of Ruby’s state-run hospital. He carries special medicine and a very different set of values. He tells himself that he wants to help, increase efficiency, but cost-cutting leads to social cleansing as humans are judged according to that white-trash agenda. Excuses and justifications flow as notions of heaven and hell are distorted. Set against a background of pirate radio stations, pink Cadillacs, and freeway dreams, White Trash insists there is no such thing as white trash.
“Complete and unique, all stitched up and marvellous, the two sides of the equation brought together, realistic yet philosophical.”
—Alan Sillitoe, author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
“There are no white trash—that’s the point of the title. . . . The cumulative effect of King’s style is astonishingly powerful in its detail and depth. A quarter of a century after punk rock, the core punk ethos—of a robust and adaptable form of resistance, based on inclusive, DIY community-making and a concentration on immediacy—is still inspiring some of our most vital writers. An immensely timely and necessary book: stylish, witty, and passionate. It’s about time someone slapped the smugness from the face of broadsheet Britain.”
—Mat Coward, The Independent
“King is a writer who adeptly avoids cliche and caricature and is one of the most accomplished chroniclers of contemporary life. White Trash is very much a state of the nation book.”
—Big Issue North
“The sharpest commentator on modern times is back, with a plot running so close to the bone it’s almost skeletal.”
“White Trash tones down the severe language of King’s football hooligan trilogy, but his themes—rich versus poor, state versus individual—remain as explicit as ever.”
Author: John King
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 352
For fifteen-year-old Joe Martin, growing up on the outskirts of West London, the summer of 1977 means punk rock, busy pubs, disco girls, stolen cars, social-club lager, cutthroat Teddy Boys and a job picking cherries with the gypsies. Life is sweet—until he is attacked by a gang of youths and thrown into the Grand Union Canal with his best friend Smiles.
Fast forward to 1988, and Joe is travelling home on the Trans-Siberian Express after three years away, remembering the highs and lows of the intervening years as he comes to terms with tragedy. Fast forward to 2000, and life is sweet once more. Joe is earning a living selling records and fight tickets, playing his favourite 45s as a punk DJ, but when a face from the past steps out of the mist he is forced to relive that night in 1977 and deal with the fallout.
Human Punk is the story of punk, a story of friendship, a story of common bonds and a shared culture—sticking the boot in, sticking together.
“In its ambition and exuberance, Human Punk is a league ahead of much contemporary English fiction.”
“The long sentences and paragraphs build up cumulatively, with the sequences describing an end-of-term punch-up and the final canal visit just two virtuoso examples. These passages come close to matching the coiled energy of Hubert Selby’s prose, one of King’s keynote influences... In the resolution of the novel’s central, devastating act, there is an almost Shakespearean sense of a brief restoration of balance after the necessary bloodletting.”
—Gareth Evans, The Independent
“King’s eye for detail is as sharp as his characters’ tongues, and his creations are eminently three-dimensional: insightful and funny one minute, bigoted and fucked up the next. Like real people, then.”
“Unique and brutal fiction. King is a master of idiom and street slang. He appears with a voice that appears to be the true expression of disaffected white British youth.”
“A novel dedicated to good literature lovers. Rough, violent, scary, visionary, true, political, raw, aggressive, totally moving, this novel has got the anger of the Sex Pistols, the energy of the Clash and the pumping lines of the best dub courtesy of King Tubby.”
—Pop Culture Detox
The Football Factory
Author: John King
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 296
The Football Factory is driven by its two main characters—late-twenties warehouseman Tommy Johnson and retired ex-soldier Bill Farrell. Tommy is angry at his situation in life and those running the country. Outside of work, he is a lively, outspoken character, living for his time with a gang of football hooligans, the excitement of their fights and the comradeship he finds with his friends. He is a violent man, at the same time moral and intelligent.
Bill, meanwhile, is a former Second World War hero who helped liberate a concentration camp and married a survivor. He is a strong, principled character who sees the self-serving political and media classes for what they are. Tommy and Bill have shared feelings, but express their views in different ways. Born at another time, they could have been the other. As the book unfolds both come to their own crossroads and have important decisions to make.
The Football Factory is a book about modern-day pariahs, people reduced to the level of statistics by years of hypocritical, self-serving party politics. It is about the insulted, marginalised, unseen. Graphic and disturbing, at times very funny, The Football Factory is a rush of literary adrenalin.
“Only a phenomenally talented and empathetic writer working from within his own culture can achieve the power and authenticity this book pulses with. Buy, steal or borrow a copy now, because in a short time anyone who hasn’t read it won’t be worth talking to.”
—Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting
“King’s novel is not only an outstanding read, but also an important social document.... This book should be compulsory reading for all those who believe in the existence, or even the attainability, of a classless society.”
—Paul Howard, Sunday Tribune
“Bleak, thought-provoking and brutal, The Football Factory has all the hallmarks of a cult novel.”
—Dominic Bradbury, The Literary Review
“Powerfully written and tells you more about the mentality of those who disrupt football matches than all the theses of the sociologist academics put together.”
—Ian Wooldridge, The Daily Mail
“This is a chronicle of a lost tribe—the white, Anglo-Saxon heterosexual who is fed up with being told he is crap. It is the story of a flight from fear by a group of Londoners who have seen the present and know it does not work. . . . King writes powerfully with a raw realism and clear grasp of a culture which has been denied but cannot be ignored.”
—Hugh MacDonald, Glasgow Herald
For a calendar of speaking events, please click here
- Slaughterhouse Prayer interview
“Slaughterhouse Prayer is a book that grabs you by the collar, slams you up against the wall and shoves you through various emotions. The atmosphere of it stays with you for days afterwards; intimidating, heart-rending, brilliant.&rdquo...
- Sneak Peak of Slaughterhouse Prayer
Little Michael Tanner is shocked to discover that the adults are killing animals and that he has been eating their bodies.
- "Talking about the way the masses are smeared... who owns history...and New Democracy" with John King
This insightful interview by Marianne Peyronnet of New Noise magazine puts my new novel The Liberal Politics Of Adolf Hitler into the context of the British vote to leave the European Union, and how it relates to the ongoing distortions surroundin...
Interviews & mentiones
- John King Interview: Something about England (French): New Noise
- John King Interview: Second Interview (English Version): New Noise
- Irving Welsh lists The Football Factory as one of his 10 Favorite Books: New York Times
- John King Interview: 3am Magazine
- John King Interview: Book Depository
- John King Interview: Ben Brill
- John King Interview
- John King Interview: Litopia
- John King book synopsises from London Books
- Watch The United States of Europe- Power Fully Centralised with Meg Lee Chin
- Verbal Fanzine
- John King Books and Stories Facebook Page
- Trailer from The Football Factory movie
“No television industry seems to care about the fans, but without the shouting and movement of the public, football would be nothing.
“Football is a story of passion and it will always be like this.
“Without passion, football is dead. Only 22 men that run on a pitch and kick a ball. Truly s***.
“It is the fanbase that makes football an important thing.”
Check out footage from Human Punk nights below