Sometimes when you know an author of a book you can be really worried when they ask you to do a review. Now I only know a few writers and they know that (with my job in a magazine) if I can do anything to help/promote them I will, I also hope that they know that any review I write will be 100% honest and not be glowing just because I think the sun shines out of their bottom as a person. I would also never put a review up of someone’s debut novel if I thought it was bad… what would that achieve? So Clayton you don’t need to worry I really enjoyed ‘Dirty White Boy’.
Clayton Littlewoods book started life as a blog on myspace, the cult of blogging having led to several book deals it seems to be an area to watch ‘Wife in the North’ and ‘Belle Du Jour’ to name two. Hmmm why would I have two blogs? The blog started when Clayton and his partner rented shop space on Old Compton Street in London and started their clothes store ‘Dirty White Boy’ he started making notes on the people who came in, the crazy landlady, the brothel upstairs and the sights and sounds of a street that never sleeps. This blog got a huge following leading to a column in the London Paper and now the book.
The comparisons it has had made to it are things such as Armistead Maupin and also Samuel Pepys diary but from the noughties. You can see why the comparisons to Tales of the City, his prose is sumptuous and witty and the characters that he tells you all about are fascinating and quirky, plus Old Compton Street and San Francisco are both gay Mecca’s. The comparisons to Pepys are that it’s almost a diary (well I suppose blogs are ‘the new diary’ to a degree) charting the life of London and in particular one of the streets at the heart of it.
The street itself is pretty much the star of the show, the lead character if you will, with all the regular shoppers, tramps, prostitutes at becoming great secondary characters, only they aren’t characters, they are real. I interviewed Clayton recently and had the luck of meeting Pam the Fag Lady who was my favourite of the characters all in all. I also loved Angie the ‘Janice Dickinson-like’ transsexual and the crazy Madame in the upstairs brothel. There was only one aspect I didn’t like so much, running through it all was a love story of complete coincidence, now I believe in coincidence but in the novel for some reason it all matched up a little too neatly especially in the final blog of the book. That and some of the blogs seeming to have been edited in a new order for example Mika didn’t release anything in 2006, I know that’s incredibly picky but it made me come out of the moment randomly.
Other than those two minor, minor things I thought this was a fantastic account of the life of one of my favourite streets and I can only hope there will be a Dirty White Boy Part 2 coming our way in the next year.