chapter  5
22 Pages

‘Junior Romantic Anthropologist Bore’

Colin MacInnes’s Critical Adventures in Post-War Multiracial Britain
WithAlice Ferrebe

Colin MacInnes has never been exactly popular. Though he did work as a broadcaster for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), much of his journalism appeared in journals with readerships heavily circumscribed by educational opportunity and political affiliation, such as The Twentieth Century, New Left Review and Encounter. Even at the peak of his cultural prominence, his fiction, most notably the so-called ‘London Trilogy’ (1957–60), was only cultishly read and appreciated. This was despite some determined marketing as purely popular fiction: Ace Book’s reprint of City of Spades, the first novel of the trilogy, bore the tagline ‘The struggles to escape the violence of mean streets’ atop its pulp noir cover. 1 Yet MacInnes’s writings have sporadically been recognised as a markedly innovative attempt to document British popular culture after the Second World War. In the brief flurry of (posthumous) media attention that followed the 1983 publication of Tony Gould’s biography, MacInnes was credited with having ‘more or less invented youth culture’:

[H]is fleeting authority as a highbrow journalist in the 1950s and 60s was founded on his ready familiarity with the newly visible urban presence, not only of youth gangs, but also of the black immigrants and homosexuals from whom they borrowed much of their style. 2