My thanks to that publication of underground Berlin cool, indieberlin, for publishing a slice of my novella The Platinum Raven.
This is Scorpio’s experience of working as a transgender prostitute on Santa Monica Boulevard in Hollywood, aquiver and alone again and hurting with the rawness of a squirt of flesh and nerves among the concrete and steel and the plastic and the gasoline that threatened and addicted him:
Yes, there’s something Christmassy for all the family, in The Platinum Raven.
For more of my little Scorpio, there are many snippets from the novella, both as text and as video, at https://www.rohanquine.com/the-platinum-raven/teasers-for-the-31-chapters-of-the-platinum-raven
In The Platinum Raven, Scorpio is a dancer in that nightclub tower of shadow, up there in the Hajar Mountains beyond the desert sands of Dubai.
In the same or other lives, he also happens to be the character named Scorpio in Apricot Eyes, as well as being the character named Angel Deon in Hallucination in Hong Kong and in The Imagination Thief and (in a different way) in The Host in the Attic.
I’m grateful to Michelle Elvy for including me in her article “Creating Other Worlds: Fantasy and Adventure on Page and Screen”, at Awkword Paper Cut, where she shines a thoughtful light on the varied flavours of five authors’ approaches to creating fantastical things:
I talk about the DNA of these five tales, and their oblique relationship with the categories they get slotted into—literary fiction and magical realism, plus a dose of horror. With merciful brevity, I also touch on that weighty philosophical question, the difference between a plant and a weed…
It was a pleasure to perform a slice of mini-chapter 17 “Sound & Vision” from my novel The Imagination Thief, on 1 August 2014 in the New Libertines show called “it only hurts the first time” at the Old Fire Station in Oxford, organised and introduced by our generous host, the New Libertines’ MC Dan Holloway. A video of that very slice can be seen below, plus a couple of shots showing us both bathed in an appropriately absinthe-green light.
The film showing on the screen beside me throughout the reading is “JAYMI 17”—a film that appears on the title page of the ebook edition of The Imagination Thief and also at https://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/, featuring me as the novel’s narrator Jaymi Peek and Jen McFaul as Angel’s Baby Doll. The film’s audio-text is at https://www.rohanquine.com/video-books-films/12-films/film-audio-text/; and the novel’s mini-chapter 17 (from which that text was taken) is at https://www.rohanquine.com/ebooks/vbooks/vbook17.php.
I was chuffed to be performing alongside many other lovely words, from Dan Holloway, Polly Trope, Alice Furse, Lucy Furlong, Rebecca Woodhead and Davy Mac—plus the music of the band Superhand. For more info on Dan’s New Libertines, see http://thenewlibertines.wordpress.com.
Delighted to be performing in Dan Holloway’s upcoming New Libertines show on 1 August 2014 – “a showcase of bold, brave and brilliant dark corners of the literary world. The New Libertines stand for human experience in its glorious, messy, complex entirety, and stand against everything that is blank, bleak and brutal, one-dimensional or slick in contemporary culture, especially current literary culture. With roots that spread to burlesque, Beat, fin de siecle France and ecstatic mystics, before slapping its influences around the face with a knuckle-dusting of postmodern wit and Modernist anger, New Libertinism is a celebration of light in dark corners, desire in the face of boredom, despair hidden beneath the underskirts of affluence – of everything it means to be human.”
It was fun to be prompted into a journey through some of the music that helped in the creation of The Imagination Thief and the four novellas, through being on Roz Morris’s “Undercover Soundtrack”:
There I mention Kode9 and the Spaceape, Madonna, Lana Del Rey, Marc and the Mambas, The KLF, The Orb, Ministry, Sinéad O’Connor, This Mortal Coil, Bauhaus, Bronski Beat, Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance, Erasure, Suede, Bryan Ferry, Genesis, Soft Cell, Roxy Music, Donna Summer, Kim Wilde and Diamanda Galás, and was given space to link to no fewer than 26 YouTube pages that add up to a feast of aural pleasure—so get those headphones ready (no tinny little built-in laptop-computer speakers allowed!). Thank you, Roz.
