William Ian North is an absurdly successful moneymaker. His nigh-unimaginable wealth gives him the ability to found and topple governments, ruin nations, even start wars. But down in the cellar of his mansion lies the secret of his success and it’s a close-to-home secret in more ways that one. It’s also a surprisingly nasty secret, and nastily surprising.
I was one of the first two authors invited to contribute a novella to the prestigious line of limited-edition chapbooks produced by PS Publishing (the other was Graham Joyce). The prime instigator and grand high poobah of PS Publishing is none other than my friend and sometime collaborator Peter Crowther, but nothing is to be inferred from this fact other than that Pete has impeccable taste in fiction and, also, knew he could trust me not to complain if the PS experiment did not work out. In the event, PS has gone on to be a great success (I always knew it would). Its first four titles were reprinted by Gollancz as Foursight.
The brief for the novella was absolutely open. The only thing I had to take into consideration was length. Otherwise I could do whatever I wanted. I mulled for some time and came up with an idea for a detective story set in the world of repertory theatre during the 1950s. I did lots of background research, fleshed out a plot, then promptly changed tack and produced this little moral tale about the price of being rich. I wrote ‘How the Other Half Lives’ in four days, breakneck speed for me, scribbling the words down as fast as my hand would allow. I have to confess I was drinking an awful lot of coffee at the time – the J.K. Rowling Method, as it’s known – but it was also one of those rare, magical instances where a tale tells itself, spilling out of you as though beamed into your brain from another dimension. New Agers call it ‘channelling’. Writers call it ‘jolly good luck’.
Included with Graham Joyce’s Leningrad Nights in Foursight (Gollancz, 2000) and Binary: 1 (Millennium, 2000); the limited PS Publishing editions are long since sold out.
- Foursight by Peter Crowther (ed.) [Gollancz, March 2000] – ISBN 978-0575068704
- “A thrilling read from the first page – Lovegrove is a terrific writer of highly polished yet commercial fiction, and this novella is a fine testimony to his ability.” – Andy Fairclough, Masters of Terror website
- “A tale combining the flavour of Edgar Allan Poe with the setting of high finance – one that unravels into an infernal fable about success and its discontents. Here is a meditation on the schizophrenic nature of our achievements, a cautionary drama in which brutal rationality spills over into psychic meltdown.” – Daily Express
- “This is a neat modern fable, elegantly told.” – The Times Metro
- “Like Lovegrove’s novels The Hope and Days, How the Other Half Lives (and what a cunning title that turns out to be) describes a monstrous edifice founded on injustice. There is a stealth in its calm; there is a courage and anger that will make you blink and marvel.” – Colin Greenland
- “A highly enjoyable Faustian tale. Fast paced and with a surprising plot twist. A fabulous cautionary tale about greed and ego, proving once again that James Lovegrove has got what it takes to hit the big time.” – Michael Rowley, The Alien Has Landed
- “It’s all very clever, an engaging moral fable about power and responsibility and the ability or inability to forgive.” – David Mathew, Interzone
Leave a Reply
• Filed under Books • 08/01/1999 •