Tuesday, December 04, 2018

John Niven and Stuart Maconie in Manchester

Back in October, I took the eldest son to see the writers John Niven and Stuart Maconie in conversation. It was a brilliant evening, full of great stories about the music business, the film industry and the dire state of the world.

I took home a copy of Niven's latest novel, Kill 'em All, the follow up to one of my favourites, Kill Your Friends, the rip roaring tale of 1997 Britpop excess, which I bought for Joe as part of his essential reading list for studying Music Business at University. This one skips twenty years and to cut to the chase, the central character, the appalling Steven Stelfox, has become Simon Cowell and has a plan for total domination and riches based on dealing with the mess created by Lucius de Prey, a character no-one is even pretending isn't Michael Jackson.

OK, I enjoyed it. I had to look over my shoulder to check no-one was watching me laugh at some of the grotesque passages. I loved how it weaves Donald Trump into the story and how Stelfox's wicked inner voice provides a running commentary.

I've done two previous reviews of John Niven's more recent outings, Straight White Male and No Good Deed, and have been impressed how he's progressed as a writer - observant, dark, but not without sensitivity. Seeing him up close backed up the point Stuart Maconie made - how can this affable, kind, funny man I have before me, who I know well, create a dastardly character with such an authentic and believable inner narrative as Stelfox?

But with a POTUS like this, surely all bets are off. There's a nod too in the direction of the MeToo movement, highlighting the turning tide that so surely opened up for Niven to plot Stelfox's return. It must have just seemed too good a chance to miss. It's like a band cashing in on a greatest hits tour before getting back to the studio and banging out another classic.

Finally, I should really mention the event. Back in his NME days I was a fan of Stuart Maconie's humour, writing, observations. I don't listen to him enough on the wireless, but whenever I do I smile and probably learn something new. I've seen authors interviewed by people who have no idea about the context, or many who haven't even read the book. This was a real treat and I couldn't think of anyone better to do it.

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