Steven Johns reviews DD Johnston's debut novel about revolutionary fast food workers, published by AK Press.
When "DD" first send me his manuscript for Peace, Love & Petrol Bombs, it was a little rough but I told him it showed promise.
I made extensive notes, corrections, and suggestions for improvement, and now they have found their way into the text the results are, if I say so myself, excellent, and enabled DD to find a publisher.
One change for example was that I suggested he replace his frequent references to Wayne's enjoyment of figure skating with football, to make him seem more working class. For the same reason, I also suggested he remove 90% of the references to Wayne crying, which thankfully he also did (which may surprise you upon seeing how many times Wayne still cries).
I have no idea how to review fiction, as it is not as objective as being able to say that someone's politics are shit. So instead I'll just summarise it and give my subjective reasons why I think this is a great book, and people should buy it (apart from the fact that I basically wrote half of it. Basically.).
In short, the book is about a Scottish burger flipper called Wayne who works at Benny's Burgers, a global fast food chain which has some parallels with McDonald's. Wayne helps set up the Benny's Resistance Army (much like the real-life McDonald's Workers Resistance group, which was also founded by drunk Scots).
Wayne then gets involved in anarchist politics, summit hopping, falls in love, marches against the war in Iraq and sees his relationships with his co-workers and friends grow and crumble.
It's a bit like a modern Ragged Trousered Philanthropists meets Adrian Mole meets the Baader-Meinhof gang on the set of Trainspotting. And why do I like it?
I can identify with a lot of it, personally
A lot of the events and experiences Wayne goes through are the same that I went through, and will be for lots of others who got sucked into radical politics during the anti-capitalist movement from 1999, although I had a lot more sex.
I wasn't at Prague or May Day 2000, but I was in Genoa, Thessaloniki and at the big anti-war demonstrations prior to the invasion of Iraq. His descriptions of these events chime very well with my own recollections.
I actually remember seeing the McDonald's Workers Resistance graffiti around the University in Thessaloniki and hoping that I would meet some of them there (although I didn't until a few years later).
Wayne's political journey from optimism and revolutionary enthusiasm to disillusionment and eventually some sort of pragmatism mirrors my own, as well as many more of us from that era.
I almost never laugh out loud reading books. This book literally made me LOL regularly throughout.
It's a reason to avoid work
It's the kind of book you don't want to put down. When I first got the manuscript I bunked off work and read it in a little over a day. When I got the finished version I did the same again.
The story of Benny's Resistance Army, like the real-world McDonald's Workers Resistance, is an inspiring tale of ordinary workers deciding that they didn't want to be just ordinary workers any more.
I know some of the characters
And some of them are libcom posters, so many of you may as well, though you may not know it!
It mentions libcom
Like any good book should.
So in short you should go out and get it. Apparently DD gets a cut of the profits, so if you can steal the book or get it from the library that would be best, as he'll only spend it on on deep-fried Mars bars.