Whisky Magazine Issue 111
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The tale of a biker chick
You might expect a book about a biker chick written by a blogger-journalist-spiritualisttattoo- artist to be lurid, but you wouldn't think it would be particularly successful as literature. So I was all the more astonished then at how just how good I found the 2004 novel Billie Morgen by Yorkshire polymath Joolz Denby. My copy has a fist with skull rings on the cover, and Denby certainly pulls few punches in this tale of a good girl gone bad. But this novel is less exploitative exposé than well-observed meditation on loss, starting with the childhood abandonment of the title character by her father: Dad was everything to do with dreaming, and being Welsh, and him reading me Narnia, and poetry I didn't understand by someone he called Mr Thomas and the smell of whisky and cigarettes and his aftershave… and his grey eyes fixed on far horizons and loose women. Not a single word about the man's appearance, yet still we can picture him quite clearly –a mark of Denby's skill with character.
The lack of a father, and tomboy Billie's difficulties getting along with her prim mother and sister, makes her drift toward hanging around with the ‘wrong' crowd in provincial Bradford. By the time she's 11, she's gained some insights about the harsher side of human social behaviour: I didn't try to be a rebel, rebellion was thrust on me; in fact, I hated it and rebelled on several occasions against being a rebel and tried as hard as I could to be normal. It didn't work – people sense...