Charles Dickens. What does mention of that name make me think? Well, Victorian literary heavyweight. Bah Humbug!. Social critic. Genius characterization. London at her most deliciously captivating. London at her grubby, grasping worst. Of being entranced reading a ‘Tale of Two Cities’. And the iconic image of Oliver Reed as Bill Sikes. Oh, and his dog. For some reason Bill Sikes’s dog.
So with those thoughts I sat down to try and write a Dickensian tale for the wonderful ‘Pandemonium: Stories Of The Smoke’ anthology. A bit daunting for me as I’ve never written anything above a little flash fiction before but I love London. Her history has so many fascinating tales to tell. It would be nice to try and make a small contribution to those.
And after having “You’ve got to pick-a-pocket or two, boys…” stuck in my head for several days, spending a lot of enjoyable time reading about the dubious history of London graveyards and a near literary contextual faux pas involving me inadvertently writing about water pumps terrorizing the inhabitants of Soho – top editing save from Anne C. Perry – Mr Bullseye appeared.
A tiny little excerpt…
You can always get what you want. Enough money? The right contacts? Smart enough to read the City’s ebb and flow of dirty little connections? Yes? Then it’s yours.
Bullseye. Whatever you need. Mr Bullseye to you.
And that’s what I do. A very specialist service for a very select clientele. And if you don’t know how to find me, then you probably don’t need to. Though all you have to do is look in the right places. Nasty places though, mind. Places you don’t really want to go. The City knows how to find me. If you let her. She’s a little too shy to reveal her very darkest of secrets, but then she’s a lady. Always has been. Just show her a bit of respect and she’ll soon bring you down to find me, when there’s business to be done.
And I’ve always been a people person. Happy to help.
Walk behind Waterloo Station. The smell of electricity. The solidified grime of a thousand commutes home. Marsh Street. South of the river. A road that’s always been here. And South of the river was always a haven for the City’s basest of desires. Bear baiting. Brothels. Money laundering, Taverns. Visit the circus and get knifed for your gold buttons by some enterprising soul. From these streets seeps the legacy of an unsated need to indulge. Ingrained into the spiritual geography a formal dictum of rapacity. There’s always a price here for anything you’re selling. Always the ways and means to do business. Circumvent the faux respectability of the trader’s luncheon right here on the street.
For tomorrow? Well, that’ll cost you. But when do I not deliver?
And if you’d maybe like to read the rest you’ll be needing one of these tasty little items… ‘Pandemonium: Stories Of The Smoke’
Which gets you 15 more wondrous tales of London Town from Sarah Lotz, Archie Black, Aliette de Bodard, Alexis Kennedy, Esther Saxey, David Thomas Moore, Jonathan Green, Rebecca Levene, Jenni van der Merwe, Glen Mehn, Kaaron Warren, Michelle Goldsmith, James Wallis, Charles Dickens, Lavie Tidhar, David Thomas Moore and Adam Roberts.
Not only that… in true Dickensian style the anthology is beautifully illustrated by Gary Northfield and the whole smokin’ package put together by wonderful editors by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin from publishers Jurassic London!
Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke brings you London as you’ve never seen it before – science fiction and fantasy in the great tradition of Charles Dickens.
Charles Dickens lived and breathed London in a way few authors ever have, before or since. In his fiction, his non-fiction, and even his own life, Dickens cast an extraordinary shadow over the city he so loved – so much so, indeed, that his name has become synonymous with a certain image of London. A London of terrible social inequality and matchless belief in the human potential; a London filled with the comic and the repulsive, the industrious and the feckless, the faithful and the faithless, the selfish and the selfless.
This London is at once an historical artifact and a living, breathing creature: the steaming, heaving, weeping, stinking, everlasting Smoke.
Available right now at Amazon UK and Amazon US. Hopefully you’ll enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing a few of the words.