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Review: The Miners Strike Back by Kevin Dicks

11 Nov 2023 4 minute read
The Miners Strike Back by Kevin Dicks is published by Y Lolfa

Niall Griffiths

In the acknowledgements to this book, we find this announcement/disclaimer/justification:

‘Before I’m accused of climate denial for my depiction of Action Xtinction [Dicks’s avatar for Xtinction Rebellion], I should point out that my house is fully insulated and covered in solar panels….I have a Greenpeace vest older than most climate protestors….Greenpeace were once my heroes for putting their lives on the line [but] I have no such admiration for this current generation of climate protestors who played no part in the demise of coal mining in this country, yet gloat and delight at kicking and industry that’s already down and out….I see this as injustice and make no apology for sending a few bullets back’.

Protestors

Well, that’s just super. I find the claim difficult to parse – if the climate protestors HAD helped in the demise of the coal industry, would they then be permitted to celebrate? And if the industry is totally dead, then what’s the problem with protesting against it anyway? – but, leaving that aside, let’s have a look at some of those retaliatory bullets: the physical violence visited upon the protestors is cartoonishly exaggerated, consisting of water cannon, pitbull savaging, and impalement, amongst other things, and the verbal attacks consist of ‘more fucking foreigners’, ‘treeshaggers’, and ‘we’re not in the EU any more so why you foreigners keep thinking you can tell us what to do is beyond me. We’re too soft in this country. Where are all those coppers who were about during the Miner’s Strike to give you lot a good kicking?’.

These are examples of ‘miner’s humour’ that Dicks apparently wants to catch before it ‘disappears for good’.

Humour

The leader of Action Xtinction, Trudi Anderson, is Norwegian (but Greta Thunberg is Swedish, so surely they’re not related).

One of her minions is French, so he talks like this: ‘Zee meessing ‘E’ eez seem-bol-eek of zee ree-al-eety of zee dees-er-peer-ance of zee planet Earth’.

And such particular humour isn’t confined to strange little Europeans, oh no: the scene in the Clanger Insurance Building is a hilarious depiction of non-heteronormative sexuality as utter licentious debauchery, men becoming women and vice-versa, predatory circling of Johnny’s young grandson Jayden, and the appearance of Marilyn, the new manager, a nearly seven foot tall ‘transgender woman with a shock of orangey-purple hair [wearing a] tight purple skirt over her black leggings’.

As Johnny says, ‘whatever happened to the quaint British pastime of queer bashing?’.

There’s that humour again. My sides. So funny to confirm the suspicions of phlegm-flecked Express readers, isn’t it?

‘A man is a man and a woman is a woman; that’s just common sense’, as Rishi Sunak recently said. Who can argue with that?

Epochal demise

Well, alright. I’m not averse to taking a few pops at real-world people in my fiction either, and I also disagree with some of XR’s actions. But there’s a bigger picture, no?

The epochal demise of mankind (starting with the poor, of course, who are the first to burn and drown) and, further, the obliteration of most life on earth.

Plus there are the new laws against peaceful protest which effectively impose custodial sentences for the heinous crime of making a noise.

The corruption and cronyism. The stupendous, staggering greed. The criminalisation of any public expression of anger and despair.

Well, ‘luxury beliefs’ and all that (to quote Suella Braverman). XR are a wee bit irritating so let’s aim our bullets at them. Don’t look up.

Coal seams

There’s not a bad germ of an idea in this book: ex-miner discovers a seam of coal in his allotment.

Excavates and sells it with the support of the locals and draws ire and attention from climate protestors, meddling Council bureaucrats, allotment societies etc.

Explorations of the destruction of an industry through a ruthless acquisitive ideology and the awful fallout of such. What people do to fill the gaps left behind, and how the autochthonous population seek to assimilate other ethnicities.

The breaking of the unions and the attempted decimation of the working class as a meaningful political force.

All of this valuable stuff lies somewhere in this novel, behind the outsized cast which indulges in too many conversations that go on for far too long and ultimately lead nowhere.

The protagonist Johnny, at the end, commits an act of self-immolatry martyrdom for reasons that aren’t clear. I went for a walk.

The Miners Strike Back by Kevin Dicks is published by Y Lolfa and is available from all good bookshops.


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Richard Davies
Richard Davies
6 months ago

“There’s not a bad germ of an idea in this book: ex-miner discovers a seam of coal in his allotment.

“Excavates and sells it with the support of the locals and draws ire and attention from climate protestors, meddling Council bureaucrats, allotment societies etc.”

This would only be complete fiction as the crown (and delegated to the government) owns ALL the mineral rights in the UK. To excavate and sell the coal would be illegal without paying for a licence.

Jason Chapman
6 months ago

I’m currently writing a crime thriller which is partly set during the miners’ strike of 84-85.

Joseph Kerr
Joseph Kerr
5 months ago

For the record, I thought this book was a brilliant satire on life in post-industrial communities. As a valleys boy myself the interactions felt authentic even underneath the outlandish satire that’s prevalent through the book. I’m not exactly clamouring for the return of coal to South Wales but looking at the world through the eyes of an ex-miner felt refreshing in a world so dominated by clicks, likes, shares and threads. Perhaps if the author of this review could appreciate it for what it is, without reading it through the lens of Twitter’s terms of service they might have even… Read more »

Jennifer Wilkinson
Jennifer Wilkinson
5 months ago
Reply to  Joseph Kerr

I’ve read it as well and don’t why the reviewer has fixated on the XR aspect, which was a very small part of the book, and ignored most of the rest.

Caroline Evans
Caroline Evans
4 months ago

An absolute wonderful read. The book is both poignant and funny. Kevin Dicks knocks the nail right on the head when he says that not enough money was diverted to the valleys when the mines closed and went instead to Cardiff. This is still the case.

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