Friday, 21 August 2009

"Kilburn Social Club" by Robert Hudson

Kilburn Social Club is an appealing story of a football club peopled by leading cultural figures, all of whom earn the same wage. Attached to a large conglomerate, it finds itself at the centre of a family power struggle following the sudden death of the patriarch and his wife in a car crash. However, despite these intriguing circumstances, the book floundered a little for me, largely because I was left unsure as to exactly what sort of book Hudson was trying to write. Perhaps I am being fanciful, but I sensed a tug of war between a desire to create a serious novel and the perceived commercial demands of the marketplace.

Hudson is undoubtedly a fine writer. There are lots of nice touches at which you nod with appreciation, such as

"The rivers of the past flow into the present, and only in retrospect do we think we see the watersheds. If Monica hadn't noticed the man in black, then maybe everything would have happened differently."

You have to be an accomplished writer to get away with something like that in a contemporary novel (it is almost identical to something Forester said over half a century ago in Randall and the River of Time), but Hudson does. The problem is that it does not really fit with the textual style of the rest of book, which is largely strictly narrative in nature. It is almost as though he is trying to write a rather laddish piece of bloke-lit to order, but the real writer keeps peeping through.

For example, some passages of the book are simplistic in the extreme. How about this, which smacks of a piece of schoolgirl fiction?

"Aisling wasn't an idiot. She knew the letters to David were an issue for her. She was sure, deep down, that the letters were an issue for him too."

These are extreme examples, but I had trouble believing they could have been written by the same person. Perhaps the book was heavily edited prior to publication?

Overall, KSC had the feel to me of having been written with a sale of the TV rights specifically in mind - a sort of combination of The Brothers and The Manageress - and I'm sure the TV rights will be sold and it will prove very successful as a TV series, though things like the letters between Sally and Punty will need to be handled creatively.

I would recommend this as a great holiday read. It is a good story, with interesting characters. However, I would be fascinated to see what Hudson writes next. I have a feeling that he is actually a novelist rather than a writer.

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