Max Schaefer – Children of the Sun (Granta, 2010)
I first read about this book the year before last over at Stewart Home’s blog. My interest was piqued as the subject matter was notorious gay neo-nazi skinhead Nicky Crane, who I’d previously written about here when his appearance in a Psychic TV video came to light. There wasn’t that much material available about Crane online (or anywhere) at the time and I’m still slightly concerned to see my site is the third thing that comes up in a google search for him.
I’ve been meaning to review the book for ages – it was my holiday read last year. This is based on my notes from a while back and what I can remember now.
“Children of the Sun” is fictionalised but accurate – Schaefer has certainly put the necessary research into this and there were no cringeworthy bits that usually crop up with depictions of the far right (from posh plays to The Bill). Various aspects of the British fascism are portrayed accurately but without descent into unnecessary trainspotterish detail. Some brushes with anti-fascists are described in similar ways to how they have been told to me as well.
The heart of the story is the interplay between two protagonists – one a contemporary of Crane’s on the far right, another a young researcher who is obsessed with Crane after his death. Although violence and sex are certainly part of the narrative it’s not a football hoolie book which is hagiographic and uncritical.
There is also a good depiction of the paranoia that an obsessive immersion in this material can induce…
The book is not something to read on the train as lurid news clippings and far right agit prop are reproduced throughout. Crane still exerts a morbid fascination on many from beyond the grave – both on the far right and in aspects of gay subculture. I saw him around on a few occasions whilst studying in central London in the early nineties and can confirm he seemed like someone best avoided. The fact that he was living something of a double life doesn’t really detract from this. Clearly a novel about his life will raise more questions than it answers, but it is a good read and I’d definitely recommend it if you have an interest in this sort of subject matter.