Days of Throbbing Gristle

Young Adult - Action
821 Pages
Reviewed on 06/19/2014
Buy on Amazon

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Author Biography

Kevin Cole was born in New York, raised in Texas, and now lives in Belgrade with his Serbian wife and their fat black cat.

Mr. Cole enjoys historical fiction, such as Gore Vidal, and fake historical fiction, like George R. R. Martin. He writes fake historical fiction set in the recent past.

Aside from making things up, Mr. Cole is fascinated by languages and economics, which have a lot in common with literature. "It's all made up," he likes to tell people, especially after the third beer.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Kathryn Bennett for Readers' Favorite

Days of Throbbing Gristle by Kevin Cole introduces us to Samuel Henry Hay who, in 1987, is travelling to America. He is a teenager who wishes to escape from the life of poverty he has in Sheffield, England. He has one goal when he travels to the state of Texas - to get his host family to pay his way into university. While he has a talent for scheming and his plan seems to be working, Sam also seems to find disaster and his senior year of high school might unravel his plans.

If you want to read a coming of age story that is dirty and gritty, but also has humor and a wide range of characters to enjoy, then Kevin Cole has created the book for you. From the moment I picked this book up I was drawn into its world and I could tell it was not your typical first bit of fluff. It is a solid, well written book with content you can truly sink your teeth into. Sam is an interesting character. At first I was not sure if I liked him. I tend not to like manipulative characters. However, the more I learned about him and the deeper I went into the story with everything going on, I grew to like him. The world he lives in is enjoyable and to me, overall, the book was a success. I truly enjoyed Days of Throbbing Gristle and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who enjoys a good work of fiction.


Right. So this makes for quite the twisty, twirly ride of the absolute head scrambling variety; delighting in randomness and unpredictability.

Excellent stuff.

I can honestly say, I had little idea what the hell to expect the entire way through…as is my nature, I frequently theorised my ass off, taking stabbing guesses, but not once did I hit even close to the mark; this I found refreshing and infuriating, both.

DoTG is the fictional memoir of Samuel Henry Hay, recounting that pivotal first year following his move from Sheffield, UK, to Texas in the late eighties.

Against the backdrop of the life-defining music scene (specifically, God given Rock & Roll), a disenchanted 17yo Sam works through a stupendously eventful (and often hilarious) settling in period, where adventures –more to the point, misadventures –come thick and fast.

Odd, flawed and cynical (witty with it) …Sam’s is certainly a most intriguing head to squat in. Sparks of genius blurring with utter idiocy, equally as pretentious and delusional as he dubs his peers of being, I enjoy the love-to-hate reaction he evokes.

Likeable? Not so much. Relatable? Absurdly, very much so.

As for his supporting cast: all are given developmental attention. Each very unique personality -no matter how small, (from horrendously disturbing R&Q to self-absorbed Princess Chelsea)- has a backstory which acts to colour their reactions and behaviours, giving reason to their role.

Some of the situational drama edges into the bizarre and/or ridiculous, sure, but the skill in which it’s written earns it an easy pass. The comedic tone, strong dialogue and brilliant descriptive style blends to great effect.

And the ending? BOOM… WTH? That hit with impact. Still recovering.

So, ok, yeah: Not a quick, skimmable read by any stretch, this hefty coming-of-age novel (and yes, it is very much a long one) is layered and thought provoking in every aspect, well deserved of soaking-in time.

A few negatives (for balance, ya know):

Otherwise impressively tight writing is knocked a whack by typo slips and constancy errors (Words, sentences and- in one case- a full paragraph are repeated; Neil is occasionally spelt Neal; Jim and Joe suffer mix ups; Rebecca becomes Renée, to note but a few).

As much as I appreciate, and mostly enjoy, the side track stories giving the lovely depth to characters, I think, in some cases (such as Inocente), they veer way too far off, crossing into irrelevant territory. The book isn’t uncomfortable in its length but there are a few notable incidences where I think a brutal cut would have been beneficial.

The part in New Orleans felt overly convoluted –too much going on, all jumpy-jumbled together.

And, lastly, I do feel certain aspects and references lost me somewhat (I was 5 in 87). Some of these I resolved to rectify with a little research, others I settled with a grasp of the gist. Minor things, don’t feel it detracted, particularly…and pretty much reflects more on me than the story.

Drama, humour, action and villainous villains: Recommend, folks.


This long and enjoyable novel is about Samuel Henry Hay, a very troubled English teen who heads to America in the tail-end of the 1980s in an attempt to escape his poverty-stricken life in England. It's a coming of age story of a young manipulative boy who, through his failed attempts at maturity, his successful awakenings, his struggles of will power and domination by more powerful figures in his life, along with various fun and dangerous escapades, slowly becomes a young, more stable adult. This is no short fiction first novel; the author takes you through a year in the life of Hay as he attends high school in Texas as an exchange student. While the story is an immersive experience for readers, catching all the double entendres, musical and literary allusions is part of the tapestry of the story itself. (I hadn't even heard of the band Days of Throbbing Gristle before reading this book...)

After being in Sam's head all through the book, I found myself wanting a normal life for the protagonist, Samuel Hay. I recognized early on this was no fairy tale, assuredly, but wanted things to "work out" for the characters (they "deserved" it somehow). An American Happy Ending. Without giving anything away, I will say this intense roll coaster book will flip and turn the story and change, sometimes subtly, sometimes abruptly, your expectations of what is going to happen next. And it all fits together. Mr Cole does a phenomenal job of keeping the story on the same POV since the very opening scene, of evolving the characters while building the momentum and ensuring the story successfully sets up the next turn of events.

The book toys with the reader as much as or more than the characters toy with each other (expectations, assumptions and emotions). You'll cringe at things the young Sam Hays says and does, you'll laugh at his wit and perhaps you'll recognize your high school years in the "literary" notes passed between the characters as they quote really bad music lyrics with the passion only teenagers can truly feel with such terrible drama and narcissism.

This is the story of a young but already world-weary prat with venomous attitude wrapped around and inside him as a protective shield against a world he's come to know as uncaring and antagonistically ambivalent. And the moment that finally opens and the crack in that shield seems ready to open... well, read it yourself and find out.

I was very impressed by this book as a first novel. It captures the turbulent mindset of teens while offering some really tight, well-written and even quotable prose. I look forward to reading more from Mr Cole and recommend this book to anyone who wants to get fully immersed in a story.


In the sea of new digital releases, DOTG stands out for its wordsmanship. I would recommend it to young adults and people in their 30s and 40s, as the story is certainly not for everyone and might shock a senior or two.

A study in the youth of the now middle-aged Generation X, the book will take you back to the world of plenty that was the US in the late 1980s. A poor young man from Britain arrives in this world - Texas no less - and almost immediately throws himself into drugs, sex and goth rock he thought he had forever left back in good ole England.

For fear of plot-spoiling, I will say no more about where the story takes Samuel Hay. Suffice it to say it would make a good indie movie.