"No ******* end in sight!"
In 2004, Dewsbury-born David Peace published a hard-hitting new novel recreating the 1984-85 Miners Strike through the eyes of its protagonists. We spoke to him about 'GB84' when the book first came out...
Last time we talked to you, you said the 1984-85 Miners strike left its mark on you. Why do you think that was?
The Miners Strike was one of the two events which towered above all else, growing up as and when I did in West Yorkshire - the other being the hunt for the Ripper. But while the Ripper terrified me, the strike eventually bored me. That guilt, that failure at 17 and 18 to understand the enormity and importance of events on my own doorstep, in my own county, that guilt was what drove me to write GB84.
Do you think the strike could be described as a civil war?
Unfortunately not. Had the TUC given the NUM the support that they had promised, then perhaps civil war might have come a step closer. However, given the lengths, tricks and expense that the Thatcher government went to in order to crush just the NUM - it would have been a very short civil war.
Pickets and the police in 1984
How do you think the strike changed lives and mining communities in West Yorkshire?
It wasn't the strike that changed lives and communities, it was the government policy and the forces they brought to bear upon pits and communities in order to close pits that changed lives. I think it's hard for people in 2004, especially younger people, to understand the levels of sacrifice that people underwent in mining communities during 1984/85; the loss of, on average, 9000 pounds per miner, 11,000 arrested, 7000 injured, two men dead - that men and their families did this in order to defend not only their own jobs and communities, but also those of other men in other pits and communities. Those pits and communities are gone, organised labour is gone, socialism is gone and with it the heritage and culture that held people and places together. That government and their policies changed everybody's lives, not only the ones that had the courage to at least stand and fight.
You describe your novel as an 'occult history'...
It's a history because it based on real events and experiences but what do you mean by occult? I use the word 'occult' to mean hidden - but also as a play on the more grotesque aspects of the word.
Events like the hunt for the Yorkshire Ripper and the Miners Strike have add an impact on many people's lives. How far is it the novelist's job to reinterpret such events?
Anybody who writes anything - fact or fiction - about real events has a responsibility to the people who lived through them. In writing about the strike, my main motive and responsibility was to stop people forgetting what happened. Especially younger people.
Your novels have been described as 'brutal' and you have often been compared to James Ellroy. How far do you think this is the case?
Both Ellroy and myself have written about people and places from our pasts; the people we grew up with and the places we lived in. It's hard to write honestly about the Ripper and the Strike and for it not to be brutal.
You also use the testimony of people involved in the strike. Do you feel the novelist's voice is not enough?
As I say, any writing, fact or fiction, is through the voice of the writer - the material they chose and the material they don't, which bit goes here, which bit there etc, but I wanted the testimony of the people who actually lived through the strike to be as raw and honest as possible. I met with people and also used the oral accounts from the books listed at the back of GB84 - and the things I heard and the things I read needed no fictionalising; they were powerful enough.
How important do you think music is in recreating the period? Do you have your own soundtrack for the novel/strike?
For me, music is a way of recreating the backdrop to a period; lost associations re-surface, images and words that have fallen out of useage come back. It also insulates me against the present. With GB84, as with the other books, I listened to as much of the music from the time as I could. Some of the albums are listed in the back of the book. [Frankie Goes to Hollywood's Welcome to the Pleasuredome, The Redskins' Neither Washington Or Moscow and Mighty Wah's A Word to the Wise Guy are among the sources listed by David Peace at the end of GB84]
Your next book [which was to become 2006's The Damned United and hits the big screen in 2009] is about Brian Clough's 44 days at Leeds United. This seems like a radical departure?
I actually worry it won't be any departure at all; 1974, Leeds - sounds very familiar...
last updated: 09/01/2009 at 15:40