Category Archives: knuckle girls

Richard Allen, New English Library, Skinhead, Suedehead & Sorts – the Seventies Penny Dreadfuls (1970s)

“As he stood in the dock, Joe Hawkins considered his situation with utter detachment.”
Opening line of ‘Suedehead’, by Richard Allen.

‘Richard Allen’ was the best-known pseudonym of James Moffat, and his series of books based on the Skinhead sub-culture are his best remembered works. Of those books, Skinhead, was the first, and is the best remembered. As you can see from the various book covers on this page, he wrote several sequels. These paperbacks (published by New English Library), had relatively few pages (generally more than 100 but less than 150) but a lot of sex and violence, and were squarely aimed at teenagers and young adults.

Skinhead was an immediate success, hence the raft of ‘Skinhead’ sequels from Allen. These books were marked by a predilection for casual violence, (including rape) which could easily be seen as a glorification / celebration of such behavior, though Allen was at pains to point out that that was not the case (or at least he did in the preface he wrote in his sequel to ‘Skinhead’, ‘Suedehead’). These books were cheap, fast fixes, true ‘exploitation’ books, especially when they began to ride the coat-tails of other contemporary fashions (like the Kung-Fu / Skinhead mash-up of ‘Dragon Skins’);

A more thorough explanation of who Richard Allen was, can be found below;

Richard Allen, The Charles Dickens of skinheads

James Moffat (1922-1993) was a Canadian-born writer who once published a magazine about bowling and who, under sundry pseudonyms, wrote hack fiction (westerns, children’s stories, mysteries). In 1970 he was asked because he was so versatile and prolific, to write a book for the New English Library about skinheads, the white working-class youths whose thuggery seemed, to some, an authentic cry of alienation and, to others, the decline of Western civilisation.

Allen’s first novel, Skinhead, uneasily combined self-righteous fascist rhetoric, nihilist indifference and the shocked voice of reason. But it succeed with its authentic portrayal of Joe Hawkins, the 16-year old gangster convinced the Cockneys had lost control of their patch, London, and whose life of rape, drink and hooliganism ends in a kind of triumph when he is jailed for beating a cop – a punishment which, he gloats, makes him king of the skinheads.

After that sold a million, the formula stayed pretty constant for 17 other novels – seven with the words “skin” or ‘Skinhead’ in the title. Allen bought to the task an enthusiasm for research, speed – he once completed a novel in less than a week – narrative drive and pulp fair. The opening line of Suedehead is masterful: “As he stood in the dock, Joe Hawkins considered the situation with a detachment”. Yet the author, uncomfortable with charges he encouraged violence, later blamed “leniency in courtrooms, catering to fads by mercenary-minded rage-trade merchants, a soft-peddling attitude by politicians who look for teenage votes and a overwhelming pandering by the media”.

Rediscovered in his seventies, Allen was planning a sequel Skinhead Return, when years of writing at short notice aided by tobacco and booze finally caught up with him. He died in 1993.

Influenced by: Pulp fiction, Harold Robbins.

Influence on: His success led to a plethora of books like Bill Buford’s Among The Thugs, in which intellectual types slummed it with violent oiks.

Essential reading: Skinhead and Suedehead stand apart.

Further reading: As Trudi Maxwell, Allen wrote the compellingly dire Diary of a Female Wrestler, unforgettably, ludicrously bad.

Taken from The Rough Guide to Cult Fiction,

What follows is a series of back page ‘copy’ found on Richard Allen paperbacks. Titles covered are Skinhead, Suedehead, Skinhead Escapes and Sorts;


SKINHEAD by Richard Allen
AGGRO – That’s what Joe Hawkins and his mates were looking for, with their shaven heads, big boots and braces.

Football matches, pub brawls, open-air pop concerts, hippies and Hell’s Angels all gave them chances to vent their sadistic violence.

SKINHEAD is a story straight from today’s headlines – portraying with horrifying vividness all the terror and brutality that has become the trademark of these vicious teenage malcontents.

First NEL Edition July 1970
This edition March 1972

Published by New English Library Limited from Barnard’s Inn, Holborn, London EC1.


A young and brutal bovver boy called Joe Hawkins caused outrage when he was first introduced to the world in the NEL smash hit, Skinhead.
Now Joe has grown his hair and swapped his boots and braces for a velvet-collared Abercrombie coat. His aggro days are over … but his city-slicker days are just beginning.

© 1972 Richard Allen
First NEL Paperback Edition October 1971

Published by New English Library Limited from Barnard’s Inn, Holborn, London EC1.

Skinhead Escapes

Joe Hawkins first made his shattering impact on readers in the best-selling novel, SKINHEAD.

For Joe, his exploits of violence and anti-social behaviour were to be cut short by a prison sentence.

But in SKINHEAD ESCAPES Joe Hawkins is on the loose again. With a vengeance to fulfill!

© 1972 Richard Allen
First NEL Paperback Edition July 1972
Reprinted May 1974

Published by New English Library Limited from Barnard’s Inn, Holborn, London EC1.


SORTS by Richard Allen
‘Sorts’ are the Smoothy girls – they’re game if the price is right.

Terry Hurdy is running away – from her home, from her skinhead lover, and her memories. She teams up with Rose, who teaches her the ways of the road. Then the aggro starts, and Terry finds herself with “lay-by” problems, drop-outs and drugs – and murder.

This is a new kind of girl – first there were Skinheads and Boot Boys, then the Smoothies – and now there are Sorts, the female of the species.

© 1973 Richard Allen
First NEL Paperback Edition July 1973
Reprinted December 1974

Published by New English Library Limited from Barnard’s Inn, Holborn, London EC1.

The complete list of Richard Allen books reads as follows – as you can see, he didn’t limit himself to the Skinhead movement, as he also documented (amongst others) Punk (Punk Rock),

Mods (Mod Rule) and Glam Rock (Glam);

Books by Richard Allen

Boot Boys
Dragon Skins
Knuckle Girls
Mod Rule
Punk Rock
Skinhead Escapes
Skinhead Farewell
Skinhead Girls
Teeny Bopper Idol
Terrace Terrors
Top-Gear For Skinhead
Trouble For Skinhead (originally to be titled Skinhead In Trouble)

A BBC TV documentary about his life, Skinhead Farewell, aired in 1996. This is a clip of that documentary;


By the way, ‘Penny Dreadfuls’ is a term I have probably incorrectly implied here (to a degree anyway). I like the term, and it does sum up the whole vibe of Skinhead etc. To understand what a penny dreadful really was, look here