Colin MacInnes


Two young black dancers, brightly dressed and outrageously queer, sashay down a dull London street. All tight crotch and flamboyant gesture, they are peacocks in a warren of plucked pigeons. For sheer perverse effect on the desexed locals, one dancer halts the sidewalk flow to bend and inspect his shoe—“so that the recalcitrant bowler-hatted or tweed-skirted natives found themselves curiously obstructed by an exotic, questioning behind.”

A boy and girl reunite in a London dance club. They are young and in love; misery and violence are elsewhere. The music plays just for them. And then: “The side window crashed, and a petrol bomb came in and rolled among the dancers and exploded, and the electrics all cut out, and there were shouts and screaming.”

Thus, a worldview: irrestistible arses, and bombs on the dance floor.

Colin MacInnes, the novelist, essayist, critic, experimentalist, and inveterate fringe-dweller whose three essential works—City of Spades (1957), Absolute Beginners (1959), and Mr Love and Justice (1960)—form “the London trilogy,” is not exactly unknown, but neither is he quite known.

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