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
About the Author:
John King is the author of eight novels to date. His first, The Football Factory, was an immediate word-of-mouth success and was subsequently turned into a 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. Before becoming an author King worked at a variety of jobs and spent two years travelling around the world in the late 1980s. He has long been associated with fanzines, writing for various titles over the years and running Two Sevens in the early 1990s. He publishes and edits Verbal, a fiction-based publication. He is currently working on an animal-rights story, Slaughterhouse Prayer. He lives in London.
Author: John King
Publisher: PM Press
Page count: 320
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