Kill All Enemies

“If a children’s author like Burgess didn’t exist, we would most definitely have to invent him.” — The Guardian

Kill All Enemies

About the book

Billy is a fighter – even her own mum doesn’t want her at home.  Rob is a bully – this is the second school so far he’s been thrown out of for fighting. And Chris just won’t work – refuses point bank to do a stroke out of school. All three of them are in the process of getting excluded from their various schools. They’re all going to meet up – and they’re all going to try to find answers to their problem in their own inimitable ways …

Have you ever wondered about all those statistics we read about? The young people who are chucked out of school – the losers, the wasters … the kids no one wants? I Remember when I was a kid thinking about those kids – rough as hell, dangerous kids – the sort of people no one wanted you to mix with or have anything to do with?

But what’s the real story behind them?

To find out, I went into Pupil Referral Units (PRU’s, where excluded students are sent) around the North West, as well as to other places where people got together out of school, and I asked them to tell me their stories.  I found out what I think I always suspected. So many of those people weren’t losers, they weren’t wasters – they were heroes; real, one hundred per cent modern heroes. It’s just that they had other priorities than school …

Kill All Enemies is a celebration of the lives of young people who have other things to worry about than just school – and who are just penalised for it.


Reactions and Reviews

The Guardian, 3rd September 2011 — Great review by Tony Bradman here

Julia Eccleshare in the Guardian, her autumn round up, very complimentary — here

The Independent, 12th September 2011 — good review by Nick Tucker here.

The Daily Telegraph 12th September, nice little review by Toby Clements — here.

The Daily Telegraph, 10th October 2011 – another review from the Telegraph — here.
Very appreciative, although she takes time to slate Nicholas Dane. Nick Dane – a much hated book in this country. I must own to a couple of mistakes, but I remain very very proud of it. It went down very well in France, though. I think they got the structure there …

Great review from Fluttering Butterflieshere.

Review from the Bookwitch here.

Very appreciative from Chicklish here.  — “There are times of breath-taking suspense as well as many touching moments, and dialogue and characters that made me smile. I love the way the significance of the book’s title changes in the course of the novel, and I found the ending beautifully moving.”  

I very much appreciate this review from The Bookzone4boys here — “Whoever you are, I challenge you not to be affected by the story and its characters, and I know many a tear will be shed by readers of Kill All Enemies.”

Some interesting reviews from readers at goodreads.com here.

A marvelous review from Welovethisbook. — “Burgess is BACK! This is a truly gripping and stirring novel which will certainly make you rethink the concept of the “ideal” family dynamic.”

Here’s a good one from Sugarscape — “Melvin Burgess has really exceeded himself this time, that’s saying something! With over ten books in the past Burgess has built up quite a library and he just keeps getting better.”  

You can find an interview with me on the Pat Kenny show on RTE radio here. 

“Burgess is back with an uncompromising look at three troubled teens heading for the Pupil referral Unit. I couldn’t put this down – his best since Junk.” — The Bookseller

“I think the key to Mr B’s book is to be seen in one of the views expressed by Hannah (one of the characters): ‘Our kids have all got issues, but at least they’re characters’ – and the three of them are certainly terrific characters, vibrantly brought to life by Melvin, not least in their wonderful banter. As Chris’s mum says at one point, ‘The kids here aren’t losers…they just have problems, the same as other people’. It is the fact that all three of them so clearly hang on to their humanity in spite of everything society throws at them that makes them so likeable – and yet Melvin manages to convey this without in any way sentimentalising them. It is a very considerable achievement.

It is also an extremely funny book. I don’t, quite honestly, often laugh out loud at books these days (age brings a certain dignity, you realise) but the sequence involving Chris having his testicles stamped on by Billie, his reactions to this, his embarrassment with the nurses in hospital and then his method of making sure that the incident wouldn’t have any permanently disastrous consequences had me splitting my sides. And the later sequence involving the setting up of the band is equally hilarious.

It seems to me that this is Mr B on top form and I wouldn’t be surprised if it brings the sort of acclaim he enjoyed with Junk. In terms of theme and expression it is not as OTT as some of his more recent books – and I honestly think it is all the better for it. (The ‘rape’ episode involving Billie is very sensitively handled without in any way sacrificing the awfulness of such an experience). It is frank and fearless but never gratuitously so. Give the good man my congratulations.” — Robert Dunbar, one of Ireland’s most respected critics of Children’s literature.

“A new book by Burgess is always worth waiting for.  Kill All Enemies is an incredible insight into the minds, emotions and overwhelming vulnerability of 3 very ordinary teenagers, all written off as losers, no-hopers.

It’s brilliant to see that Burgess is back doing what he does best; giving a voice to the disenfranchised and misunderstood, exposing and explaining (but never excusing) what makes outwardly difficult teenagers behave the way they do.   These stroppy, spiky, often infuriating teenagers are far more troubled than troublesome and feel very real.  They’re hugely heroic characters you want to see triumph, deserving of our admiration not condemnation.  The way their stories come together in an uncomfortable but ultimately very hopeful at-a-sitting read is utterly compelling in its cleverness.  Simply stunning.” — Eileen Armstrong, Librarian.

Found Fiction

I love talking to people and doing research that way, and I’ve been fascinated for along time about the idea that, as the saying goes – “Everybody has at least one book in them.”

I don’t know if that’s true – but I do know that the way to get the best out of people is to let them tell their own stories in their own way. That way you get the story and voice in one go. This is what I call “found fiction,” – the stories we all have lying in our memories.

That doesn’t mean that the stories you and I have to tell are novels in themselves. Every writer knows that editing, dramatising, and interpreting events is an essential part of story telling. For me, writing is an exploration. You set up your events and characters and then try to explore them as best you can, via the imagination. And some surprising results come up. Exploring people and their stories imaginatively can lead to more interesting and revealing truths than the bald facts. Imaging how would it be to be a different person in a different situation is the best possible way of understand things that we stet off knowing very little about.

All this means that when people tell their stories, there is still along journey to go on, and for a writer of fiction, that’s a journey that will inevitably move away from the original tale. In the effort to understand and then to show that understanding, there is still a lot to add and a lot to take away. But it is absolutely the case that when someone tells you their story, you have the seeds of something there – the character and the story hand in hand. Kill All enemies is based on many people, who told me many stories. I hope they feel I’ve done justice to their remarkable, surprising stories, and the bravery, humour and conviction with which they’ve lived their lives.

The Band

Special thanks go to Metal Band, Kill All Enemies – Matt, the two Jamies and Nick. These talented lads gave me the title, as well as some real insight into their own lives. Catch up with them on their face book page – Kill All Enemies