Published by Penguin on January 3rd 2012
London, 1976: a summer of chaos, punk, love . . . and the boy they called Billy the Kid.
It was the summer of so many things. Heat and violence, love and hate, heaven and hell. It was the time I met William Bonney - the boy from Belfast known as Billy the Kid.
I've kept William's secrets for a long time, but now things have changed and I have to tell the truth. But I can't begin until I've told you about Curtis Ray. Hip, cool, rebellious Curtis Ray. Without Curtis, there wouldn't be a story to tell.
It's the story of our band, of life and death . . . and everything in between.
Naked is the first Kevin Brooks book I’ve read but it will definitely not be the last. This was a raw, exciting novel set in the burgeoning world of punk. The main character is Lili, a young classically trained musician who finds herself swept into this dirty, unglamorous music scene that began sweeping its way through 70’s-era England. She finds herself becoming the bassist of a group called ‘Naked’ but is never really sure if she fits into this world.
The characters are at the heart of this novel and Lili is a likeable and relatable protagonist. Her relationships with Curtis (the lead singer in the group) and William (the mysterious new rhythm guitarist) are what drive the narrative. I found both characters to be very interesting. Curtis, with all his self-destructive ways, is a heart-breaking character and William (or ‘Billy the Kid’ as he becomes known) is simply a fascinating character. The only downside of the book is you never really feel you get to know him as well as you would like. William was easily my favourite character despite this.
Anyone familiar with the early punk scene will enjoy all the references, from Malcolm McLaren (and his infamous boutique ‘Sex’) to various bands that would soon be taking the country by storm such as The Sex Pistols, The Buzzcocks etc. There is also a subplot revolving around the IRA conflict in Northern Ireland which ends up playing a really big role in the story as it unfolds.
The story is at times beautiful and heart-breaking. Brooks writes as someone very familiar with the setting and the events. I wasn’t even born during the time the book is set in (although I am at least passingly familiar with punk as a social movement though prefer post-punk music personally) but I really felt swept up in the events.