Savoy Books 
Old Death

David Britton



246mm x 174mm

Hard covers

First publication


ISBN 978-0-86130-131-7

Old Death

Old Death is David Britton's eighth novel, completed just months before his death in December 2020. It is thirty-two years since his contentious first novel, Lord Horror, was published to acclaim and notoriety in equal parts, after it was seized by Manchester police and became the first novel banned in England since Last Exit to Brooklyn in 1967. Britton received a jail term of four months for its publication, preceded by a shorter term for the sale of other novels in his bookshops.

In this posthumously published novel Lord Horror steps into his creator's shoes, to become Death himself. Soon to claim his prize. But for now he wanders Holy Auschwitz, allowing the author to bid farewell to his characters. Meng & Ecker, Ozymandias and the crew of the Kraft Durch Freude, the dog boys and others of old, rub shoulders with the new new – the Rooster of Birkenau, the monstrous Der Struwwelpeter (Warden of Auschwitz) and the Iron Bone Grinder ("a weird facsimile of The Bobs", the big dipper ride at Manchester's Belle Vue amusement park). Along the way, Superman's arch-enemy MR. MXYZPTLK, in the guise of an Ouroboros-like identity comprised of suffering humanity, puts in a grisly appearance, whilst in Meng & Ecker's newly opened Auschwitz café, characters from The Beano and The Dandy sit down to lunch. The Rabbi of the Treblinka Church tries to 'save' Old Death, so that he can live "a long afterlife", but Death, "on his high horse", will have nothing of it.

In Old Death, Britton airs his intentions as a writer for the first time, declaring the book to be "driven by a propulsion that kills good taste with outlandish humour. Swift and de Sade, you say." He further elaborates: "Morality, the game played by liberals, did not, under any circumstances, suit … Living has to be absurd, capable of giving a realistic insight into the darkest nightmares of mankind … Real satire, to be unequivocal, must be unfair, unreasonable, an inspired violent engine of a sustained single-minded vision."

Lord Horror began in a 'chaos bubble', the turmoil of Britton's attempt to climb from what was surely his ordained destiny in the factories of North Manchester, the suburbs of Harpurhey, Collyhurst and Moston where he grew up. Playing no small part in his escape were music and books, and it's a pointed irony that Howlin' Wolf's "When you see me runnin', you know my life is at stake" closes Mr Britton's final novel.

Continuing a trend begun with La Squab in 2012, Old Death is illustrated throughout by Kris Guidio.

Cover design by John Coulthart.

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