The blokes were writers who revitalized British drama, fiction, poetry, and criticism. When Britain was in the economic doldrums, when its supply of great authors was dwindling after World War II, they rebuilt a world-class reputation. They came from unpromising places and unglamorous backgrounds. They crashed the Establishment party in one generation, raided the citadels of culture, and brought their idioms, themes, and passions to the centre of British life. The central idea of this book is how these writers, and others, transformed British heritage - how they worked with the materials of their own backgrounds, the class system, tradition, and artistic convention to make new art. They took their place in a long line of writers who thrived in grit: Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens, Bernard Shaw, D. H. Lawrence. The cast of characters includes playwrights John Osborne and Arnold Wesker, novelist Kingsley Amis, critic Kenneth Tynan, poet Philip Larkin, fiction writer Alan Sillitoe, plus lesser-known figures such as John Braine, David Storey, Stan Barstow, Keith Waterhouse, and Sheilagh Delaney.
As a portrait of an age told in portraits, the book is in ten overlapping chapters on landmark figures and landmark works.