John King (author)

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For other people named John King, see John King (disambiguation).
John King
Born 1960
Slough, Berkshire
Occupation Novelist
Notable works The Football Factory, Headhunters, England Away, Human Punk, White Trash, The Prison House, Skinheads

John King is an English novelist who has written a number of books which, for the most part, deal in the more rebellious elements driving the country’s culture. His stories carry strong social and political undercurrents and his debut The Football Factory, published in 1996, was an instant word-of-mouth success, selling around 300,000 copies in the UK. The book was subsequently turned into a play by Brighton Theatre Events, with German and Dutch adaptations following. A high-profile film adaptation appeared in 2004. Directed by Nick Love and starring Danny Dyer, Dudley Sutton and Frank Harper, its UK DVD sales stand at nearly 2 million. Both novel and film attracted widespread media comment for their realism.

Prior to the novel’s release an early version of the chapter Millwall Away appeared in Rebel Inc. Edited by Kevin Williamson, Rebel Inc also featured early writing by Irvine Welsh and Alan Warner, and all three would subsequently join Jonathan Cape. Following its publication, extracts from The Football Factory went on to feature in issue 59 of the New York literary journal Grand Street.

Two more novels – Headhunters and England Away – develop the themes of alienation and belonging to be found in The Football Factory. These three books form a loose trilogy with story lines found in The Football Factory and Headhunters converging in England Away. The Big Issue described Headhunters as: “Sexy, dirty, violent, sad and funny; in fact it has just about everything you could want from a book on contemporary working-class life in London”. Reviewing England Away, Chris Searle of The Morning Star wrote: “The words of Wilfred Owen come pounding through King’s prose: ‘I was the enemy you killed, my friend’.”

King's fourth novel – Human Punk – is believed to be his most autobiographical. Set in and around Slough, The Independent’s Gareth Evans wrote: “The long sentences and paragraphs build up cumulatively, with the sequences describing an end-of-term punch-up and the final canal visit just two virtuoso examples. These passages come close to matching the coiled energy of Hubert Selby’s prose, one of King’s keynote influences... In the resolution of the novel’s central, devastating act, there is an almost Shakespearean sense of a brief restoration of balance after the necessary bloodletting.”

White Trash (2002), which the author has described as “a defence of the NHS”, drew the following praise from Alan Sillitoe, author of Saturday Night and Sunday Morning: “Complete and unique, all stitched up and marvellous, the two sides of the equation brought together, realistic yet philosophical.” In The Independent, Mat Coward wrote: “The cumulative effect of King’s style, with streams of monologue, alternating between Ruby and Jeffreys, is astonishingly powerful in its detail and depth... This is an immensely timely and necessary book: stylish, witty and passionate. It’s about time someone slapped the smugness from the face of broadsheet Britain.”

Skinheads (2008) is set in the same landscapes as Human Punk and White Trash, and while the three books feature different characters, they effectively combine to provide an overview of forty years of British culture and politics as The Satellite Cycle. In his review of the novel, Charles Shaar Murray stated: “John King’s achievement since his debut has been enormous: creating a modern, proletarian English literature at once genuinely modern, genuinely proletarian, genuinely literature.” The US edition of Human Punk carries the following quote by Lars Frederiksen of the American punk band Rancid: “John King: the face in our subculture who lives what he writes.”

The one novel of King's to be set entirely outside England – The Prison House – is considered his most mature work to date. Brian Keenan wrote: “With a brutal imagination The Prison House takes you to a place where angels fear to tread. Go there and be redeemed.” Boyd Tonkin, writing in The Independent, said: “In this literary jail, the ghost of Kafka shares a cell with the shade of Burroughs.” An album based on the novel, written by King and Ruts DC guitarist Leigh Heggarty, has been reported.

His books have been widely translated abroad, with France, Italy and Russia among those countries to have released all his titles. In 2014, Inter fans on the Curva Nord unveiled a stadium-wide banner featuring a quote from The Football Factory as they protested against the treatment of Italian football supporters by television and business interests. In 2016 a specially commissioned text will appear with a photograph of George Best as part of the Football De Legendes exhibition in Paris. Organised to celebrate the Euro 2106 tournament being held in France, the exhibition will run for two months in front of the Hotel De Ville.

In 2007, King set up the independent publishing company London Books with Martin Knight, and their London Classics series has established itself as a focal point for London's ignored tradition of working-class fiction. He edits the London Classics list and also puts on Human Punk nights at the 100 Club in Central London with the DJs Andy Attic and Gene Putney. Human Punk has featured bands such as Sham 69, the Cockney Rejects, Old Firm Casuals, The Last Resort and Infa-Riot. He has written for a number of alternative publications and fanzines over the years and has contributed to The New Statesman in the UK, La Repubblica in Italy and Le Monde in France. His June 2015 New Statesman article A Very Corporate Coup outlined his views on the EU and was widely commented upon. He is a long-term vegan and supporter of British withdrawal from the EU. He edits an occasional fiction fanzine Verbal. A new novel – The Liberal Politics Of Adolf Hitler – is due to be published in June of 2016.




  • The Terror Fantastic (PUSH 2, 2015)
  • See No Evil (More Raw Material, 2015)
  • The Penalty (High Life, 2010)
  • Last Train Home (La Republicca, 2008)
  • Bulldog Bobby (Verbal, 2002)
  • The Beasts of Marseilles (Fortune Hotel, 1999)
  • Space Junk (Intoxication, 1998)
  • Last Rites (Rovers Return, 1998)
  • Millwall Away (Rebel Inc, 1995)


  • PUSH 2 (Interview/anthology, ed. Joe England, 2015)
  • The Special Ones (London Books, ed. with Martin Knight, 2007)
  • Repetitive Beat Generation (Interview/collected authors, ed. Steve Redhead, 1998)


  • When Two Sevens Clash (Human Punk, US edition, 2015)
  • Come Running After You (The Football Factory, US edition, 2015)
  • PUSH (Anthology, East London Press, 2014)
  • May Day by John Sommerfield (London Classics, 2010)
  • Night and the City by Gerald Kersh (London Classics, 2007)
  • The Road To Los Angeles by John Fante (Rebel Inc/Canongate, 2000)
  • Hoolifan by Martin King and Martin Knight (Mainstream, 1999)

See also[edit]

Martin Knight, Alan Sillitoe, Irvine Welsh, Hubert Selby Jr, George Orwell, John Fante, Charles Bukowski, Alan Warner, David Peace