kiloM Y Alam’s new book Kilo is a complex moral tale. It is the story of a young man – Khalil Khan – whose life is shattered by a violent attack. The incident turned Khalil – a law abiding young man – into Kilo who cuts his way through the underworld of Bradford streets. But the more Kilo succeeds in his life of crime the stronger the pull of his original values become. In the end he has to make a choice, sometimes it is necessary to do bad things.

M Y Alam was born and lives in Bradford. His is a unique take on both the nature of multicultural cities and the experience British born Pakistanis. He cites as his main influences Muhammad Ali, George Best, Hip Hop music and American gangster movies but not necessarily in that order. In the summer of 2002 he spoke to Les Back from Goldsmiths College Centre for Urban and Community Research about his new novel, the ‘riots’ of 2001 and the influence of Bradford on his work.

Les Back: Your new novel – Kilo – tells a complicated moral story through one character, could you say something about him?

M Y Alam: Yes, at one level this is about a drug dealer [Kilo]. But every time you see or even think about a drug dealer, there’s an instant effect where all these levers and switches start operating in your head. As a result, you make a judgement which itself depends on that instant impression of what that person is, what that person means. And what it means to be a drug dealer is somebody who, in Kilo’s words, is a purveyor of death and all that sort of thing. But Kilo, I think, is much more complicated than that. And that’s not to say that I’m really out to condone drug dealers, but I do think well hang on a second – surely drug dealers can’t be the two dimensional and simple entities we might believe them to be. I’m not trying to push the idea that all drug dealers have got this little tale of woe – this weight around their necks, but I do think we need to explore the motivations behind certain kinds of behaviour. There are no pathologies which fit the biographies of people who deal drugs but even so, I think the sad thing is that more and more drug dealers are just careerists. Whether that’s a reflection on them – as individuals – or a reflection on the way society is, isĀ something else but again, even that needs some consideration and that’s what I tried to do, at one level. So with Kilo, it’s me saying this is a drug dealer but he’s a good person. Morally he’s a very good person: he’s more moral than I’d ever be. But he sells drugs. Again that’s just one level, one take, one perspective on it.

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