A big thank you to the charming CK Webb of blogtalkradio show “WebbWeaver Books” for letting me rabbit away for a pleasurable half-hour, as you can hear at:
After CK’s introductory shout-outs and then a brief audio hiccup with my own Skype set-up (which would never have happened to James Bond), my sound settings start treating me properly at timecode 07:02. Our chat circles around my spooky little novella The Host in the Attic, which is a hologram of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, digitised and reframed in cinematic style, set in London’s Docklands in a few years’ time. I start reading a couple of passages from the novella at timecode 18:31—involving such delights as the corridor walls and floor suddenly becoming made of wet-breathing grey meat bellowing in vicious pain and impaled by a dozen twitching meat-knives, plus one of the more unnerving ceiling-hatches I’ve come across, and the allure of the attic-dwelling hologram that grows ever more terrifyingly corrupt, while its evil owner’s appearance remains forever just as sweet and youthful as the day when he was filmed as the model for that hologram…
Courtesy of Debbie Young, these 5 tales are happy bunnies to find themselves propped up on a delicate little cake-stand in the sunny village window of her online Independent Bookshop at:
One of Amazon UK’s Top 1,200 reviewers as well as talented and versatile writer, Debbie’s website is at http://authordebbieyoung.com; and her detailed review of The Imagination Thief is at http://authordebbieyoung.com/reading/reviews/directory-of-book-reviews/the-imagination-thief-by-rohan-quine.
My thanks to an energetic connector of readers to writers, Mark Farrell at the innovative new site Ascribe Novel Solutions, whose rigorous gate-keeping has landed The Platinum Raven and other novellas and The Imagination Thief in great company there:
Cheers to Lichen Craig in Colorado Springs, for interviewing me in depth as part of her literary “Fireside” series of podcasts at bit.ly/Fireside201.
It was a pleasure to be grilled with sparky fun, engagement and intelligence, as we chatted about the nature of the world, the darkness and brightness of life, literature, and a sensible dose of silly stuff here and there as well – along with the four novellas and The Imagination Thief. If you listen carefully, you can hear the quiet, reassuring crackle of a cosy log-fire behind us, throughout the interview, which is a delightful touch: in reality, the two of us were thousands of miles apart, communing through a Google Hangout, but there was a log-fire crackling in our hearts nonetheless, of course!
A quick write-up here by me, at Triskele Books’ blog, of the London Author Fair, where much fun and intelligent discourse was had:
And being a bit less of an Essex girl than me, Dan Holloway’s write-up of the same event at http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2014/03/london-author-fair-by-dan-holloway.html
focuses less on the Campari and bar-snacks aspect of things than mine did, but rather on weightier matters. He’s rightly positive about a fine event that was an important component of the current emergence of UK authors into greater industry centrality. He’s also, however, clear-eyed regarding the danger that if this re-emergence isn’t steered well throughout upcoming months, then it will all too easily grow into a form shaped by the natural inclinations of mainstream commercial media alone—i.e. ignoring the rich and wonderful variety of writing that falls not into the categories of commercial fiction within clear familiar genres, but instead into categories of literary fiction, ground-breaking literary/experimental fiction, or fiction that straddles categories. Those natural market forces of mainstream media coverage are not villainous in themselves; but as he warns, their restricted focus on the commercial sales aspect of the landscape tends to lead to a real and unnecessary cultural impoverishment, if allowed to take over the whole party and hog all the party snacks.
“Rohan Quine is one of the most brilliant and original writers around. His The Imagination Thief blended written and spoken word and visuals to create one of the most haunting and complex explorations of the dark corners of the soul you will ever read. Never one to do something simple when something more complex can build up the layers more beautifully, he is back with a collection of 4 seamlessly interwoven novellas. They are available as one paperback, The Platinum Raven and other novellas, or as four separate ebooks […] suffice to say he is the consummate master of sentencecraft. His prose is a warming sea on which to float and luxuriate. But that is only half of the picture. He has a remarkable insight into the human psyche, and he demonstrates it by lacquering layer on layer of subtle observation and nuance. Allow yourself to slip from the slick surface of the water and you will soon find yourself tangled in a very deep and disturbing world, but the dangers that lurk beneath the surface are so enticing, so intoxicating it is impossible to resist their call.”
