Although this book was published in 2005 the recent attention brought to it is due to the 2015 film adaption of the same name starring Nicholas Hoult. The title itself “Kill Your Friends” may appear to be a solely for shock and controversy but truly that lies in the contents of the book itself. Personally, I was drawn to it because of the tagline placed underneath the book in my local Waterstones suggesting it to be for fans of Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho”. The promise intrinsically was that it would be another cult classic. Although there are similarities the focus is more grounded in the atmosphere of the 90’s where music was in the palm of a disingenuous few. Niven’s book decides to remove the glamour from the music industry and show the seedy underbelly that we never see when we listen. The real genius of the book is the realism it provokes in the reader that it scarce in Ellis’s novel. Niven’s prolonged exposure working in the music industry is the foundation of this work, the main character Steven Stelfox is a cynical, greedy and solely unprofessional A&R agent for a recording company, he embodies the truth behind not just what goes into the production of your favour hits but what bodies must lie in the way to get there.
“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.”
Yes, there is murder much like the title promises, but it is the keen and clever atmosphere that Niven produces which makes us question just how easy it would be to avoid persecution in a business that bases its ethos on one-upping the little guy and mass manipulation of acts. We understand that those at the top of the food chain are usually the ones least deserving, but their talent in playing games and climbing the ladder of success matches the natural talent produced by their clients. As the book unravels we are lead into a dark abyss of backroom deals and debauchery, however, it is deeply enjoyable. There is a freshness to the filth of the book, it’s intended to be crude and raise a few if not all reader’s eyebrows, making it incredibly addictive and deeply hilarious. You are intrigued by how Steven will succeed when he is surrounded by “sharks” which are also his “friends”, how low he is willing to go to keep his job and the ravenous depravity he so enjoys to bask in. Much like the soundtrack of a film the music is a backdrop, it is irrelevant until it’s a hit, therefore, if you are wishing to know how your favour artist got to where they are, the promise of a twinkling-eyed underdog story, it is not here. Rather this is a story of how the top dog came to be. I would suggest this for those who wish to take the time out of the social confines of their life to roll with the carnal desires only the elite get a chance to experience, usually with blood on their hands.
When I sat down to watch this film I purposely tampered with my expectations. I had read the book first so the idea I was going to be disappointed was firmly placed in my mind, when does the film ever live up to the book? Furthermore, I felt like the trailer must have deceived me as the music ( Rudimental – Good Thing ft John Newman in case you were wondering, brilliant song) was so catchy and the editing so hyper and lively that the film couldn’t live up to this promotional video.Much like the novel had taught me, music can be manipulative. However, when the credits rolled I found myself more than impressed.
Firstly I shall say that Nicholas Hoult was an amazing choice for Steven. I was very wary of this casting because I was worried I wouldn’t be able to shake seeing him as Tony Stonem. Sex, drugs and partying…Skins anyone? However he actually delivers effortlessly, he brings a youth to the character that actually makes him more relatable to the audience. Someone who has been thrown into success and is terrified of losing it. The film condensed the book in such a way that we get the most pivotal scenes so the story is coherent. This film is far from lackluster and remains fast-paced and vivid throughout. The actor playing Parker Hall ( Tom Riley) nailed it, he was just as I imagined him in the book, especially with being instantly dislikable. The casting overall was pretty spot on especially DC Woodham but any description of his performance would be a spoiler so I shall just let you enjoy that when you see it. I will say aside from this film being a well-made book adaptation, it takes a more sympathetic narrative than the novel. This is most likely so the audience is not constantly viewing the events unfolding through the lens of an egomaniac with no soul. The cinematography was gorgeous, a lot of stark contrasts between the colourful clubs, the dark hotel rooms. and the brightly lit boardrooms. Overall this gave the film a sense of realism, it was not just approaching the filming process with one style in mind, much like the music industry. Of course, the soundtrack of the film is also fantastic and the fake group “The Lazies” were surprisingly great I am sad they do not exist. Here are my favourite tracks, I suggest listening to them while reading the book if you really want to amerce yourself although I will warn that it may distract you:
- Overload – Bastille
- Cigarettes & Alcohol – Oasis
- Heroes – Frida Sundemo
- Blowin’ Up The Spot – Gang Starr
- Return of the Mack (C&J Radio Edit) – Mark Morrison
- Blood Hands – Royal Blood
If you loved the book there is no reason you should not adore this. If you have not read the book I suggest you read it before watching, as with most films. Either way, you will enjoy ‘Kill Your Friends’. It’s sordid, crude and unapologetic. What more could you want?
If you have watched or read ‘Kill Your Friends’, let me know in the comment section!
Side photo credit: Flickr/ ‘Vinyl’ by Rudeboi Studio