Synopsis and characters list for The Imagination Thief
The Imagination Thief by Rohan Quine is about a web of secrets, triggered by the stealing and copying of people’s imaginations and memories. It’s about the magic that can be conjured up by images of people, in imagination or on film; the split between beauty and happiness in the world; and the allure of various kinds of power. It celebrates some of the most extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and language, exploring the darkest and brightest flavours of beauty living in our minds.
Shorter synopsis, without spoilers
Alone in his skyscraper office one night, Jaymi undergoes a transformation that will change his life: he acquires the power to see into others’ minds, and then to control and project their thoughts.
Realising the potential of his new gift, he hypnotises a media mogul into agreeing to broadcast an electrifying extravaganza of sound and vision emanating from Jaymi, the like of which has never been witnessed before, that will captivate millions worldwide. However, one of the mogul’s underlings has more subversive plans for milking Jaymi’s talent, involving the theft of others’ imaginations and most intimate memories for commercial gain.
The broadcasting of his visions takes Jaymi and his friend Alaia on a journey that plunges them into the underworld of Asbury Park—a seaside town once full of life and fun, but now half-forgotten. The half of this town beside the ocean itself is now almost a ghost town: ruled by ruthless gangsters and drug dealers, headed by Lucan, it is populated by lost souls and the beautiful who have fallen on hard times. Blackmailed into thieving the most private and primal memories and experiences from their imaginations, Jaymi discovers a web of secrets and provocations simmering beneath the surface of the town, about to explode.
When a waxwork of Lucan’s decapitated head is planted anonymously in his own bar, the fear bubbles over, as everyone becomes a suspect in this unforgivable challenge to his dominance. Then when another provocative waxwork appears—a naked full-body modelling of Angel, Lucan’s beautiful but tortured lover—then Jaymi knows the only way to save his friends will be to use his own gift to discover the perpetrator before Lucan does…
Delving into and celebrating the most beautiful and extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and love, The Imagination Thief is mainstream literary fiction that also draws upon magical realism, horror, fantasy and humour. It explores the universal human predicaments of power, beauty, happiness, hopelessness, good and evil.
List of the 14 characters
Two lead characters
Narrator JAYMI PEEK is an intelligent, humorous lens and a benign observer. On screen, he becomes a charismatic and empowered face who projects himself addictively into the imaginations of his audience.
ALAIA DANIELLE is his creative collaborator, an inspired and disciplined vocal performer. She is morally upright and rather high-tension, with cool good taste and a large, somewhat cerebral compassion.
The Imagination Thief’s narrator Jaymi Peek is partly a self-portrait; but as a lens through which the other characters’ internal lives are examined and inhabited, he’s also a channel for them, which may be why his personality is somewhat elusive. He’s a mixture of truth and lies, adding up to a fiction through which I suspect I’m wondering aloud what it is to be alive as a human being in a body on this particular planet these days. By the end of The Imagination Thief, these two lead players have collaborated on such a volume of imaginative riches, that their falling in love with each other feels almost inevitable.
Five co-stars, whose imaginations are inhabited or thieved
EVELYN CARMELLO is Marc’s driver and Rik’s girlfriend, who opens social doors. She is sunny, centred, straightforward and kind, but also sassy and street-smart, and used to be Flames’s girlfriend.
SHIGEM ADELE is an effusive, flamboyant nightclub host, a lovable and neurotic survivor, and the person most affected by the beauty and power of Jaymi’s and Alaia’s performances in the two broadcasts.
KIM SOMERVILLE is a bartender from London; newly in love with Shigem and about to move back to London with him, he is quiet, observant and loyal, with a tinge of thoughtful pessimism.
ANGEL DEON is the androgynous boyfriend of Lucan, and has a very dark, sensual and obsessive quality: though abused in that relationship, he has a considerably ambitious will-to-power of his own.
PIPPA VAIL is a sweet, depressive dreamer, who sits on her high-rise tower-block balcony, in silence…
Seven supporting characters
FLAMES ALLEYNE is a bartender with a wired, humorous edge—Evelyn’s ex, who still has feelings for her.
MARC ALBRIGHT is a brisk and genial mogul who runs the global General Network from Manhattan.
