Sunday, April 6, 2008

Football fiction, Hooligans and Dougie Brimson

Green Street Hooligans (just Hooligans in the UK), Frodo Baggins ferocious break away from hairy backed hobbit love was inspired by the actions, notions and imaginations of Dougie Brimson.

It’s a tight, tidy, fiercely violent film about an American fish out of water falling in with a West Ham crew. Froddo finally gets the doing he deserves. Instead of crying to his sidekick Sam about it, he takes it on the chin. While the film’s links to football are less exposed than his numerous black eyes and split lips, they are in there. It’s also a subject very close to Brimson’s heart.

On the back of 12 books in as many years it would seem that Dougie is one of the UK’s most prolific authors, let alone football writers. Currently being held up as a leading light for ‘lad’ culture, Brimson’s site shows he has a bit more on his plate, and in his mind, than yer average knuckledusted, fightin’ for the phukin’ buzz minded ‘lad’.

Easy to read, accessible and entertaining, he’s one of the few football fiction writers to turn his love for the game into a highly successful writing career, well at least one that goes beyond writing about fighting – ’cause let’s face it you don’t write 10 books about football hooligans without some level of passion for the rougher edges of pugilistic artistry.

Though, now he’s into the film industry it might be a different story from here.

I’ve now read a couple of his non-fiction thuggery anthologies and all three of his fictional works The Crew, Top Dog and his wee comedy number Billy’s Log. The books are all similar to Green Street in that they aren’t so much about the football in so much as they are about fans. Football serves as a backdrop for more visceral foreground shenanigans. Namely graphically brutal and well-choreographed scrapping.

Billy’s Log (the exception) is a light-hearted look at a single fan’s search for lager and love. The other two are diamond rough and ready, organised crime, perfect for tv, thrillers.

In the The Crew, protagonist Billy Evans is motivated hard man with a plan, a dodgy car business and a nice, if dangerous, little earner up his sleeve. In Top Dog Evans continuing story centres around his firm taking over security at Upton Park, EPL team West Ham’s stadium. It’s a Hammers house of horror take on the lunatics looking after the asylum.

I have a couple of close friends, life-long West Ham supporters, who especially appreciated the story as well as the sentiment.

His non-fiction back catalogue, from what I’ve read of it, are reasonably, and sometimes questionably, argued accounts of football thuggery which perpetuate the questions Government keep asking of their own security systems and problematise the systemic horizontal violence brought on by the Government decisions which created the issues in the first place.

There are many books about football hooliganism or ‘polarised fans’ (an expression I learned recently (thanks jt.)) their inclusion or perceived merit as football fiction will be discussed in a future blog. Brimson’s place in football fiction however is well established and one to be considered if you’ve an interest in the game at all.

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