My next post will be titled “why I chose a small press” and will answer all the questions you all want answered. For now, I’ll simply make the announcement. My new book, No Exit, will be released this summer by the wonderful people at Pankhearst as part of their Singles Club. If you want to know just why I’m so excited, check out this month’s single – End Credits by Simon Paul Wilson, who was until, well, a couple of days ago, the best unpublished writer on the planet (his manuscript, the Murakami-esque magical realist Yuko Zen is Elsewhere was one of the most talked about and exciting books in the history of Harper Collins’ website Authonomy).
Pankhearst is a two year-old publishing collective containing some of the most exciting writers of fem noir. They specialise in kick ass female protagonists and their mix of noir and literary makes them even more perfect for me, especially for this book, which features many of the characters and settings from my forthcoming full length novel Kill Land.
(one of Veronika von Volkova’s Grime Angels – because noting sums up my work like her pictures)
Here’s the blurb:
Petrichor have a simple philosophy, “Make the world a more beautiful place. Starting with where you are right now.” A group of tech-savvy drifters, dropouts, and dreamers who hang out in Oxford’s hidden spaces – narrowboats, building sites, disused library tunnels – they spend their days and nights undertaking an aesthetic form of place-hacking – littering dry, dead buildings with poetry, running and jumping the rooftops and leaving QR codes on walls that link to videos of the beautiful uses they make of them.
But for Alice, the group’s most proficient coder and computer hacker, making the world more beautiful has a flip side. It means cutting out the cultural cancers that leave hurt and ugliness behind them. So she creates Huis Clos, “No Exit”, the place that lives in the darkest, most honest part of everyone’s dreams – a place with no windows, no consequences and, for the person who enters with you, no exit.
Hidden in the depths of the darknet – and even deeper under Oxford, in the miles of archives of the Bodleian library, Huis Clos is the place where Alice will bring the person who has made your life hell, leave you alone with them, and, once you have left, make the evidence, and every trace of them, simply disappear.
One day, Alice picks up a target, and discovers that the vilest person she has ever been asked to deal with is her own father.
And here is the opening.
Head out of the Sheldonian and under the gnarled stone reproduction of the Bridge of Sighs, past a turn so tiny you’d never know it was there if you didn’t smell the speciality cider wafting at you and hunt to find the source, further on, cornering twice as tarmac turns to cobbles turn to tarmac, and you arrive at the back entrance of New College, Oxford, and on a clear winter night you can just about hear the sound of choirboys practising far away in the chapel and if you remember that 10 metres below your feet is the plague pit where centuries earlier they flung the city’s unwanted dead, and if it’s dark enough to disorient you, and if you listen for long enough as trebles strain at the top notes, you will be sure you can hear a thousand last confessions sweating into the sky too late for absolution.
Wait a little longer still, and your mind might carry you deeper. Another 10 metres. And another, to a place where far more recent secrets are stored. All across Oxford the earth beneath your feet is criss-crossed by miles of tunnels that, until even they started to creak under the weight, housed the collections of the Bodleian Library, one of the oldest and largest in England. Many of the books were moved a year or so ago to new, tanked out and humidity controlled homes by the canal in Osney Mead, and further afield in Swindon, leaving acres of empty caves slowly going fetid now the switch has been turned off for good.
But some of them are not so empty. Soundproofed and secure, you will never hear the screams, no matter how long you stand and listen for them. You will hear only the choirboys, calling out for mercy to a God who gluts himself on their supplications and belches out only silence in return. But they are there. The screams. Bouncing off foam clad walls in a hell of their own making. In a room with no windows. A room that welcomes people two at a time. For one of them there are no consequences. For the other, no exit.
I close my eyes so that the fog is present only as a thin film pressing my skin, and I am sure I can hear them. The footsteps, tentative at first, then confident, then pumped full of adrenalin and the lightness of release. And the screams. The unheard screams decaying on the broken-foamed walls. And I allow myself the satisfaction of knowing that whatever else life brings, I have done something good.