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GB84, David Peace's fifth novel, is a gripping, tautly plotted dramatisation of the miners' strike in which real events (Orgreave, the Brighton bomb) and real people (Arthur Scargill, Margaret Thatcher, Ian MacGregor) mingle imperceptibly with his creations. "This novel", he notes in the acknowledgements, "is a fiction, based on fact" and those who recall The Comic Strip Present's Hollywood skit Strike will be happy, to discover that Peace does not take liberties with the strike's trajectory. Key events are faithfully chronicled here but his 1984 is, arguably, as sinisterly dystopian as anything Orwell could have envisioned.

How, perhaps, could it not be? His novel plunges into the very heart of the darkest days of Thatcherism. Inhabiting, in prose, so gaunt in places it feels as though it could easily have been lifted from surveillance reports, a political epoch when fear about an imminent nuclear apocalypse led to "99 Red Balloons" topping the charts and Mrs Thatcher declared open season on the striking miners, branding them the enemy within.

The nefariousness of the government's overt and covert campaigns against the miners is tapped a la James Ellroy for their full dramatic effect. In Stephen "The Jew" Sweet, a strike-bashing arch-media manipulator and his driver-cum-henchmen Neil Fontaine with his neo-Nazi hirelings, Peace represents the insidious practices of a state hell bent on crushing the dispute. While his portrayal of a hubristic Scargill and an NUM executive, beset by incompetence, corruption, bureaucracy and petty rivalries, depicts a union management hopelessly outflanked by comparison. The ordinary miners (whose plights are voiced by Peace in a couple of running narratives in Yorkshire dialect) are left to face the grind of the strike. Their desperation and, not unjustified paranoia, neatly illustrated by one striker's belief that Band Aid has been contrived to wrestle donations from the miners' charitable fund. --Travis Elborough

Important places

Orgreave (3)


Rotherham (8)


United Kingdom (21,421)

Other geographical areas

Yorkshire and The Humber (6,115)
North of England (7,026)