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Kill Your Friends: A Novel
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Kill Your Friends: A Novel

3.8  ·  Rating Details ·  4,752 Ratings  ·  416 Reviews
AS the twentieth century breathes its very last, with Britpop at its zenith, twenty-seven-year-old A&R man Steven Stelfox is slashing and burning his way through London’s music industry. Blithely crisscrossing the globe in search of the next megahit—fueled by greed and inhuman quantities of cocaine—Stelfox freely indulges in an unending orgy of self-gratification. But ...more
ebook, 352 pages
Published October 6th 2009 by HarperCollins e-books (first published February 4th 2008)
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John Niven is what would happen if Nick Hornby got into a terrible car crash and punctured the lobe where politeness lives. I had a heck of a time getting into his novel "Kill Your Friends," since I'm not exactly fluent in vitriol. It is pages and pages of a man angrily screaming British slang for cocaine in your face, spit foaming at the corners of his mouth.

Steven Stelfox is an A&R dude negotiating the Brit pop scene in the 1990s. It's a cruel, cruel place where everyone is trying to find
Jan 21, 2014 Anton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is daaaaaaark. If it was any blacker you'd need UV light to read it. My initial impression was that it was 'American Psycho' minus the violence. Then the violence began.
Whereas 'American Psycho' parodied American corporate 80s excess to the extreme, 'Kill Your Friends' parodies the record industry in 90s Britain. Steven Stelfox is an A&R man for a well-known music label in 1997's London. His job is to discover hits and make the company a buttload of money. He doesn't spend a lot of
Jun 04, 2016 Ray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Soundtrack - D:Ream - things can only get better

It is 1997 - the time of Cool Britannia and Things Can Only Get Better. Tony Blair is the fresh faced Prime Minister of a Britain that is newly energised, forward looking and on the up

Soundtrack - Stiff Little Fingers - Rough Trade / Pulp - Common People / The Clash - Death or Glory

Stephen Stelfox is an A&R man for a London based record company. It is his job to spot and nurture new bands. Sadly the job is all about securing product to sell to
Ian Mapp
Jul 26, 2010 Ian Mapp rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: humour
Easily the winner of the funniest book of the year - possibly ever.

There are more jokes and truths on one page of this book than in the whole of other works of fictions. Its hard to describe - a bit like Patrick Bateman from American Psycho going to indie discos.

It tells the story of Steven Stelfox, an A and R man in the late 1990s and truely one of the most despicable charachters in fiction. His deeds are bad enough but you also get his inner monologue - the things he filters out are beyond bel
Jul 18, 2010 Joshua rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
While I like satire this book by John Niven is satire so vile, degrading and sort of scabrous that it was just too much. There's absolutely no nuance as it's just hammer away by Niven, scene after scene, chapter after chapter of debauched antics. Too bad too as the setting, the music Q & R world in Loncon circa 1997 is rife with the chances to ruffle some feathers. Niven though shows he has no restraint in anything--writing style, plot pacing, nothing.

Usually for one of these books about a
Tattered Cover Book Store
"Kill Your Friends" is a special breed of novel. Reading it, I felt like I was looking through a particularly wide peephole into a sordid world of drugs, sex, and booze populated by soulless characters who somehow live among us. Needless to say, I was hooked. Steven Stelfox is an A&R rep for a major British music label in 1997. His whole world revolves about doing anything --be it illegal, immoral, or just plain wrong -- to get a hit record. This novel is full of fun British slang that I fin ...more
Allison Tynan
Oct 09, 2013 Allison Tynan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good grief! I'm not sure that I should admit to having read this book never mind give it four stars. Imagine the guys who produce Nuts sniffing several Gs of Chang with vodka Redbull chasers getting together and writing a novel, this would be it. Steven Stelfox the antihero is an A&R rep for a major British music label in 1997 and he'll do absolutely anything to further his cause no matter how utterly depraved it might be. I was so shocked in places (mainly the graphic sex scenes) that I had ...more
Feb 09, 2009 Rob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. This is without a doubt the most accurate depiction of the record industry that has been novelized. Having lived it myself during the same period this was about (late 90's) i had many a flashback. In order to really see something you have to step away and return with clarity. Although the main character in this novel, a London A&R rep trying to deal with the changing climate of the industry at the beginning of the internet age, abuses himself more than ...more
Mar 04, 2012 David rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I was given this book and The Second Coming in a publisher's double offer, neatly wrapped up together in a cellophane wrapper. I can only surmise that this is the literary equivalent of someone posting two turds in an envelope through your letter box.

