The novel Night on Earth grew out of London’s streets and back alleys…
Calling it «a London story» is indeed more than correct.
And even though I have also used London as a backdrop in other novels, it’s the first where the entire story takes place there.
I’ve always felt grateful, almost indebted to London because of all the inspiration it has given me. An artist, any type of artist gets a lot for free just by walking its streets. It’s a great city for most people, but for artists and storytellers it is an amazing place, filled with stories and moods and settings.
It’s a bit of a coincidence that I arrived in London the first time during the summer of 1983. I needed a European city, setting for my novel The Slaves, and I chose London, and I traveled to London because of that. I will always be twice grateful because my life as an artist enriched my life in general. It didn’t just help bringing me to London, but to all over the world. My life and art became even more one and the same.
Not many authors or filmmakers go deep into a setting today. If they describe a character’s surroundings at all it’s very often in a more technical, clinical way, lacking the depth and thorough effort the setting deserve. London makes it easy, at least to me, to describe it properly.
I’ve often visited the town, and I’ve lived there for five years. If I have a home at all, within civilization it’s there.
I had a quandary before writing the book, since I didn’t want to be too kind to the setting. The present day London, as it was, when I lived there, from 1988 to 1993 was difficult for me to describe in a bad way. So I struggled a bit, before I had the idea of moving it into the future, a strategic move that also fit well into other ideas I had about the novel.
And the thing is, many of the bad things I describe, like the extensive surveillance and oppressive police presence has already come to pass. The bad stuff was there in the early nineties, too, of course, but not as prevalent as it is today.
For one thing there were countless truly alternative and radical bookshops and venues. Now, there is hardly any left. You could also find radical books in ordinary bookshops, something that is very unlikely today. The horrible and pervasive pressure from above has more or less made any free expression that much harder. That the free expression and wild human being is still present says a lot about both London and the prevalent human spirit.
This is as close to a genre book I’ll ever come, I guess. It has some of the elements of the horror story and some of the Gothic, dark fantasy elements, more so than my other stories, perhaps.
But on the other hand it has a lot of other elements usually not used in those genres. I abhor genre-stories, really…
I’ve been told before that I do write Gothic stories, even though many of the classic trappings are missing, because my characters often have wicked and unsavory traits. To me that means I’m merely describing human beings, not the paper dolls so much present in mainstream storytelling. My main people are just that, people, not heroes, not anti-heroes or anything fitting into any preconfigured notion of how they should behave.
Btw I wrote this between 1992 and 2004, long before vampires became super-popular…
It’s a classic vampire and London story without being a classic vampire and London story. The word «vampire» btw isn’t mentioned in the novel at all. I’m quite proud of that.
I’ve always loved vampire stories, their nocturnal and feral nature, vampire stories with bite, that is, not the diluting, ruination of the legend we’ve witnessed the last twenty years, in both film and books. This is a far cry from the countless «young adult» vampire stories we suffer the presence of today. I have also totally removed the religious trappings, and returned to basics, far removed from the christian morality that has also ruined many a potentially great story. You won’t see my vampires recoil from the sight of crosses or being unable to enter churches and such. To me they’ve always been enhanced humans and not supernatural beings.
I feel a little ambiguous writing this, at least publishing it on the Internet, since I would prefer that you have read the story before reading this commentary. It takes a while before the presence of the vampires becomes apparent, as it should. As always I let the reader dive slowly into the story and discover the puzzle in his or her own way. I would guess that the presence of vampires doesn’t come as a shock to the aware reader, however. It is certainly not meant to be a secret, or a surprise, for that matter. Many people that are into paranormal literature and art would know or at least suspect that vampires are present by reading the blurb, the back cover description.
It’s a Mystery of the mind and the flesh, slowly unfolding and exploding, one more story about the Wild Man in the modern world.
PS: I’m always surprised by the thought and contemplation that has to be done in order to write even a brief commentary like this...