JASON CARAX is a behind-the-scenes fixer, schemer and wry observer, who works for Marc.
KEV BANTON is Lucan’s driver; he has a crass sense of humour, lacking conscience and finer feelings.
DAMIAN WEST is a gangster whose glum gauntness of expression indicates danger and paranoia.
LUCAN ABAYOMI is a charismatic gang-leader, drug-dealer and Angel’s boyfriend, who terrorises Shigem in particular.
RIK CHAMBERS is Marc’s recording engineer—perceptive, a warm social host and Evelyn’s boyfriend.
Longer synopsis, with some spoilers
Alone in his New York City skyscraper office one night, Jaymi acquires an ability to see far into people, to the most highly-charged material in the core of their imaginations. He tracks down an entertainment mogul named Marc, on whom he unleashes a dose of hypnotic persuasion to set up a global live broadcast of just Jaymi’s face directing this hypnotic gaze worldwide. It will affect every viewer differently, depending on what it stirs up within that person’s mind and memories. Accompanying Jaymi’s face will be the powerful wordless vocals of his friend Alaia.
The enormous broadcast proceeds, from a low-key recording studio in the nearby half-ruined oceanfront town of Asbury Park. It is a grandly successful global media spectacle. Slipping out afterwards into this ghetto of a ghost town, Jaymi and Alaia soon meet gang-leader Lucan with his henchmen Kev, Flames and the sinister Damian; and over the course of the ensuing week they both become embroiled in a darkly beautiful shadow-play of local events and conflicts.
In addition to two official global broadcasts, Marc’s underling Jason has blackmailed Jaymi into participating in a more hush-hush deal on the side: he must spy into the minds of four chosen individuals in town, and then secretly project these findings into a TV camera as raw material that will be used to assemble an artificial imagination. Aside from the ethical questions involved in this, Jaymi’s role as reluctant Imagination Thief has a farcical dimension too, because the recipient of this artificial imagination will be a corporate spokes-figure who is, in fact, a “spokes-sheep”. His reluctant spying into his targets’ private minds also involves betrayals of friendship and various subterfuges, which he hates. Nevertheless he warms to the imagination-thieving itself, because his insight into these individuals’ wildly divergent minds leads him into varied and unexpected kinds of love for them, eliciting flavours and depths of understanding and compassion he would not have expected to find in himself.
Shuttling between clear-eyed transparency and hallucinatory intensity, Jaymi’s spying makes him a player in the events that it causes. There is the mystery of who keeps planting life-size wax models of severed heads or naked bodies of other characters, which are clearly designed to provoke Lucan. There is the mystery of a sinister, weaselly figure that keeps being glimpsed in the lonely high-rise apartment of depressive dreamer Pippa. And there are six relationships, present or past: the warmth and romance of Kim and Shigem; Jaymi’s and Alaia’s slow coalescence of love from their creative collaboration on these broadcasts; the humour and affection of Rik and Evelyn; the sensual violence of Lucan and Angel; the casual sensuality of Evelyn and Flames; and the impossibility and sadness of Angel and Pippa.
Criss-crossing the town, these plays of power culminate when Jaymi and Alaia are compelled up onto the top of the concrete shell of a building overlooking the ocean, where Angel conducts the voltage of a climactic and indescribable dance of power between the three of them.
In the aftermath of this, while contemplating one of the wax models of Angel in the van on the way back towards that beloved clump of skyscrapers that he calls home, Jaymi experiences a stab of horror and pity when he realises the shocking sacrifice that was involved in Pippa’s construction of this beautiful wax model. It reveals the depths of obsession and hopelessness in her infatuation with Angel—a person she stood no chance of ever being with. Feeling powerless anguish and compassion for Pippa at this realisation, Jaymi knows of no other response, as the van hurtles onwards, than to plant the gentlest of kisses upon the sleeping friend beside him, for whom he has just discovered the depths of a love that he’s been failing to notice in himself until now.
Rohan Quine, The Imagination Thief, literary fiction, magical realism, dark fantasy, horror, gay, Asbury Park, psychic, New York, broadcast, imagination, transgender, contemporary, enhanced ebook