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Sunday, July 29, 2012

Mick Norman

Mick Norman was the pen-name of Laurence James who followed in the footsteps of Peter Cave and Alex R. Stuart, whose Chopper and The Bikers (respectively) had appeared in 1971. Stuart wrote his fifth and final biker novel in 1973 and Mick Norman was born to replace him.

The four Angels books featuring Gerry Vinson sold over a quarter of a million copies. I interviewed Laurence for a fanzine I used to do and he recalled:
The weirdest thing I ever had was with the Angel novels. I was married with three little kids and used to go on holiday to North Wales, and I set the Angels’ base in North Wales on a deserted mining village and in book one or two I gave explicit instructions on how to get there, exactly where it was, what it was and how you got there. And I thought it was just interesting background. And about two years after I’d quit, about ‘74 or ‘75, we went there for a May holiday to this hotel and the kids wanted to go to the deserted village, which is what we called it. So we drive over, park at the top, because you can’t get down to it at all - in those days there was no road to it at all - and there were several transit vans and furniture vans, which I thought was a bit odd...
__We start walking down. It was a beautiful day, and coming up this very steep path that we were walking down were two or three Angels; they walked past, said ‘‘Hi, how are you,’’ and when we got to the bottom there were 40 or 50 Hell’s Angels there. And I suddenly realised why: they’d read the books, someone had got out a road map and said ‘‘Hey look, it’s a real place. Let’s go there for our next run.’’ And they went there and left a few bits of Angel graffiti on the old buildings, and then someone else did it a few weeks later, found the graffiti and said ‘‘Yeah, this is the place all right.’’ Like Field of Dreams. I built it and so they came!
__We went back to the hotel. There were a lot of them down there, and we went back to the hotel nearby and said ‘‘There’s an awful lot of motorcycle chappies down at the village.’’ And he said, ‘‘Yeah, they all started turning up about six months ago and nobody knows why.’’ I said: ‘‘Do they cause any trouble?’’ ‘‘No, no. Quiet as lambs. They spend a lot of money in the pubs and shops. They’re very welcome.’’ Phew!
__That taught me a serious lesson: you’re flirting with truth if you do things like that. They stopped doing it eventually, got bored, but it was an amazing moment. You think ‘Because of my books, these people have come from all over the country and they’ve come to this place because of me.’ And you think ‘God, this is power!’
Creation Books reprinted the four novels in an omnibus in 1994 with an introduction by Stewart Home. Home notes "Today, Mick Norman's biker books appear prophetic, imbued as they are with the atmosphere of a country reeling under the blows of unemployment and economic decline. Re-reading these novels makes the boom years of the '80s seem like a mirage, an unrealistic dream. It's as if the imminent threat of political violence and social breakdown has been hanging over us for the past twenty years."

Those words could have been written yesterday rather than nearly twenty years ago. Clearly it's time for Mick Norman's novels to be rediscovered and reprinted once again.

Angels from Hell
New English Library 0450-01503-3, May 1973, 127pp, 30p. Cover photo: Ku Khanh by Lagarde
"They're the Last Heroes"
The time is a little in the future. The place is England. Repression has driven the Hell's Angels underground. But they are still around!
__Gerry Vinson wanted to join the 'Last Heroes'. Suddenly, he found what he was looking for.
__Just in front of him, appearing from the ground like a pantomime demon, was Tiny Terry.
__In an age of smart suits and short hair, the Angel looked literally unbelievable. he stood a couple of inches over six feet and was big-built. His hair was shoulder-length, matted and oily. He had a full beard, partly tufted, with short lengths of greasy ribbon tied in it. His teeth were mostly broken or missing. In the centre of his chest was tattooed a red-winged skull with the words: "Hell's Angels - North London Chapter".
__Even in the future, the Angels take some stopping!
Angel Challenge
New English Library 0450-01650-1, Oct 1973, 127pp, 30p.
A year or so has passed since the apocalyptic ending of 'Angels from Hell'. The government has fallen and a new freedom washes through the streets.
__From their hide-out in the mountains of Snowdonia, Gerry Vinson leads his chapter – the remnants of 'The Last Heroes' combined with 'The Wolves' – on a run South. Back to London.
__Back to a city ruled by a new Hell's Angels chapter – 'The Ghouls' – and terrorised by gangs of teenagers who crop their hair and ape the manners of the 'Skinheads' of the sixties.
__Gerry knows that there can only be one winner. He also knows that the price of defeat is likely to be death.
Guardian Angels
New English Library 0450-01786-9, Apr 1974, 124pp, 30p.
A giant rock group tour is being planned, with top names from the United States, and security is the big problem with the promoters. How can they avoid the apalling violence from rioting fans, without jeopardising the lives of the security guards themselves?
__The Hell's Angels seem the answer, and Gerry Vinson's Last Heroes emerge from their Welsh retreat to do the honours. But the American groups have organised their own protection – an American chapter. The inevitable rivalry and ill-feeling is only averted when they are faced with a new threat – and satined and scented skulls.
Angels On My Mind
New English Library 0450-01831-8, Oct 1974, 143pp, 35p.
The Hell's Angels are outsiders. They make up their own rules. They delight in perverting the 'normal' way of life and turn their backs on the rest of society.
__But for those who get in their way, and won't let them have what they want, they have only one answer – violence. And even when the do-gooders step in to save lost souls, they find that what goes on inside an 'Angel's' head is too much. Stranger than fiction in fact.
__What started out as a crusade ends in death. The Angels swear revenge on those who betray them.


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  2. Hi, I thought you and your readers would like to know that these books will be available in eBook format from November 15 2016. Check out the Angels' page at Piccadilly Publishing