Stars Are Stars (2006)
At the age of fifteen Danny May has just one dream: to be an artist, and to go – like John Lennon before him – to Liverpool Art School. Living in Toxteth with his mother and five sisters, Danny meets Nicole and falls in love.
She’s clever, politically aware, and astonished at how unworldly an inner-city kid can be. In the autumn of 1980, Danny receives the devastating news that the Art School’s funding has been withdrawn by the new Tory government. He slides into apathy, robbing, drug dependency. Nicole stands by him, trying desperately to break his depression, but when he burgles her parents’ house she abandons him and leaves for Paris.
Their love affair, played out to a soundtrack of Bowie and Joy Division, is grand, romantic and doomed. Then, in July 1981, he finds himself sucked into the longest, most exhilarating and frightening day of his life. Set on fire by rioters, Toxteth is ablaze. Danny, transfixed, starts to paint versions of the same picture, over and over again. His subject is Toxteth in flames. He writes to Nicole, a cry for help. She hears him and tracks him down.
Kit Hannah is about to start University. He’s funny, clever and popular, but he’s harbouring a dark foreboding he dare not share with anyone. And it’s with a heavy heart that he leaves home to begin a new life.
At the vast Halls of Residence he can be the life and soul of the party – and there are lots of parties, lots of sex, lots of bad behaviour. Kit is naughty, witty and compassionate and everyone wants to be his friend. But more often than not he withholds that friendship and retreats from the gang – including Benny Bull, a pathological liar from Dudley; Adrian Dangerous, an achievement-driven fitness fanatic; Alex, a ballsy exchange student from Memphis; laid-back Simon; and Petra from Stirling, who wants nothing more than Kit – although Kit sees her more as a friend. The object of his affections is Colette – yet whenever Kit gets close to her, something seems to hold him back.
After his last blag, Ged Brennan’s had enough. He sees young kids making a name for themselves in Liverpool. Worse still, they’re making big money. Ged wants some of that for himself and he thinks a man of his standing is entitled to it. But for a man of violence, he’s incredibly moralistic. Ged has a righteous streak as wide as the Mersey and there’s no way he’s getting involved in clubs, drugs and topless bars. So when he receives an offer to take over the clubland empire of an executed gangster, he passes the parcel to his sex-addicted cousin Moby. Mistake. Ratter’s common law widow, Margo, was brought up in Toxteth and foresaw the surge in property development that came in the wake of the riots. Margo is a regeneration visionary. But after Ratter’s death she is told that her landmark project, a media village, is to be taken away from her. Mistake. The council’s regeneration committee headhunt Ged Brennan to steer the final stages of Margo’s development. He’s read with righteous horror the scare stories about bold new plans to create a ‘permissive’ zone in clubland – a quarter where the sex trade operates openly and controlled use of narcotics is tolerated.
The last thing on his mind is that it’ll be anything to do with him. Mistake. The result is an intrigue of Machiavellian proportions, with friends and relatives plotting against each other and ready to fight – to the death – for what’s theirs. When analysis spoke of Thatcher’s Children, they weren’t referring to the urchins who survived the riots. A hard-hitting story of sex and greed, Clubland is a tale of Thatcher’s other Children – the ones she left behind.
Gun law is out of control in Liverpool. Organised gangs fight it out for control of clubland and with it, regulation of the lucrative supply of narcotics. Supremacy in this violent world is short-lived as younger, hungrier and more ruthless gangs move in. Against this brutal backdrop, three South End villains pursue a dying trade. Ged, Moby and Ratter are Blaggers. Old-fashioned highwaymen with two decades of meticulously planned jobs behind them. With the Christmas season in full swing, Ged is planning a job that’ll see the boys through until spring. As usual, he won’t give them any details until the morning of the blag. Until then, they have to stay off the street and keep out of trouble. The problem is that Moby loves to go out. A week before the blag, an incident in a lapdance bar nearly leads to a gang war. Ratter, meanwhile, has long since outgrown the needless danger of the blag. He’s invested his loot in the booming property sector, converting banks, churches and warehouses into apartments. He wanted to cut his links with Ged a long time ago, but has his own sinister reasons for staying on board.
As the make-or-break heist approaches, Ged needs to summon all his street nous and killer instinct just to survive. And even then he needs friends in low places to ensure that the stains vanish without trace.
Hiliary Hughes and husband, Shaun, are on holiday in the Costa del Sol in an attempt to rescue their marriage. Pasternak’s aim is to get a shag, while Maggie McLaren, the holiday rep, tries to stop naive British girls falling prey to the local gigolos. The essence of a package holiday in the Med.
Keva McCluskey craves success, other bands are making it big. His worst enemy is on MTV. And time is not on his side. Yet he’s certain it’s his destiny to be recognised among the great songwriters of our time. Without that approval, Keva can never confront his horrific past. That’s why he formed the Grams.
James Love wants to revel in his sexual dark side. he wants all the blowjobs, cocaine and groupies that fame can bring him. That’s why he joined the Grams.
Guy deBurret wants to sell records the ethical way. At 23 he’s already a rehab survivor, a casualty of the souless hedonism of the music business. That’s why he formed a record label which prizes morality as highly as platinum disks. When he signs the Grams, it can only end in tears.
Powder is also a frighteningly accurate lowdown on the machinations of the music business written by a man who has experienced them from the inside. –This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
The football fan as lifer is Kevin Sampson’s basic premise in Extra Time as he and his mates faithfully follow their team, Liverpool, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, during the 1997/98 season. Inevitably it is mostly for worse and for poorer.
Liverpool is a club which used to win things–which is of course better than the clubs most fans are lumbered with– but they don’t win much these days. As Sampson and his bunch of amiable fellow travellers–ageing lothario Jegsy and shy bricklayer Danny–traipse through various strange train stations and shopping centres, the depressing fact that they aren’t going to win anything again this season becomes increasingly apparent.
The travelogue is wryly amusing and the appreciation of footballing lore spot on. “Why do people detest Man. Utd?”, he asks, “Easy. Because they are detestable”. But most of all this is about why a 36-year-old man should still go to sleep thinking about his all-time greatest Liverpool XI. The answer, as if anyone who cares about football didn’t know already, is because a football team is for life, not just for Christmas. –Nick Wroe