Open University grad pens potentially life-changing novel on lad culture and uni masculinity

‘There’s a balance between doing it for the boys and being a nice person’


When Jack Cole was kicked out of Oxford Brookes University in second year, after indulging in “certain habits”, he must have felt like the world was ending.

But now Jack has turned his life around and is publishing his first novel “On Cowley Road”, an ambitious manuscript about “lad culture”, “masculinity” and the dark side of uni life.

Jack says: “It’s written and published almost like a song. There are a lot of songs in it, not just football chants but it’s basically written like a top to bottom expression of uni experience in our time. There’s a lot of dark edgy stuff in there, like how crap the houses really were, how half the appliances were going to kill you and stuff like that.

“It also has a breakdown of the whole socials thing, football socials and what the football teams really get up to.”

Jack graduated this summer

The book, which will be released on 14th August, is self-published, with cover-art by one of the author’s friends, and will be sold on Amazon after release from the publisher.

Touting itself as “a parody of ‘masculinity’ in the twenty-first century”, On Cowley Road promises to “uncover the underground, unseen reality of what goes on in modern student life”. It promises to be a harrowing read “if it wasn’t so bloody humorous”.

The entire book is based in Cowley, the student area in Oxford

A blurb for the novel reads: “It’s the final three weeks of University for a group of men for whom masculinity has become an abstract word. Rampant lunacy is the only pursuit they relish, coupled with the burdening thought of having to ‘live it while you’re still young.’

“However, in amongst the heavy drinking, drug-taking, streaking and genuinely being dreadful members of society, the protagonist who documents the peculiar night-life of his city is torn in two over trying to make it with a girl he loves and feeding his tyrannical ego.”

Jack (far right) wrote the novel in six months

Jack maintains the book is not autobiographical, but says it contains many elements which are inspired by his life.

He said: “I got heavily involved with what was, to use the old vernacular, lad culture and dropped out, lived in Oxford for a while, for a year. I always wanted to write books so spent a lot of time involved in that, then went back to uni and graduated a month ago – which is good cause i never thought i would.”

Jack graduated this summer with a 2:2 in Environmental Sciences and is now planning to travel to Ecuador to teach English – but he says writing is his real passion.

Jack, originally from Croydon, is now doing a course at London School of Journalism

He explains: “I was writing the book before I dropped out of uni the first time around. I did Hemingway’s old thing of write drunk edit sober and I did that for probably about six months, or eight months deciphering what the hell I was going on about.”

An “author” section on his website reads: “The creator of this narrative is staunchly against the idea of the reader finding any basis for morality in this text. He is violently opposed to the dreary thought of ‘intellectuals’ looking into what sort of psychosis may be responsible for such a chain of events. He is further disgusted by the idea of this work being used to explain everything which is wrong with his generation.”

Jack’s friends helps with the cover art for his novel

Excerpts include: “Behind the thronging verse we were all comrades trying to think our way through life, cared for by the university bubble, just forcing out stress from the unstressed mind, a freeing of the already free.”

“I drank into the whiskey as if the answers were lingering somewhere at the bottom – I leant over and finished the rest of Alexa’s wine, no answer in that one either. Best go to the bar and fetch another for some kind of answer to all this.”

Londoner Jack says the book is, at its heart, about misogyny.

“I’m writing about misogyny, because in my eyes it’s a ridiculous concept -what masculinity is these days – and I don’t like it. Men like myself are falling completely by the wayside in affairs of the heart, and there’s a balance between doing it for the lads and the boys, and actually being a nice person. So they’re floundering as I myself feel. That’s kind of the main theme.

“You couldn’t really call it a love story because there’s not a lot of love in it, but there’s like, late night sexts and horrible things.”

On Cowley Road will be available from August 14th directly from the publisher and on Amazon a week later.