By nature, the female of the species should NOT enjoy the works of British writer, John King. Why?
Because he is everything that the Loaded-generation embody. Because he is a male chauvinists’ dream. Because women are only vessels of sexual gratification for men. Because his novels are filled with the testosterone of too much lager, violence, machismo and the British working-class ethic.
So why is it I find myself thoroughly addicted to every word that he writes? That in recent times I have consumed his debut novel, The Football Factory, followed two weeks later by the second part of the trilogy Headhunters? Because (as Loaded would titillate) "He’s f*****g brilliant".
King is Nick Hornsby on steroids. He’s the football hooligan turned sensitive. The working class lad with a quiet degree in social philosophy up his sleeve (that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it). And he writes the most damn amazing books.
Now I know that reviews generally gush with poetic dialect, but in King’s case it wouldn’t be true to the art form he peddles. He is England’s answer to Irvine Welsh, and well he knows it. His affinity for the underdog and for scribing accurate portraits of contemporary Blighty sinking deeper into the throes of spiritual and mental poverty makes him a bright new hope in the face of literary conservatism.
Headhunters traces the adventures of a group of lads; there’s Carter (The Unstoppable Sex Machine), Mango, a man who has sold his soul to the mighty corporate dollar, the boisterous Balti who believes his weekly lotto ticket will lead him from the Social Security queue to his own Nirvana; there’s Will, the sensible male of the crew, who hankers for the ideal women with which to share his life, and Harry, a figure imprisoned by his nightly, symbolic forays into his dreams.
The London-born lads are childhood friends, and godfathers of what they term "The Sex Division". Simply put: "The Sex Division sees the once-sacred act of procreation at its most material, as five men devise a points system based on the higher levels of carnal achievement. In this lager-soaked league, the most that Woman can offer man is 4 points – unless, that is, she leaves her handbag unattended …"
This 300+ page bible follows the characters sexual misdemeanors, which in themselves, are at best amusing. But what truly compels is the running commentary on the state of Britain today. King’s lucid and pessimistic prose squashes insight upon insight into the emotionally castrated state of the British psyche.
By using the concept of sexual conquistadors King screeches originality, but this seems more metaphorical than literal. It allows us a glimpse into the mechanisms of machismo and what compels men to boast, preen and consistently return to their primal Neanderthal roots.
It’s an honour to be privy to such an initiation ceremony as Headhunters. As a female I should be outraged, but the truth is I’m not. Irvine Welsh saw the writing on the wall with The Football Factory, and hopefully fashion Nazis, cutting-edge thrill-seekers and social realist junkies alike will voraciously devour a novel that deserves to become a cult classic.