'Don't judge a book by its covers', they say. Which I would adapt to: 'Don't buy a book for its cover'. But rules are made for breaking. And today I bought a book simply for its dust jacket.
Absolute Beginners is probably my all time favourite novel. I read it again a few months ago, and was still taken by its energy, the exhilaration - the moment, the place, the mood.
It's about the first stirrings of teenage culture - and, more sinisterly, of organised racism against Caribbean migrants.
I picked this up for a pittance in a charity shop. A 1959 first edition - though a fifth impression, so not exactly valuable. The cover photo - by Roger Mayne - is wonderfully evocative. I wonder who the couple were - the stand-ins for the novel's central characters, the Teenager and his girlfriend Crepe Suzette. The location was around Southam Street in Notting Dale - well within the Teenager's manor - which was a focus for Mayne's work. There's more about this cover here.
The model for Colin MacInnes's Teenager, I discover, was Terry Taylor. And he wrote his own novel of teenage emancipation - Soho clubs, sex (in modest measure), dope (a lot) and jazz (big time).
It's called Baron's Court, All Change - first published in 1961 and just republished by Five Leaves.
And the really good news is it's a really good novel. With much of the feel of Absolute Beginners, and about the same scene at the same time, though from a different vantage point. So if you like Colin MacInnes's Teenager tale, you ought to read this too.
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