I gave up reading this book after 100 pages. Perhaps it's because I have read so many good books recently that this one seemed awful in comparison; perhaps it just is a terrible book? Either way, I couldn't stand the thought of forcing myself to rea
Jul 21, 2010 Lyn rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mark Wilson
Jun 12, 2012 Mark Wilson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
In lesser hands the hateful protagonist of this novel would be unreadable. Not so in Niven's capable grasp.
Stelfox is racist, rude, sexist, ruthlessly ambitious and wonderfully honest (at least in how he sees the world). That Niven allows such a fantastic bastard like Stelfox to triumph throughout the book is testament to the man's ability to make you like and even care about his horrific main character. Y
You laugh when you know you should not and grimace at his too accurate and too severe desc
Jd Dunn
Aug 19, 2013 Jd Dunn rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Vile, horrendous, racist chauvinist and utterly believable: protagonist Stelfox is the ultimate anti-hero.

This is my favourite book. It is hilarious. I found myself reading it slack-jawed, mouth hanging open on the commute, then letting out a giggle at the most incredibly inappropriate things.

Reading other reviews, some people have been offended by this book - which is no surprise. If you're easily offended, leave it on the shelf - or try and remember that it is a work of fiction in the first pe
Feb 20, 2012 Mira rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Someone told me an old band of mine was mentioned in this book, and it's true! My old band from my distant youth does get a mention.

My goodness but this is brimming with vitriol. This is a fierce tumble through a year in the 1990s through the eyes of a ex-A&R guy who really was there in the 90's music mania. It feels mega authentic, especially if you've lived through it because all the name checks and band references are so on the button.

A bit of a tough read because the protagonist is misog
Jul 29, 2011 Karl rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
A very poorly written book that simply tried too hard to be funny and shocking, but ends up being too direct to be either. A real shame that a satire on the music industry could not be a bit more clever and original.
Feb 12, 2009 Melusina rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book is so awful, I couldn't even be bothered to finish it (which I usually don't do). Really, really horrible. The writer cannot pull off his Bret Easton Ellis impersonation and it is, quite frankly, a book even emptier and more astonishingly boring than Ellis' creations.
Justin Bauer
Apr 15, 2013 Justin Bauer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel as though I am some sort of hipster when it comes to my favorite author in that he’s relatively unheard of in the States. Having never met another American acquainted with his work before my meddling, I simply want to document the unlikely events that directed me to discovering John Niven.

Niven is a Scottish author who has five published books on record with two more scheduled to be released this year, including his first nonfiction piece about The Clash. His full length debut Kill Your F
Sabina Safarova
Whenever I give 3 stars to a book, it means I have no idea what to think about it.
The book is absolutely dismal, the darkest dark of a human. Although I’m not sure I can call the lead character a human. I just don’t want to.
The story tells many real (=dark) aspects of the British music industry at the time of Spice Girls, Radiohead and Robbie Williams. People working in that filed know all about it, and the book is narrated by one of them – an Artist and Repertoire Manager, whose mind is burst
I have literally just finished this book. I really struggled to give it a rating. It's hard to have enjoyed but hated a book so much all the way through. I was completely engrossed, I couldn't put it down, I needed to know what happened next. And yet I hated it all the way through. I've never loathed a character as much as I did.

The amount of things that were happening, the language, the views of women and the music industry, the jumping about from one thing to another made me feel lost. The vi
May 01, 2013 Nigeyb rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's been a good few years since I read this book, however I remember devouring it. I also remember one moment that caused me to laugh so much I had tears rolling down my face. This is a very, very dark book, and not for the feint hearted. It's also a brilliantly told tale of the excesses and foolishness of the British music industry during the boom years of Brit Pop. I must reread it again soon.
Feb 10, 2010 Salle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's a typical "man-book".
It's so cynical and evil...but I loved it.

Actually on 10 pages he's talking 3 of them about sex, 3 about drugs and 4 about music and these horrible bands and his collegues. And yes, there is a murder...

You have to read it. It's far better than "Vollidiot" from Tommy Jaud.
Peter Macinnis
To be blunt, I couldn't be bothered finishing this. I got half-way through chapter 2 and then asked myself "What am I doing here?"

