The Michael X story is a tragicomedy of the sixties. It's the extraordinary, all but forgotten story of a hustler from Trinidad who conquered swinging London. Michael X was the man who knew everyone - from Muhammad Ali to Alexander Trocchi, Malcolm X to John Lennon, William Burroughs to Leonard Cohen. He was an extraordinary figure who became the public face of black Britain in the late '60s, before the media tired of him and he fell victim to the hustler's classic mistake - believing his own hype. He moved back to Trinidad, started a commune and dreamed of becoming his country's President. Instead two dead bodies were found on his land and he was convicted of murder and hanged three years later, despite the best efforts of his celebrity supporters.
This biography expertly places Michael X in context. It evokes the many worlds he inhabited, both physical worlds - Trinidad in the '40s, Tiger Bay in the '50s, Notting Hill in the '60s - and cultural ones - emigrants, beatniks, revolutionaries.
The Michael X that emerges is not simply the black bogeyman familiar from the British press of the '60s, but a complex individual, full of contradictions: brash and insecure, funny and menacing, black and white, a trickster and as serious as your life.
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an absorbing book that adds up to rather more than one life ... There are excellent descriptions here of street demos and wild parties that have the authentic note of the times ... [John Williams] is diligent and often relishes his interviews with surviving relatives, friends and radicals... - Times
The life of Black Power leader Michael X is worth recalling even without its grisly ending...this biography tells a story that covers the great changes in London between the mid-Fifties and early Seventies - Nicholas Blincoe, Telegraph
This spakling biography is a treat from start to finish ... A portrait of the times he lived in as much as the man himself. - Sainsbury's Magazine
The truth about this complex and contradictory man ... has finally been brought to light - Dazed and Confused
[An] engrossing biography. Michael X does a remarkable job of contextualising for a younger generation that may scarcely have heard of him the long-gone world of someone who once laid claim to being 'the most famous black man in Britain'... a less skilful biographer might have settled for painting Michael x as a colourful trickster and imposter who got his just deserts. The reality, as Williams shows, is much more complex ...That this is also a story told with compassion makes it all the more readable - The Independent
Williams doesn't seek to redeem X, but to understand him in his full, devious complexity - Time Out
It's a fascinating story...this is the perfect match of subject and biographer, and a thoroughly engrossing and bracingly intelligent read - Matt Thorne, Catholic Herald
Absorbing, politically and socially astute - Marcel Berlins, The Guardian
fascinating - The Spectator
About the Author
John Williams is the author of six books, most noticeably his Cardiff trilogy and Bloody Valentine (which the police force tried unsuccessfully to ban). John currently writes for the Mail on Sunday, having worked for the Independent; The Sunday Times; NME and as contributing editor of GQ magazine. He was born in Cardiff where he lives now.