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Johnny Come Home by Jake Arnott

Johnny Come Home

by Jake Arnott

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This felt like a slice cut out from the middle of a longer story. I found myself wondering more about what went before it and what would come after, than engaging with the plot we were presented with. That said, it was - like all the author's other works - a well written story with a strong sense of its time and place. In this case, it was the hippie/glam rock scene of early 1970s London, but these weren't just pot-smoking open-toed sandal wearing hippies, these hippies were quite angry.

There were interesting insights into the mundane workaday stuff that goes into creating the persona of a pop star, and quite a lot of exploration of different sexual orientations, much of it centring on rent boy 'Sweet Thing' ("Car for Mr Thing" brilliant, brilliant).

I found the whole thing considerably more straightforward and conventional in format than his other work, but perhaps a consequence of that was you don't hit quite as many literary highs along the way. ( )
  jayne_charles | Sep 21, 2015 |
Read Johnny Come Home by Jake Arnott on the train today, which moves on historically from his previous three books, set in the London underworld of the 60s, to the glam rock scene of the 70s.

Three characters orbit around each other: Stephen Pearson, a hippy living in a squat, still reeling from the suicide of his lover, the anarchic Declan O'Connell; Nina, who shared the squat with them, struggling to come to terms with her own mixed-up sexuality; and Sweet Thing, a teenage rent boy that Pearson invites to live in O'Connell's room on an impulse. Floating around on the outskirts are DI Walker, a philosophical policeman who has been investigating the terrorist activities of the Angry Brigade; and Johnny Chrome, a sort of quasi-Gary Glitter figure who has accidentally hit on the secret of early glam rock, and has unexpectedly become a Top of the Pops star, who has discovered that he needs the semi-mocking presence of Sweet Thing in his life to perform.

The novel starts with O'Connell's suicide from a heroin overdose, and his death echoes through the rest of the book. Unable to deal with his lover's death, Pearson starts to slowly crumble, accelerated when he discovers the material to make a bomb in O'Connell's effects. The tension in the novel slowly rises, as the elements of the three's lives start to wind together. The climax when it comes feels inevitable, with an understated air of optimism amidst the devastation wreaked on the characters.

Arnott writes well; the feel of a different time pulses through and he succeeds in making the 70s feel like a genuine place rather than a stop on a tourist tour. His characters have passion - though it varies from vibrant electric fire to the dulled, deadened embers found in Pearson - and the plot, while feeling spare for a lot of the book, layers well to the conclusion. ( )
  MikeFarquhar | May 27, 2007 |
I actually feel a little bit cheated by this book. Started off loving it, thought the idea of setting a crime story in the world of glam and 70s politics was really brilliant but it never really went anywhere. The characters felt empty, it all seemed a bit pointless. ( )
  Johnny2323 | Aug 1, 2006 |
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London, 1972, and a charismatic anarchist called O'Connell dies of an overdose, leaving his artist boyfriend, Pearson, and fellow activist Nina in shock. It also leaves a spare room in their squat, so Pearson moves in Sweet Thing, a streetwise yet vulnerable young boy he initially picks up but then tries to help. Pearson isn't the only one who's interested though--glam rock star Johnny Chrome is on the brink of breakdown and is convinced that Sweet Thing is the only one who can bring him back. As Sweet Thing gets drawn further into Johnny Chrome's dangerous orbit, Pearson and Nina discover that O'Connell was not all taht he seemed.… (more)

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