With Ridley Road now on the BBC iplayer, I thought I’d post a list here of what I reckon are the ten best novels written about fascism and anti-fascism in Britain:
(10) Farrukh Dhondy, East End At Your Feet
More a short story collection than a novel; in the fifth story “KBW” [Keep Britain White] a neighbouring family is attacked by a gang of 20 racists.
(9) Patrick McGrath, The Wardrobe Mistress
On the death of veteran actor Charles Grice in 1947, his wife Joan learns that he was a fascist and a street-corner antisemite. Will she take revenge on the movement that corrupted him?
(8) Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie
Girls fall madly in love with glamorous and manipulative teacher. But it’s 1933 and the teacher has a crush on Mussolini and Hitler.
(7) Cressida Connolly, After the Party
Glamorous socialite Phyllis Forrester returns to England. She follows her sister Nina into a world of fascist summer camps, and wartime internment
(6) Tariq Mehmood, While There is Light
England and back. An account of the events leading up to the rest of the Bradford 12 in 1981: rude, funny, full of righteous fire.
(5) Anthony Cartwright, Heartland
Cartwright, the novelist-historian of work, Thatcherism and the East Midlands, returns to home territory for a story of the World Cup, local elections and a Sunday-league football game pitting two Tipton teams together, one of them a stooge for the BNP.
(4) Max Schaefer, Children of the Sun
In 2003, gay left-wing screenwriter James becomes obsessed 1980s-ers neo-Nazi Nicky Crane, following his career and friends through the archives and in real life. Perhaps the only ever book to have been praised by both China Mieville and Nick Griffin.
(3) Jonathan Coe, The Rotters Club
It’s Birmingham in 1976, with glam rock, the IRA and teenage Nazi Harding is doing his best A. K. Chesterton impersonation in the school elections. Ben Trotter and his friends meanwhile are exploring sex, London, and Rock Against Racism.
(2) Frank Griffin, October Day
The events of 4 October 1936 – Cable Street – shown Dos-Passos-style through such characters as the winnable but anti-political worker Joe, the policeman Harold Thurgood and a wealthy fascist with who he carries on an affair, Lady Stroud.
(1) Kazuo Ishiguro, The Remains of the Day
Because we’ve all got a little part of Stevens in us, whether we like it or not – that loyalty to the present, to things as they are, which stops us from changing them.
With honourable mentions for the following: Alan Gibbons, Street of Tall People, PH Wodehouse, Code of the Woosters, Richmal Compton, William the Dictator, the screenplay of Young Soul Rebels (which is published as a book), Anders Lustgarten’s play A Day at the Racists (ditto), and (yes) Jo Bloom’s Ridley Road.