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Rule of Night - Trevor Hoyle
by Phil Thornton
First published in 1975, Rule Of Night is a familiar tale of drink, drugs, sex, violence, crime, more drink, more drugs, more sex, more violence, more crime, prison and yet more violence. Back in the Richard Allen 70s, when Skinhead, Suedehead and Bootboy books were the only literary works allowed into school playgrounds, tales of the old ultra-violence were ten a penny chew. Rule Of Night differs from these in that it is actually very well written, surprisingly well written in fact for a former Granada TV presenter who wrote the book after witnessing a spot of terrace aggro at a Rochdale v Blackburn match.
The chapter titles are brutally short and give you an indication of where the plot is going:
Estate, Kenny, Bevvy, Work, Janice, Chorley, Brass, Match, Home, Gang, Drugs, Vera, Break-in, Away, Police, Detention, Visitors, End
It could be argued that Hoyle got a tad too wrapped up in the puritan hysteria that was whipped up by the right-wing press in the 70s, after A Clockwork Orange and football hooliganism allowed the nihilistic culture of youth violence to infect the nation. Compared to today’s so-called binge drinking and gang fixated youth, I think growing up during the 70s was far scarier and Rule Of Night captures the random, everyday brutality of life in a northern town during this era. Hoyle is non-committal about his anti-hero Kenny ’s motivations; it’s the usual story of a shit life in a shit town, on a shit estate, with a shit job and shit prospects. A life made bearable only by fleeting moments of sensual release or adrenaline rush, be that in sex, drink, burglary or violence.
It is however tempered by an underlying anger at the state of 70s Britain, where high rise slums are constructed on the cheap by councils and governments all too willing to hide social inequalities away from view, out on the edges of town, where brutality exists not only in football grounds and council estates but within the very institutions that were supposedly charged with rehabilitating young yobs such as Kenny.
The most shocking part of Rule Of Night takes place in Buckley Hall detention centre, where Hoyle visited whilst doing his research. The place is mostly full of scousers and it is here that Kenny really finds his level :
“Kenny had always thought he was tough until he came up against the scousers in Buckley Hall; they frightened the living daylights out of him…..steer clear of the scousers and never, under any circumstances, pick a fight with any of them. They were a breed he hadn‘t encountered in large numbers before - not just hard on the surface but hard all the way through, tough as old boots - and with such a strong accent that the language they spoke was almost incomprehensible to anyone else."
Having had a few mates in DC during the late 70s and early 80s, this description seems pretty accurate. One scouser goes doolally inside and attempts suicide by thrusting his arm through a window, while three others grab Kenny in the showers and hold him down while one wanks onto his face. Maybe Alan Clarke got the idea for Scum from this book. Needless to say Kenny only uses his stint to get wise to real graft and not the small-time stuff he’s been banged up for. It’s an old story of violence breeding violence and the cyclical nature of poverty and brutality and yet, Rule Of Night is a fascinating dip back to a much misunderstood time. It’s never over-sensationalised or gratuitous in its depiction of under-educated young men and women doing what under-educated young men and women did in the mid-70s, which wasn’t much. Yet, remarkably the book was long-forgotten until the good folks at Pomona rediscovered it almost thirty years later. As a snapshot of northern England in the 70s, it serves to remind us how much has changed and how much has sadly remained the same.
For more information on Trevor or Pomona Books and other products see their website:
http://www.trevorhoyle.com/pages/fiction.htm (Trevor's official site)
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