The above comment appears at http://danholloway.wordpress.com/2014/02/22/the-platinum-raven/. And I’m a fortunate bunny that we have Dan in the land, to slip so sharply through that slick surface and into such receptive and intelligent entanglement in those abysses. It’s a bit uncanny how he manages to reads so widely and deeply while also producing so much rich output himself on many platforms, in the absence of either (1) a harem of luscious pouting assistants and an army of literary screamers and preeners to help him out, and/or (2) a private income … but we shall all just have to keep pondering this, as one of life’s benignest mysteries!
The Platinum Raven and other novellas is now perkily available—a paperback comprising a collection of four novellas called The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong. For some great reviews and interviews about it, see Reviews and interviews for the four novellas.
Retail links for The Platinum Raven and other novellas paperback are here. And each of the four novellas is also available by itself as a separate e-book: retail links for these four individual novella e-books are at The Platinum Raven, The Host in the Attic, Apricot Eyes and Hallucination in Hong Kong.
The Platinum Raven is a triple convulsion whereby our heroine Raven escalates herself into the Chocolate Raven and then the Platinum Raven, from London to Dubai to the tower in the hills in the desert—then back down again, forever changed. A lot of its action happens in my favourite building, the fabulously flashy Burj Khalifa in Dubai, the world’s tallest skyscraper.
The Host in the Attic is a hologram of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray, digitised and reframed in cinematic style, set in London’s Docklands in a few years’ time. It’s pretty spooky, and I believe it’s a slant on Wilde’s masterpiece that we haven’t seen before. One playful aspect of my homage to him centres on the fact that one of its characters is posited as having written my novel The Imagination Thief, which helps to drive the story of The Host in the Attic forward (as an equivalent of Wilde’s character Sibyl’s acting). But this is just part of the fracturing of characterisation I’m playing with across the five tales, whose casts of characters all overlap; and you certainly don’t have to have read The Imagination Thief before you read this novella or any of the other novellas here.
In Apricot Eyes, a cat-and-mouse pursuit through the New York City night involves a preacher, a psychic and a dominatrix, broadcast live on air—until a horror is unearthed, bringing two of them together and the third to a sticky end. It’s a sassy little street-queen of a romp, embracing a few underbelly-of-New-York elements, in addition to a dose of the more bizarre stuff that I always like to throw into the mix too.
In Hallucination in Hong Kong, sliding from joy to nightmare and back, a plane-flight frames a journey into Jaymi’s and Angel’s polarised identities and perceptions, where past and present merge in an obsessive fantasy of love, death, horror and apocalyptic beauty. To me it feels like a dark and twisted firework display of some kind, or some kind of shout into the void, but it was written from a place of compassion and probably a wish that the many kinds of stunning beauty in the world didn’t have to share that world with such catastrophic chasms of suffering as some individuals fall into.
I’m grateful for the comparison with Sergio De La Pava, winner of 2013’s PEN/Robert Bingham W. Prize—a “comp” made by novelist/poet and literary-cultural commentator Dan Holloway in his recent SPR magazine article at http://t.co/VSJZDfo5s8, in a kind mention of The Platinum Raven and other novellas:
“It would be remiss of me not to take this opportunity to bring people’s attention to a truly remarkable book. Rohan Quine writes right at the boundary between literary fiction and experimentalism, and his new collection of four novellas, The Platinum Raven and other novellas, is a genuine masterpiece. This guy is as good as De La Pava, and deserves to be the next self-published literary author to cross over into mainstream consciousness.”
In the week since Dan wrote that, De La Pava has also become a shortlistee (is that a word?) for the Folio Prize 2014—a brand-new prize occurring for the first time this year.
Great to be interviewed in the current “Words with Jam” magazine. Thanks so much to novelists JJ Marsh and JD Smith, for having me there. The interview is headed “60 seconds with Rohan Quine”, and I have to say I’m awed by how much they can fit into 60 seconds—it was quite a whirlwind minute, I have to say.
