Coming of age, in a time of fear
The cocksure narrator of Steven Alcock’s first novel, Blood Relatives, is Rick, a gay teenager growing up in Leeds - a city on edge because a serial killer the press have dubbed the Yorkshire Ripper is still on the loose.
“I couldn't see the point of school, cos all they did wor bang on about getting a job and marriage and supporting your offspring. The same old bicycle wheel going round and round. Remember that book we had to read in t'third year? The Chrysalids? Where these kids wor different, cos they had telepathic powers, and they knew they had to keep it to themselves? For me, that's what being gay is - summat special that you have to hide from most folk. I don't want the whole world knowing about me, if I'm honest.” That’s Rick’s worldview, a world that consists of his work as delivery boy for Corona soft drinks, illicit trysts in toilets, sundry punk clubs, the odd run-down squat, and Gay Liberation Front meetings. It’s also a world in which the background hum is one of fear and trepidation because someone is killing women right across Yorkshire. Steven Alcock’s debut novel features an evocative depiction of mid 70s-early 80s England (a period when people actually had their pop delivered), and while it has an episodic feel, with no great narrative drive, Rick’s colloquially vibrant voice always keeps things interesting. And Rick also shares some of the rebellious DNA that fired-up Arthur Seaton - Alan Sillitoe’s original working class hero from Saturday Night Sunday Morning – although it’s unlikely the hard-drinking, resolutely heterosexual, Arthur, would have ever been comfortable sharing a pint with a man in a dress.Blood Relatives is published by Harper Collins.