Mod Rule – Richard Allen

Don’t let the title of this book put you off reading it because it’s got fuck all to do with mods whatsoever. It’s more of an epilogue to the Joe Hawkins Skinhead books than anything else. It’s actually not too bad, and certainly better than the abortion that was Punk Rock (you can see what I thought of that one, as well as a few other Richard Allen books by clicking on the “book review” tab on the right).

The main character in Mod Rule is Joe’s bastard son, who was last seen as a baby in Skinhead Farewell. As you will probably remember, Lottie Newman was raped by Joe Hawkins while he was on the run from prison in Skinhead Escapes. She got pregnant, then at the end of Skinhead Farewell she gave birth to a son and named him Joe in honour of his rapist father (as any rape victim would do, of course).

But hold on a minute. In Mod Rule, Joe Hawkins junior is now 13 years old. If we assume the story is set in 1979, at the height of the mod revival inflicted on us by the film Quadrophenia (which would make sense because the book was published in early 1980), that would mean he was born in 1966, two years before the first wave of “skinheadism”. Joe Hawkins was 16 in the first Skinhead book, 18 in the one where he was sent to prison. Add on another year before he escapes and rapes Lottie, another 9 months for Lottie to make a baby, and by my calculations he should only be about 8 years old in 1979, not 13?

Anyway, ignore all that. As you can probably guess from the book title, Joe the junior is, of course, a mod. Despite both punk and the second wave of skinheads still being prevalent in 1979, he chose to be a mod instead. Fair enough, stranger things have happened in Richard Allen books. But he’s not one of those normal mods who sit around posing all day in a parka with a big target on the back for sharpshooters to aim at. No, he’s a mod who likes to stick the boot in.

After his mum gets raped again by a motorcycle gang (she is one fucking unlucky woman), he pinches her scooter (BTW, did you know Lottie was a mod? I didn’t either), and runs away to that London, ending up oddly enough in the same part that Joe Hawkins senior used to live (before he went to prison and then moved to Australia).

Like his mum, his adoptive father was also a mod, which would make it even less likely the kid would choose to be one. Okay, so you can influence children’s musical taste when they are young. My own children used to bop away to Dead Kennedys and the like when they were little (though they used to run from the room screaming when I put Doom or Extreme Noise Terror on). But as they got older, manufactured pop bands took over their interest. The young Joe, at 13, would be more likely to rebel against his parents’ tastes. Especially since he seemingly has absolutely no respect for anything else about his adoptive father (or mother, come to that).

The only things even remotely mod-related are the scooter mentioned above, and a scene in a disco where he beats some bikers up. (What the fuck would bikers be doing at a disco?) All his mates (well, actually “gang” – people in Richard Allen books don’t have mates) are punks or herberts (though Sid, a punk near the beginning of the book mysteriously changes into a mod without any explanation towards the end), and he doesn’t do anything that I always imagined mods did in their spare time – listening to crappy music, dancing, popping pills and the like.

My guess is that it was originally going to be a skinhead book, most likely called “Son of Skinhead”, but seeing a chance to cash in on the mod revival, “boots and braces” were quickly changed to “suit and parka”. Other than that, the main character behaves exactly like all the characters in Richard Allen’s other skinhead books behaved – ie a complete fucking nutjob hooligan.

There’s a bit near the beginning that made me smile. Lottie daydreams about the time Joe Hawkins raped her, which leads neatly into a flashback reprint of the scene in question from Skinhead Escapes. Richard Allen, obviously realising what a cheap ploy this is, introduces the reprint section like this:

“Lottie drifted on a cloud called memory. It was as if she were reading a book. Reading about a person having the same name as herself – albeit maiden name. A person she knew intimately yet who remained a mere character in a paperback epic …”

This isn’t the first time Richard Allen has played with himself (so to speak). In Skinhead Girls a character remarked that her favourite book was Skinhead by Richard Allen, for example. Even though she apparently knew Joe Hawkins, the character from said book in real life. Unfortunately, the flashback/reprint scene in Mod Rule is told from Joe Hawkins’s perspective, which tends to diminish its impact as a traumatic event that Lottie is supposed to be remembering. Still, at least it filled in a few pages and brought all the young mods up to date.

But the best line in the entire book is this one: “A bloody good show, chaps … here’s to the next scrap!” Which sums the book up pretty well. If Amazon allowed swearing I’d probably give it 4 stars. Which is at least 30 stars more than I would give Punk Rock.

 

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About Marcus Blakeston

Ex-shouting poet, ex-fanzine writer, ex-angry young man (now growing old disgracefully). Living in sunny Yorkshire with his wife, children and motorcycle, Marcus still has a healthy distrust of all forms of authority.
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