Thank you to novelist Jane Davis for interviewing me on her blog:
It was a pleasure to answer her intelligent questions, and I look forward very much to meeting her in real life at the London Author Fair on 28 Feb.
Thanks to stylish international crime-queen JJ Marsh for including me in her best-of-2013 “Baker’s Dozen” (may all her dozens be bakers’ ones), in accomplished company, and for her kind words there regarding The Imagination Thief:
A beautifully thoughtful and literate review of The Imagination Thief has been posted by the Amazon UK “Top 1,500” reviewer Debbie Young, on her blog:
I’m a lucky boy to receive her busy, perceptive and extremely well-read attentions, which have added Samuel Johnson’s Rasselas to my reading list…
Great to see a nice three-page spread in this month’s New Edition magazine: a stylish layout, me wittering on as usual, colour pictures for all the family, and even big purple numbers.
Delighted to see kind things being said about The Imagination Thief in The Guardian, written by that generous and alarmingly well-read literary adventurer, Mr Dan Holloway. Thank you, Dan!
I feel a blush suffuse all four of my maidenly cheeks, to see the following super-cool review from Jen McFaul, writer and poet, as an essay-length article here. I’m honoured by her analytical and receptive reading, and grateful to be introduced to this peachy new literary-critical term, “trans-mindfuck”…
A trans-corporeal, trans-reality, trans-mindfuck, all-transcending diva of a debut: The Imagination Thief by Rohan Quine,
reviewed by Jen McFaul
Just so you know, when you open this book you will not be asked to love each character. It is neither discouraged nor encouraged. No other novel I can think of in recent times has so successfully portrayed its characters so transparently and so without guidance as to the feelings its audience should have towards them. Their skulls are prised open, as Jaymi burrows into their minds and blasts the contents out for us to dissect with no editing and nowhere to hide their darkest urges and most depraved imaginings. To love some of these characters would be to doom yourself, you are simply asked to observe them; to see them as deeply, as thoroughly as you see yourself, such is the all-encompassing clarity of Quine’s descriptive abilities. These characters are not mere sketches; they are Rembrandts with a touch of Picasso’s madness.
We open with Jaymi enjoying an innocuous CreamiChoc until the “last boiling drop of red sun sinks away”, and then he is suddenly, inexplicably endowed with the power to see into people’s imaginations, right down to the most primal aspects of us all; he can tune in without our knowledge, and can even record and project each mind, subject to his control, his hypnotic gaze. Initially Jaymi might be seen as a passive character, perhaps explaining why he is so easily able to accept these new-found abilities. He is the translucent lens through which we view our cast, the blank canvas splattered with the neon colours of our thoughts, and as he tests and hones these abilities we see him discover his ego through his unleashed power. Indeed, without his experiences in other people’s imaginations, would he come to the life-changing realisation he eventually reaches? On his journey to this personal revelation, Jaymi’s initial good intentions (the enlightenment of mankind) are deftly hijacked by Jason, who wishes to subvert this plan for commercial gains by creating a “spokes-sheep”. We roll from New York City to the ruinous ghost town of Asbury Park, where Jaymi selects our targets, the unknowing donors whose imaginations shall be harvested. Rather than a violation, Jaymi’s reading of this motley crew of players is performed with a tenderness and an unending respect for the spectacle of another’s soul in its entirety laid bare to us. There is magic in the twisted minds as well as in the sublime.
Some of the less salubrious characters spit piss and vinegar with astonishing vigour, but none the less the decadently rich language of this novel make it pure chocolate, wine and sex—you will need a cigarette as you turn the last page. This book reads like a musical. The words are liquid and melodic: always entrancing and encaptivating and rising to chorus-line lung-busting crescendos every time Jaymi unleashes his powers and the imaginations of his superbly diverse cast shine out of the page in an explosion of Sound and Vision. Given that he accomplishes this purveyance of the innermost soul with black words on a white page, what is indeed impressive is the sheer level of colour, smell, texture and heat that can be felt during these moments when we are invited to couple our minds with theirs.
