You’d have to go back quite some time to find proper skinzines like Hard As Nails, Zoot, Bovver Boot and the like. Back far enough, in fact, to the era before even the MP3 or dial-up modems.
Verbal, despite the aggro title, isn’t a ‘sussed skin’ zine in the vein of Hard As Nails, though it’s arguably as sussed as any of those earlier titles, and no one could deny that editor John King has more than earned his stripes as the novelist behind Skinheads and the Human Punk nights at the 100 Club, if not more.
We’re talking a proper A5 paper zine here, folded with staples, not your standard WordPress online effort (not that there’s anything wrong with that, you understand). Though we doubt this has been done by a YTS on the office photocopier when the boss wasn’t around or run off a print shop on an industrial estate the arse-end of nowhere, as in those days.
Verbal has run to five issues now, balanced against John’s other activities writing best-selling novels, putting on Oi bands and putting out Oi records, not to mention running publisher London Books. The idea is a fiction-focused zine, and while John gives space to emerging writers, regulars Cathi Unsworth and Garry Bushell rub alongside them nicely, like newly-introduced characters in a public house snug.
In this issue, Cathi’s short story recalls in thinly veiled terms the sixties London of Meek and Sutch. A Sounds scribe of yore like Bushell, Cathi’s fiction output to date has thrilled to the noirish possibilities the post-war era afforded (a point well-noted in a recent biography of Get Carter writer Ted Lewis championed by Cathi, that it “recalled an early 70s world of skinheads, suedeheads, hard cases and street violence”).
Elsewhere in the slender volume, there are lyrics by Infa-Riot’s Lee Wilson (‘I’m More Punk Than You’) and an interview between John and skinhead-prankster plagiarist Stewart Home.
All issues of Verbal, including this one, are available from London Books.