Saturday, November 21, 2009

Laurence James/Mick Norman

In the 1970s there was a hugely popular genre of youthsploitation pulp fiction in the UK, with paperbacks catering to a seemingly insatiable demand for tales of sex, drugs, violence and youth subcultures (skinheads, bikers etc.). A key figure in relation into all this was Laurence James. As an editor at New English Library he was involved in publishing many of them. Then he moved on to writing his own novels themed around Hells Angels under the name Mick Norman - Angels From Hell, Angel Challenge, Guardian Angels and Angels On My Mind.

I've just been reading Stewart Home's interview with James, conducted several years before his death in 2000. And yes - if you read this site regularly you can probably guess where this is going - James/Norman was living in SE London at the time he wrote the Angels novels.

James originally moved to the area from Birmingham to study at Goldsmiths in New Cross: 'I came down to London at the beginning of the sixties and dropped out of college about '62... After a year, I decided teaching was not for me and I went to work in Foyles bookshop'.

Apparently his corner of SE London was not particularly swinging at the time:

'HOME: You were in London in the sixties, rumour has it there was a lot happening.
JAMES: There wasn't a lot happening in Hither Green. Not down in south London. I hung around with a lot of friends living down in New Cross. I had a girlfriend down there at the time. I don't think very much was happening outside the centre. It wasn't a drug crazed heaven at all'.

However, it was to be his time living in Hither Green that inspired the start of the first of the Angel novels: 'It was triggered by the opening episode at Hither Green station, where there's this long tunnel, because I lived in Hither Green for a time and I always thought it was really creepy, this pedestrian tunnel that ran under the railway. The tunnel was only about five or six foot wide and I always had this nightmare that you'd be walking along late at night and some guy on a motor bike would come thundering down the other way. That was what triggered the opening scene in the book. Everything else came from that' ('Angels from Hell' opens with a blind teacher dying under the wheels of bikes in the HIther Green tunnel).

Laurence James also wrote many other books under his own and other names, including some of the Deathlands series of Science Fiction novels under the name James Axler.

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