As I have stated, this is a piece where the English language is flexed and stretched until it’s sweating on the floor in its yoga pants, and yet there are plenty of examples throughout to demonstrate Quine’s skill in summing up the state of a character in a few simple words. “Pippa in her high rise grave” encapsulates this character’s descent into crippling, unimaginable loneliness, tormented by spectres and skulls. Locked away surrounded by concrete—buried in her “grave”, and in her “high rise”—physically far above and separated from the world below, alone and staring out from her balcony with liquid eyes.
Quine is also generous with the dialogue he gives his characters. The best lines are not only reserved for the select few whose imaginations Jaymi is thieving, but by giving background characters priceless lines he draws a neat conclusion of their personalities without wasting words or detracting from our protagonists. For example the owner of the bar where Shigem hosts is given the gentle line, “Moonlight through dark glasses sometimes hurts my eyes”—a perfectly succinct piece of poetry neatly dropped into the middle of the page, which makes this understated, relatively unimportant character instantly flesh and blood.
We are presented with two sides of the same coin with the relationships of Lucan Abayomi and Angel Deon versus Shigem Adele and Kim Somerville. It is appropriate that we are shown these dual realities of a relationship in the same way that we see both the light and dark in each individual. Every possibility and eventuality is an open avenue down which we can walk, whether it be to enter the realm of shadow daggers in the turret where the Baby Doll swings languorously as Angel wanders the mezzanine, or to lie in the soft sweet bed where Shigem gently sinks into the Atlantic depths of sleep and sea fronds, safe in the arms of Kim. Angel and Lucan’s relationship examines “desire as disease”, and we have the neat contradictory image of Shigem and Kim’s relationship, “a beach idyll in its golden glow”. It is clear that there are other characters too, such as Evelyn and Rik, who are able to find light and love in their lives in the same way that Shigem and Kim have, and the warmth and tenderness of these characters serves to further illustrate that in contrast Angel is unable to escape the darkness, and by the time we meet him he has already been consumed by it. If Shigem and Kim, Evelyn and Rik are our redemption stories, there can be no doubt that the cautionary tale of Angel Deon is one of utter damnation.
One of the most notable moments in this work occurs after the climactic scene atop the ruined shell of a building standing tall over the ocean, where a fight conducted by both bodies and minds takes place and we feel we are done. We have been present at the climax and are now on the descent. However, we are given a reminder of just what power Jaymi has been exposed to, when we realise exactly the lengths Pippa has gone to for her wax dummy. This aftershock reminds us he has had the ability to see further into a person’s soul than perhaps we are even capable of seeing into ourselves. Is anybody really prepared for this level of self-reflection? Do we want this knowledge? Do we want a preview of our own deaths? Do you want to know just what those bloodstains mean, Pippa?
Jaymi is our guide through this world; he is the smoke that furls through the brains of our donor-imaginations, igniting each nerve centre as he rises. Is somebody who can truly see your soul a friend or foe? Despite Jaymi’s authority as our narrator, the English language is the true star of this trans-corporeal, trans-reality, trans-possibility, trans-mindfuck, all-transcending diva of a debut.
Jen McFaul, 2013.
I’m grateful to Dan Holloway (novelist, blogger, literary impresario and dedicated rat-keeping maestro) for posting an interview about The Imagination Thief at his eight cuts site:
His intelligent questions helped clarify aspects of the tale in my own mind, by prompting me to look at it from specific new angles, as might occur when sitting on top of a wardrobe in order to get a new view of a familiar room (not that I’ve tried this, but I’m thinking now perhaps I shall).
On Saturday 8 June 2013 at 2.00 p.m., in conjunction with the Stoke Newington Literary Festival, The Imagination Thief and I shall be at the independent bookstore Ti Pi Tin, on a literarily envelope-pushing panel called “Pushing Envelopes and Breaking Boxes”, and then participating in a reading there at 5.30 p.m. Both these events on the 8th are curated by novelist and literary impresario Dan Holloway–so please come along and join the fun.