Barry Hines: A Kestrel for a Knave

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve mocked up covers for this novel, which is one of my favourite books. This, I promise, will be the final definitive mock-up. I’m not naive enough to believe this could ever happen, but if I were able to design and illustrate a new edition of the book then I could probably retire, confident in the knowledge that I had achieved all I set out to do and now had absolutely nothing left to prove.

Barry Hines, a fellow Yorkshireman was a great writer, possessed of what another author described as his “iron integrity”. Utterly grounded in his place and the reality of the times he lived through, he never deviated from his true calling and never wrote a weak book in his life.

A Kestrel For A Knave has never been out of print, and gone through numerous editions, including this classic edition from the 1970’s, the one we had when studying it for English O-level in 1984:

That cover, I’ve often said, could be the official flag of Yorkshire. It says everything you need to know about my homeland.

When it was first published in the 1960’s, this was the remarkable dustcover design:

This is my 2014 painting inspired by the book, prints of which are still available:

A Kestrel For A Knave (2014)

And, finally, while I’m at it, here’s John Cameron’s hugely evocative soundtrack to Ken Loach’s film adaptation, which remains one of the greatest British films ever made. Kids always get upset by the ending, but as my old man said to me when I first saw it: “Kes lives, lad. And don’t let anyone tell you different.”

John Cameron – Kes

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