Friday, 10 March 2017

England 'B': Ninety Minutes of Hell reviewed on The Vault of Evil

Franklin Marsh wrote a tongue-in-the-cheek yet perceptive review of Richard Staines' England 'B': Ninety Minutes of Hell on The Vault of Evil - and has kindly given us permission to reprint it here.

"Thanks to the insane generosity of the good Mr Riley on this young person's social media thingy (Facebook), I've managed to blag a copy - and, hurling a host of anthos, Goth compilation CDs and Shaun Hutson's The Skull to one side, hurtled through Mr Staines' first two soccer cautionary tales at high speed, being projected back in time to when attending a football match could be classed as an extreme sport (for fans and players alike), to when men weren't confused and women were glad of it, to when England still hadn't realised it was somewhere below the Third World in terms of significance, when a trilby was the height of sartorial elegance for one positioning themselves as a football manager and when Crystal Palace turned from The Glaziers into The Eagles (and released Hotel California to widespread acclaim and disgust in equal measure. The Sex Pistols had to happen.)


No Such Thing as A Friendly was even better second time around, the psychotic Nigel-Green-In-Zulu Mad Mickey Clinch's all too soon demise had tears (of mirth) springing to my eyes.

A Game of Two Halves upped the ante with cartoon Russkies eclipsing Michael Moorcock's The Russian Intelligence and any spy film from the 1960s. The actual make up of the Soviet opposition was unprecedented and brilliant. Vince's match unfitness and desperate hip flask swigging was all too real.

Utter genius! You can almost smell the grease and burnt onions pre-match atmosphere, and am looking forward to fear...the fear of becoming lost in unfamiliar side streets...hearing a roar go up... is it us or is it them...? Or failing that, some Satanic Haunted House shenanigans.

The Ref's Decision Is Final - if the portrayal of Russians in the previous story was somewhat stereotypical, this is taken to the nth degree with Caledonians (although as an Englishman I found it very truthful) and perhaps proscribes sales of the book north of the border. But I don't think anyone will worry as The Smuggler's Arms is as good a den of iniquity as you could wish for, Class War is alive and well and once again Vince and his merry band of handy reprobates face a life and death struggle in pursuit of the not-so-beautiful game. However far from grass roots the Premier League, the Champions League and the obscene amounts of money now involved in football take us, Richard Staines can furnish a timely reminder of how it once was. And there's an axe-wielding psychopath and Moira Anderson.
Get Your Fritz Out For The Lads - There's only two ways this is going to go - women and Germany. Our rag, tag and bobtail hard-drinking, chain-smoking, skirt-chasing rogues have no sooner escaped death at the blade of a crazed Scotsman than their excessively air-conditioned coach has broken down in the grounds of a remote stately home in Northern England. If a blood-lusting pack of Doberman Pinschers aren't clue enough, the strangely Teutonic (not to mention vaguely feminine) Lord soon has the lads locked up in a cellar with unlimited Blue Nun and the real aristocrat, before releasing them to face a cloned team of Nazi Amazons. Will their nightmare never end? Not just yet. Arguably the greatest 70s signpost yet is the shoehorning in of the Bermuda Triangle. Some clues to the real identity of the man behind the Staines can be glimpsed via a (censored?) thesis on Catholicism and a disturbing familiarity with Leslie McManus' WWII melodrama Jackboot Girls.

Football's Dark Arts - America's on the receiving end this time. Glorious stuff, with Vince discovering that the wide-open spaces of Texas look just like a long episode of Rawhide (except in colour) and small town America can be a frightening place, but not as frightening as the Astral Plane where a most unique game of football takes place. Weird dreams, sinister monk-like apparitions and Jack Parsons namechecked. Huzzah!

They Think It's All Over - Sadly we come to the end of this odd but howlingly accurate glance at a different world. The transposition of homosexuality with vampirism skewers both targets (even though the dartboard keeps falling off the wall). Vince's puzzled assertion that gays didn't exist before 1967 apart from Oscar Wilde (who had the decency to get married and father a couple of kids) and the parody of the laborious Dracula AD 1972 anagram working out had me laughing out loud.

Nothing like this exists elsewhere. Thank goodness."

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