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Savage Kicks So Hard to Beat

Savage Kick #3 review
by Tony O’Neill

sk3coverbanner.jpgThe new issue of Savage Kick, the tough kid of British lit magazines, is here. SK is the brainchild of Steve Hussy and Richard White, and Hussy is no slouch himself when it comes to writing: I was proud to recently write the introduction to his chapbook Steps. The problem with a lot of lit zines is that they have no clear sense of who they are, but this is not the case with Savage Kick. They have a very definite aesthetic: from the design to the words inside, SK has the tendency towards “if you like one story, you’ll like them all”. This issue, number 3, has pieces by Mark SaFranko (author of Hating Olivia), Frank Baron, Steve Hussy, and art by Joe Matt (“Peepshow”) and SK’s in-house designer Richard Watts. Jim Goad also provides a hilarious, no-holds-barred interview and short story.

SaFranko’s story “Haunting Refrain” is an intense piece of psychological drama, revolving around themes of jealousy, fame and murder. This tale of a man living in the shadow of his famous ex-band mate is told with a surgeon’s skill, and builds to an almost unbearable climax… SaFranko’s world is cynical, bleak and yet morbidly funny, and this piece was a firm favorite of mine.

Steve Hussy provides a follow up of sorts to Steps with “Wilson”, an acid rumination on workplace politics and self-loathing. Hussy’s writing is stripped to the bone and tough, and you can almost taste his bile as you read his work. And talking of bile, Frank Baron’s “2 Days – 2 nights” is similarly fuelled by rage and a sense of otherness: the story claims to be the work of a well-known face in the lit scene, who has disguised himself for this piece. Whether this in itself is a device or not I’m not sure, but the writing is almost uncomfortably personal at times, and despite this being a very unsentimental piece about marriage, love and sex, something warm does beat at its core… reading it, I had the sensation that I was flicking through someone’s diary, with all of the voyeuristic thrill that suggests.

Joe Matt’s surreal and highly personal comics are another highlight (although because of the magazine’s recent switch in format from A4, maybe this issue should have come with a free magnifying glass), as is the interesting – but brief – guide to comic book writers, by Richard White.

But in many ways, the magazine’s climax comes with the interview with Jim Goad, a writer whom – I have to admit – I wasn’t familiar with before reading this Q and A. However, after reading it, I am currently waiting for a copy of “Shit Magnet” to arrive from Amazon. Goad is fiery (explaining that his magazine Answer Me! was so titled because it was usually the last thing he yelled before hitting someone), smart and utterly without pretension. The interview ends with a Goad piece “Overture: Drowning In Shit” which is worth the price of admission alone.

Supporting small presses is a noble, but sometimes thankless task. But Hussy, White and crew have produced a beautiful-looking object that is literally packed with great writing. You will want to own this, and return to it again and again. Previous featured authors include Dan Fante and Joe R Lansdale (and copies of those issues may still be available).

Savage Kick also have a shop on eBay. There are numbered signed editions available, as well as standard and black and white for you cheapskates.

tonyoneill.jpgABOUT THE REVIEWER:
Tony O’Neill
is a leading light of the Offbeat Generation. He is the author of Digging the Vein, Songs From the Shooting Gallery and Seizure Wet Dreams. More details here.

First posted: Saturday, March 3rd, 2007.

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