Reggae, punk rock, skinheads and werewolves: a review of Tim Wells’ “Moonstomp”, a horror pulp novel set in the late Seventies
🇮🇹 Attenzione! Questa recensione è disponibile anche in italiano: "Moonstomp" (2019) di Tim Wells.
“Youth cult meets occult”: this catchy phrase from Rhoda Dakar – former vocalist for 2 Tone female band The Bodysnatchers – is displayed on the cover of Tim Wells’ horror pulp Moonstomp (2019), which consists of 96 pages and was published by Unbound in June.
The cover art photo is a famous – and still beautiful – picture of a London skinhead girl, taken by Derek Ridgers in 1979.
The novel is set in this era: the writer became a skinhead in the ’70s, and is well known for his activites as a ranting poet, a fanzine editor and a reggae and soul DJ.
We interviewed Tim Wells on 5 June of the last year, exactly a year before Moonstomp was published. So, if you want to know more about him, take a look at the conversation: An interview with Tim Wells: ranting poetry, subcultures and a bit of horror.
During the interview, Tim Wells talked about his upcoming book, a horror pulp spoof on ’70s subcultural novels published by New English Library, whose most famous writer was James Moffat, better known as Richard Allen.
Now that we have Moonstomp in our hands, we can affirm that the author kept his promises: pulp elements are all there (sex, alcohol, petty crime, violence), furthermore the references to subcultures and music genres of our interest are very accurate, unlike what happened in the ’70s pulps, whose authors had marginal or even non-existent contacts with the world of youth cults.
Moonstomp contains a myriad of references to skinhead and punk styles, as well as to punk rock, new wave, reggae and ska. Some of this references are explicit, while others are more of a gift to the readers who really are inside the working class cults.
For example, in the book there is a scene in which the protagonist – a Jewish skinhead named Joe Bovshover – receives fellatio from a dodgy skingirl in the toilet of a venue, while an unspecified punk band performs on the lower level:
Through the floor he could hear the band starting and the amplified words of the surly Sunderland singer.
He was yelling about being wound up like a clockwork orange.
Of course, this is an allusion to Mensi and his Angelic Upstarts, as well to the first verse of “Teenage Warning”, the title track of their 1979 album.
As you can see, this kind of hints do not affect negatively the reading of the book – even if you’re not really into punk and skinhead subcultures – but they are indeed useful in providing a more precise context to the facts described.
But let’s get to the horror aspects of the novel: in the aforementioned interview Tim Wells talks about the books and films which he grew up with, including those of Universal Studios and Hammer Film Productions.
Of course, this kind of influences has repercussions on Moonstomp: in fact, the protagonist becomes a werewolf following a bite from the new wave singer Lene Lovich, which happened during a gig in London.
During the night of the full moon after the concert, the first of a series of brutal crimes committed by a mysterious murderer – who is described as “a hairy-faced skinhead” – takes place.
To complicate the situation, a rival mob is chasing poor Joe, as their leader Kessler learned of the sexual encounter between his girlfriend and the protagonist, which occurred during the Upstarts’ gig.
Without revealing more about the plot, we suggest you buy the book: it’s an amusing and easy to read novel, but neither shallow nor superficial.
Tim Wells’ skills as a writer – abundantly demonstrated during his career as a poet – also play well with prose: the text is clever, cultured and full of British humour, and the abundant references to the world of music and subcultures make the reading very enjoyable.
There are also some small gems, like the fake bibliography found at the end of the text:
We hope that Moonstomp does not remain an oddity in the career of the London poet, and that further pulps may follow.
If you’re willing to order the book, you can get it here.
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