Pulp fiction has been around as long as the hills, while pulp fiction featuring mods has been around almost as long as the mod scene itself.
check out the likes of Cellar Boys or Sandra Lawrence’s The Mods from the 60s, not to mention Richard Allen’s Mod Rule or indeed, the Quadrophenia paperback. So Die Hard Mod certainly isn’t breaking any new ground – although it does throw the formula kicking and screaming into the 21st century, whilst at the same time staying true to its vintage roots.
One glance at the vintage-style cover should tell you that.
The tale, like all pulp novels, is fairly straightforward. Steve Milliken is a Belfast boy and one not particularly liked by local ‘businessman’ and UDA leader Trevor McCann and his hardman sidekick Donzo. Rudely awakened and threatened by the pair one morning, they let slip that they’ve given his housemate Doug a beating. Steve later finds out Doug died during the beating and knows his knowledge of the culprits make him a marked man.
He leaves Belfast sharpish and heads to Brighton. Why? Well, he’s got a nostalgic notion of the city based on his love of Quadrophenia, but most importantly, ex-girlfriend Jeanie, who left suddenly some time earlier, is believed to be living there.
Once in Brighton, Steve finds a friend and soulmate in Bobby, as well as digs and a building job via his new mate. But things aren’t all a bed of roses – he gets on the wrong side of local villain and immaculately attired ‘ace face’ Anthony Cubitt, the Belfast mob are on his tail and he finds Jeanie once more, the latter not being the happy ending he dreamed of.
Not only that, the first two of that motley bunch want him dead. Will he survive or will go over the cliffs like Jimmy’s scooter?
Yes, it’s a bit cheesy, but perhaps not as much as that summary makes out. Like the better pulp novels, it’s an incredibly readable book, fairly short at 115 pages, but packing plenty of action and knowing references along the way. It’s obvious that the author has a decent working knowledge of both cities featured, not to mention mod in the wider sense. Whether he’s actually got positive thoughts about ‘mod’ is harder to fathom.
He’s glowing in his praise of the Belfast mod scene, its participants and indeed, the main character. But he seems to have issues with the ‘scene’ in Brighton, describing the promoters of a mod night as ‘…an aging couple in tight 60s clothes ill-suited to their middle-aged girth…’, while the mod punters in the same club are just ‘nonchalantly shuffling around’ on the dancefloor.
Saying that, he is fairly knowing in his musical references, a bonus point from me for flagging up the Beach Boys’ Sunflower album.
The ending is more than far-fetched, but again, that’s par for the course for just about any pulp novel you’ll find, past or present and doesn’t make it a bad book.
On the contrary, if you’re after something a little less taxing on the brain, but with enough pull to keep you coming back during that work commute or week in the sun, Die Hard Mod should fit the bill perfectly. It’s not Booker Prize material, but it is solid entertainment.
This book is also available on the Kindle. More on that here.