Friday, 30 June 2017

Trevor Hoyle – An Introduction

Trevor Hoyle is a versatile English author, having published over 20 books ranging across genres, from mainstream novels, memoir, spy and suspense thrillers to acclaimed science fiction and drama, encompassing ecological disaster and football hooliganism along the way. Based outside the metropolitan cultural centres in unfashionable Rochdale, where he was born, grew up, and still follows the local football team as a season ticket holder at Spotland, he has (according to the SF Encyclopaedia) “most unusually, been able to apply an erudite surrealism to works directed towards a mass market.”

Trevor Hoyle (photo by Glyn Hughes)
Hoyle’s early training as an actor is reflected in his success as a dramatist and script-writer for television and radio, including the plays GIGO [Garbage In Garbage Out], inspired by his interest in quantum mechanics, which won a Radio Times Drama Award, and Randle’s Scandals: The Life and Liver of Frank Randle, about the subversive Lancashire comedian. He attributes the development of a distinctive method and literary style to the experience he gained working as an advertising copywriter in Manchester, which he describes as “the best training on the job a fiction writer can get.” Hoyle self-published his first book, The Relatively Constant Copywriter, in 1972, after it was rejected by 18 publishers; several of their responses are reproduced inside the book, concluding that whilst “interesting” and “well written”, “it is an uncommercial novel.”

After becoming a full-time author, Hoyle had a stint writing and presenting Granada TV’s weekly arts show What’s On, before the publication of Rule of Night in 1975, an unflinching look at social deprivation and urban violence from the perspective of a memorable anti-hero in teenage football hooligan Kenny Seddon. Rule of Night was a significant breakthrough for Hoyle, garnering critical praise both at the time and on its 2003 re-issue, with many reviewers noting echoes of A Clockwork Orange in this “powerfully authentic account of working-class life and gang violence.” His subsequent Q series of novels, incorporating parallel world theories and alternate realities, cemented his reputation as an innovative science fiction writer and led to his involvement in the BBC’s prime-time series Blake’s 7, writing scripts and producing novelizations of various episodes.

Hoyle has established himself as a highly productive author, producing successful ‘commercial’ work alongside more experimental fiction, notably 1979’s The Man Who Travelled On Motorways, “a multi-layered exploration of fantasy and reality, recollection and illusion, sex and terror and the dynamic nature of the collective unconscious”, and 1984’s Vail, described by the author as “a dystopian vision of Britain as a police state.” The ability to combine elements of different genres is amply evidenced by his epic novel of global complicity in climate change, The Last Gasp: first published in 1983 and revised in 1990, it was re-issued in 2016, having been extensively re-written to bring its themes up to date. With a strong cast of characters, a plot spanning decades and continents which interweaves corporate greed and ecological disaster with military and political interference in the environment, its cinematic qualities have been recognised by Hollywood studios taking a movie option on the book. Hoyle explains that “dystopian futures are much more interesting and filled with dramatic potential than utopian ones, which to a novelist is a definite attraction”. In many ways, The Last Gasp is not so much speculative science fiction as sober prediction, based on evidence and identifiable trends in world climate; as Andy Hedgecock put it, “Hoyle seems less like a prophet and more like a chronicler of imminent chaos.”


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