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Last Updated: Friday, 4 August 2006, 15:44 GMT 16:44 UK
Arnott swaps slammer for glamour
Jake Arnott
Arnott is currently adapting Johnny Come Home for television
British novelist Jake Arnott has told the BBC about how he switched from the crime writing which made his name to focus instead on early 1970s glam rock music in his latest book.

In Johnny Come Home, Arnott, who established himself with a loose trilogy of gangster novels - The Long Firm, He Kills Coppers and Truecrime - centres his action around two weeks in the life of fictional glam rock star Johnny Chrome.

The author told BBC World Service's The Ticket programme that, while he had not intended to make glam rock the focus of the book when he started it, he had "quickly found myself there."

"I knew I was going to be writing about the '70s, but suddenly all these characters seemed to congregate around that area, and I very quickly got this idea of the glam rock thing," he said.

"The summer of 1972 seemed to be when everything was exploding, and going strangely out of control. Also, it coincided with the political background of the book, which is the beginning of the Anger Brigade trial in May 1972."

Cheap and tacky

Arnott said he wanted to write about glam rock for a number of different reasons, chief among them the sexual ambiguity that a number of stars presented at the time.

He said this had helped explore one of the key themes of the book - the question of identity.

"I'm fascinated in the notion that sexuality is not necessarily fixed," he said.

"I wanted to explore that - I wanted to give my characters emotions that were not predictable."

David Bowie
Bowie wrote in a very deliberately artificial way, and with a sense of how you express a feeling of the melancholy of cheap thrills
Jake Arnott
In the book, Johnny Chrome - who has an ongoing relationship with a rent boy called Sweet Thing, a name that references a track on the David Bowie album Diamond Dogs - has changed his identity a number of times, having previously been known as Johnny Rebel, Johnny Savage, and Johnny Flower.

Arnott said that while he was fascinated by the way glam rock heroes such as David Bowie and Roxy Music had "played around with ideas of kitchness and glamour," Johnny Chrome was firmly a reference to the "cheap and tacky end of glam rock, which is much better for a writer like me.

"I'm more interested in failure than success, in terms of how pop culture works in particular," he added.

"It always throws up these kind of lost souls... in a sense, the whole point of life is to find out who and what we are, and to have clear definitions and conclusions about life is often misleading.

"All the characters have certain ideas about themselves - but it's when those ideas are challenged that interesting things happen."

Arnott also revealed he had been strongly influenced by Bowie's way of writing lyrics - especially the ones from the time.

"He wrote in a very deliberately artificial way, and with a sense of how you express a feeling of melancholy," he said.

"There's something very melancholic about glam rock - there's something sad about the cheap thrills that it homes in on.

"But I certainly don't want people to think that Johnny Chrome is based on Bowie, because he's based on someone at the cheaper, trashier end of glam rock."


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