Looks and Smiles was first published in the bad old days of
the early 1980s when the nefarious Margaret Thatcher ruled Britain. High fashion
was a L.E.D digital watch the size of a phone box and £23 a week on a Y.O.P Scheme
(ask your dad!) was considered more than adequate, young man.
Mick Walsh, the book's central character, is a good kid who happens to be born
at the wrong time in the wrong place. He wants to learn how to be a motorcycle
mechanic, but bad luck, inexperience, and tough economic times prevent him from
getting a job. At a disco one evening, he meets and dances with Karen Lodge whose
future is similarly bleak. She works in the local shoe shop and the pair hang
out with Mick's buddy, Alan who joins the army and ends up policing Northern Ireland.
As ever, Hines avoids sentimentality and tells it like it is, without ever relinquishing
hope and sympathy for his characters. Looks and Smiles is a classic piece of work,
a gritty and poignant bulletin from a forgotten period of British history.
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