Skinheads are alive and well -- in fact, many have come of age. DAVID

BELCHER talks to the man behind the resurrection of one of their


SKINHEAD lives again, more than 20 years on. Suedehead, Skinhead

Girls, and Boot Boys, too. Richard Allen's biff-bang novels will soon be

back in print, thus granting Britain's most enduringly-successful

post-war working-class cultural export -- the skinhead -- access to his

and her literary heritage.

Well, OK. So ''literary heritage'' might be stronging it a bit, but at

least the books' official reappearance will work wonders for this

nation's more timorous second-hand book vendors. Judging by the number

of desperate want ads in Skinhead Times -- there are five requests for

Richard Allen originals in the latest edition, including one from

Australia and another from France -- the world's stock of tatty

paperbacks has been trawled in vain by members of the youth cult that

refuses to grow old. ''Who you looking at?'' was once an ominous

skinhead war-cry; apparently these days it's ''Got that book I've been

looking for?''

George Marshall is the entrepeneurial force behind the resurrection of

Richard Allen, as well as Skinhead Times's 12-page news sheet. Allen's

first three novels (Skinhead, Suedehead, and Skinhead Escapes) will

emerge as a

single volume on George's imprint, S.T Publishing, early next month.

George it is who despatches Skinhead Times's 5000 copies round the globe

from his home in Dunoon, and can vouch for the undying strength of the

movement, the depth of its worldwide appeal.

Indeed, 1000 copies of Skinhead Times are now specially printed in

German, and George's own two social history books -- Spirit of '69: A

Skinhead Bible and The Two Tone Story -- have sold strongly to skins in

unlikely locales ranging from California to Poland, from Hawaii to

Singapore and Chile.

But how did a small Scottish specialist publisher become involved in

re-issuing a long-deleted collection of 18 books, the first two of

which, in their hey-day in the early seventies, each sold more than a

million copies? A bit of luck and a bit more perseverence.

''It was a complete fluke. New English Library, the books' first

publishers, were sold to Hodder and Stoughton, who weren't the least

interested in the Skinhead series, allowing Richard Allen to buy the

rights. I'd been trying to get in touch with Richard Allen for ages via

NEL, without any progress. I knew that Richard Allen was a pseudonym,

that he'd hacked out dozen of books under dozens of other pseudonyms,

that he was reclusive, and that was about all.

''Then purely by chance Scootering magazine did a postal interview

with Richard Allen -- someone who read Scootering had simply happened to

know where he lived -- and I got them to pass on a letter of my own. He

still conducts all his business with me by letter, sometimes three or

four a week.

''He's now retired and living in Gloucestershire, where he is

revamping a nineteenth Skinhead book, one that NEL didn't put out. He's

told me that he wrote under 10 to 15 different names; that he did

scripts for cartoon-book versions of the Thunderbirds and Joe 90, and

that he once successfully accepted a TV show's challenge to write a book

in a week.

''His real name is James Moffatt, and although at some point he lived

and worked in Canada, he's written that he's proud of the Scottish blood

in his veins. I think he gave us the rights to the Skinhead books

because we're Scottish, and we're a small company doing things for


''He was surprised that his books are so collectable, and pleased that

skinheads are still about. He's very much pro-British Empire, and I

think he sees skinheads as the last remains of that empire. Although

having said that, one reason he stopped writing the Skinhead books was

because he was getting pressure from the National Front to make his

fictional hero, Joe Hawkins, an NF member.

''It's interesting that because Joe is racist, Richard Allen was seen

as racist, too. While the character is, the author isn't.''

WHICH might be our cue to mention a similar sort of dichotomy: there

are skins and there are non-racist skins. One should not make dismissive

assumptions about any of them.

''Skinheads are a youth cult, and no other youth cult has

automatically had a set of political attitudes attached to it,'' says

George defensively. ''Skinheads hold as many different political views

as any other bunch of people. We're not all

Nazis; we're not all commies.''

More tellingly, he goes on to point out that as certain national

skinhead groupings have become undeniably more politically extreme, so

overall skinhead numbers have fallen. Skinhead Times itself is firmly

non-political. ''We're about music and style. We don't mention Nazi

bands. We don't mention left-wing bands. Our motto is 'pride without

prejudice'. ''

That said, George winces at the memory of the somewhat prejudiced

literary critique which Spirit of '69 dealt out to Richard Allen's work

prior to the emergence of the working liaison between the two parties.

''I really slagged him off. Then he wanted me to send him a copy of

Spirit of '69 for his research on the newest book. I hum'd and ha'd, and

then sent him one with an apology for having been unfair. I think it was

water off a duck's back, though.''

It's not actually difficult to find fault with Allen's books. Their

two-dimensional portrait of women; their inaccuracies with regard to

skinhead sartorial mores and musical taste; their air of naked

exploitation. Art they ain't. Raw and powerful pulp fiction they are, so

long as you take them with a grain of post-modernist salt-substitute.

George sees other plusses. ''If not for Richard Allen, terms like

suedehead and smoothie would have disappeared. And I found a copy of

Skinhead at a school jumble sale in 1978 when I'd just started being a

skin at 10 or 11. All the violence, the sex, being a Jack the Lad,

getting girls -- to me then, that was what being a skin was all about.

''But the attraction of playing the hard man wears off, not least

because there's always someone harder, and while I sometimes used to

enjoy being thought of as a scarey Richard Allen-type skinhead, you need

books that tell the truth.

''So I'll stand by Joe Hawkins, too. There were a lot of bad skins at

the times the books were written, and they are presented truthfully in

the books. They form a part of skinhead history, to be read about, to

dismiss, to decide about for yourself. But instead there's this media

trip about 'Nazi skins'.''

''Today phoned me last week. They'd seen an article in the Guardian

about the books being re-published, but in retrospect I think only one

line from it had sunk in -- 'Allen is obsessed by the sexuality of his

male characters'. They didn't have any questions about the books, just

about Richard Allen -- 'Is he married? Has he got a wife? How old is he?

Where does he live?'

''I'm sure they'd convinced themselves he was a pervert, and were

desperate to turn up on his doorstep and harass him into looking guilty

for a photograph so they'd be able to wheel out some sort of 'Skin

Author's Gay Sex Shame' headline.''

Let's hope that the media can understand that some skinheads have come

of age. Pride without prejudice. Tolerance without preachifying.

* Full details about Richard Allen's reborn Skinhead novels, plus

information about obtaining George Marshall's own books and Skinhead

Times, can be had by sending a large s.a.e to S.T. Publishing, PO Box

12, Dunoon, Argyll, PA23 7BQ.