FAITHLESS by John L. Williams


Email this review


An earnest postmortem on the early ’80s London club and music scene, framed in a somewhat formulaic murder mystery and narrated by a sadder-but-wiser punk band washout. By the time his fellow record-store clerk Neville is slashed to death in the shop, Jeff is already a has-been in the punk world. Dropped by band magneto Ross, who then swiftly became a pop phenomenon, Jeff has also had to suffer the indignity of watching a woman he might have had feelings for—dark-haired, doe-eyed Frank—pulled effortlessly from his orbit into Ross’s. She briefly comes back to him once, full of venom but no less appealing; for a few weeks they scheme to blackmail Ross, a plot that goes awry, and then she and Ross disappear together. Shortly thereafter, though, Neville is killed, and Jeff thinks the killers meant to get him, in revenge for his ill-conceived scheme. He’s ridiculed for this view, but his own amateur sleuthing nevertheless reveals the drug-ravaged, Mafia-cinched underbelly of London clubbing—a bleak world in which both Ross’s manager and Frank are part of the game. When the same thugs who knifed Neville come after Jeff, he narrowly escapes, only to be further endangered by another encounter with Frank, to whom he tells what he knows and who brings him face to face with the mobster responsible for Neville’s murder. An unlikely series of events ensues in which Jeff not only survives but sees the tables turned—and lives on to reflect into the ’90s on what might have been. Set wisely if plotted none too well, Williams’s US debut has just enough true London grit to be engaging as a map of city life, a kind of nostalgic clubbers’ A to Z in which intersections of style within the demimonde are artfully done.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1998
ISBN: 1-85242-516-4
Page count: 168pp
Publisher: Serpent’s Tail
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1998