Released: July 2014
Literature has many hateful and reviled characters, but perhaps none in recent memory as perverse and villainous as Steven Stelfox – the narcissistic, misanthropic, ‘chang’-snorting music rep of John Niven’s dastardly and outrageous Kill Your Friends. This is a character who, despite his increasingly atrocious behaviour, is insanely entertaining to read about.
Steven Stelfox is a cold-hearted, vicious creep who consumes cocaine for breakfast, lunch and dinner. He’s a high-flying music industry A&R agent – a man whose job means pretending to be the nice guy while secretly wishing his co-workers and clients dead. Patrick Bateman 2.0.
Back in the 1990s, when A&R still meant scouting talent from gigs around the country, networking with managers and generally attempting to foresee the trends before they even hit, Stelfox is a shark among the fishes. This doesn’t mean he’s good at his job, far from it in fact. As he keeps reminding us throughout, being successful in his line of work involves, above all, the sheer luck to get ONE. BIG. HIT. His job is simply a way to enable his addictions: to drugs, sex and sociopathic behaviour. In fact, Stelfox seems to detest music, and his colleagues enrage him. We see that the general music-buying public are both infuriatingly easy to manipulate, as well as ridiculously hard to predict, making Stelfox’s job depressing and beyond stressful.
When Stelfox comes up against his nemesis Tony Parker-Hall, an A&R man who actually (god forbid) seems to enjoy and respect his job, his world starts to come crazily crashing down around him. His desperate antics to avoid becoming overshadowed and obsolete in the music biz have a dangerous impact on himself, and others unlucky enough to get in his way.
An extreme look at the filthy and shocking truth of what goes on behind the curtain of the modern(‘ish’, it is set in the ‘90s) music scene, the charm of Kill Your Friends is how utterly wrong it feels to find it so enjoyable. It’s this cynical appeal that makes the book so readable. John Niven has crafted an excellent tale about the shallow, twisted reality of the music industry, and the vice and depravity of man. Niven’s book is a great read. If you see anyone laughing out loud while reading this book, be concerned, they’re probably a terrible person – which makes the fact that I publicly guffawed multiple times at Kill Your Friends even worse.