Getting no intelligible answer, I walked away. I'm glad i got it from a library . . .
Apr 16, 2013 Daan rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Tries to be a London version of American Psycho -fails.
Gary Griffiths
Oct 18, 2016 Gary Griffiths rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Read this immediately following Born to Run, the beautiful, life-affirming, rock-n-roll-can-save-you memoir by Bruce Springsteen. Kill Your Friends has two things in common with this. Firstly, it's about music. Secondly, it's fucking brilliant
Aside from these two things the two books are utterly distinct. Kill Your Friends is aggresively macabre. Grim. Filthy. But it also made me laugh out loud several times. This has never happened to me before despite so many book covers promising it. It's rel
Apr 13, 2014 Naomi rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I've read "American Psycho" by Bret Easton Ellis, and "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess, so I am not unfamiliar with novels that contain a lot of violence or depravity, nor do I automatically dislike them. For that matter, I have read, and greatly enjoyed, several works by Chuck Palahniuk, who is also known for works that contain elements that are difficult to stomach as a reader. Despite all of this, I did not like "Kill Your Friends" by John Niven at all.

I think my problem with this nove
Peter Carroll
Apr 16, 2014 Peter Carroll rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A friend gave me a loan of this a long while back but I wasn't sure about reading it. I abandoned American Psycho near the end after becoming tired of the endless descriptions of designer clothing and the sexual violence, which got more and more gratuitous and unpleasant as the book went along. Some reviewers compared Kill Your Friends to that book, so I put off starting it. I can see why they are compared but I found Niven's book far more engaging for a number of reasons.

The main character, Ste
Mar 31, 2014 Derrick rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2-star, fiction
Don't read this.
It's not a terrible book, but it's terrible.
I picked this book up bc it said it was incredibly dark, and it blatently told me it was a terrible book. Terrible in the way that the main character sympathizes with Jeffrey Dalmer and doesn't stop doing lines of coke the entire book. I mean I'm not judging; a line every now and then is fine really, but he was out of his mind, the majority of the time.
And for the record, I don't believe sympathizing with Dalmer is ever okay.
May 05, 2016 Poisoner rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ok, I'm going to be straight with you.

If you're the king of person that needs to relate with a character, or rather like him, in order to invest in his story and you have, guided by good marketing and cover design, picked up this book, put it back. It's not the book for you.

The protagonist is a degrading, racist, misogynistic pig that really competes with the worst of the worst on the scale of "How bad" from 0 to Hitler. And he does so with a smile. A damn engaging smile. But what really gets on
Jul 12, 2010 Rob rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's 1997, Tony Blair is about to storm to power and the music industry is still fuelled by Britpop without realising it's running on fumes. Steven Stelfox, a foul-mouthed A&R man with unsavoury sexual preferences and a terrifying cocaine habit is our guide through the murky workings of the industry: the backstabbing, bigotry and over-riding cluelessness about music. The cavalcade of florid abuse and hedonism is entertaining for a while, as he attempts to further his own career by gambling o ...more
Richard Block
Dec 11, 2015 Richard Block rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
British Psycho

Combining Brett Easton Ellis and the Thick of It, John Niven's black comedy is both derivative and original. The idea of having such a blacker than black anti-hero goes back to Jim Thompson's Killer Inside Me - which this book strangely echoes, but is redeemed by the foul mind of the Scotsmen Niven, who judging from this and later efforts, is one hell of a mad bastard, but in a good way.

His creation, Steven Stellfox is a music business monster with a psychotic streak. Of course, he
Tom Loock
As I'm always on the lookout for humour, dark or light (as long as it's of the intelligent kind), I fell victim to Kill Your Friends by John Niven whose novel The Second Coming I'd read and enjoyed, when I saw The Times called it "Cripplingly funny" and other critics sang the same tune.
Well, it isn't cripplingly funny. It has maybe a handful funny moments, but as as a whole it is vile, degrading and all in all pretty boring.
Once you make it through the first two chapters, you may as well stop,
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Born in Irvine, Ayrshire, Niven read English Literature at Glasgow University, graduating in 1991 with First Class honours. For the next ten years, he worked for a variety of record companies, including London Records and Independiente. He left the music industry to write full time in 2002 and published his debut novella Music from Big Pink in 2005 (Continuum Press). The novella was optioned for t ...more
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“Yeah, beware the small man... Always beware the small man. He'll fuck you every time. Because they never forget, do they? All that grief they got at school. Over and over, and for the rest of their miserable short-arsed lives, someone's got to pay.” 17 likes
“Here’s the important thing to say about meetings – nothing important ever got decided in a meeting. The place to get your own way is over lunch, in someone’s office, in the corridor, over drinks, dinner, anywhere but in a fucking meeting. What meetings are very good for, however, is stitching people up – undermining, belittling and humiliating them.” 4 likes
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