Author(s): Adrian Johns
When the pirate operator Oliver Smedley shoots and kills his rival Reg Calvert in Smedley's country cottage on 21 June, 1966, it is a turning point in the careening career of the outlaw radio stations dotting the coastal waters of Britain. Situated on ships and offshore forts like Shivering Sands, these stations blasted away at the high-minded BBC's broadcast monopoly with the new beats of the Stones and The Who and DJs like Screaming Lord Sutch. For free-market ideologues like Smedley, the pirate stations were entrepreneurial efforts to undermine the growing British welfare state as embodied by the BBC. The worlds of high table and underground collide in a riveting story full of memorable characters like the Bondian Kitty Black, an intellectual femme fatale who becomes Smedley's co-conspirator, and the notorious Kray twins. This is rousing entertainment with an intellectual edge.
A treasure. . . . [Adrian] Johns portrays the British radio pirates not in the warm glow of sentimental memory that the period usually enjoys but in the historian 's cold bright light. - Randall Bloomquist
Adrian Johns is a professor of history at the University of Chicago. Educated at Cambridge University, Johns is a specialist on intellectual property and piracy.