Quartet first published Colin Spencer nearly 40 years ago when Victims of Love completed his brilliant sequence of novels – The Generation Quartet – which has been shamefully forgotten by the literary establishment. I remain convinced their quality, insight and compassion will come to be seen by future generations as one of the great literary achievements of the mid twentieth century.
The revival this month of Colin’s play, Spitting Image, at Islington’s King Head theatre, (originally staged in 1968, and the first play to be openly about a homosexual relationship put on in Britain) gives me the opportunity to highlight our publishing in 2013, Colin’s wonderful volume of autobiography, Backing Into Light, My Father’s Son.
Just read the first two paragraphs:
A few weeks before I was born, sometime that June in 1933 in the small back kitchen of 12, Redford Avenue, Thornton Heath, my father was intent on murdering me. Drunk and amidst a tirade of vituperation, waving a kitchen knife he was threatening to stab my mother in the womb. ‘Doing you and the kid in,’ is what he would have shouted, spitting and weeping… though he would have referred at that as ‘blubbing’… ‘and then myself.’
My foetal self, almost ready to be born, would have expected immediate annihilation, as the mother did that bore me. I believe in that moment I became terror struck, a terror of him that continued throughout my life. I must have curled up more tightly, unwilling to venture into this violently angry world outside. This, in fact, has always been my reaction; timidity, caution, shyness, expecting the worst, yet I think these fears are also balanced by the opposites, many of these latter qualities, I suspect, I inherited from my father. So his heritage has been a strange and complex one, a heritage that I have had to fight as much as accept.
Colin Spencer remains one of our very best writers and it’s an outrage he is not better appreciated. Buying this volume of autobiography is a fitting counterpoint to the establishment’s brutal indifference.
Order this gem of a book which is also a stunning account of art school life in 1950s Brighton and London’s literary bohemia during the ‘swinging sixties’.