I’m a big fan of Unsung Stories. Not only are their free shorts on a Friday stonkingly good, but they also publish excellent titles. The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley was one of the best books I read last year and it looks like they’ve done it again with Dark Star by Oliver Langmead.
The city of Vox survives in darkness, under a sun that burns without light. In Vox’s permanent night, light bulbs are precious, the rich live in radiance and three Hearts beat light into the city. Aquila. Corvus. Cancer.
Hearts that bring power to the light-deprived citizens of the city of Vox whilst ghosts haunt the streets, clawing at headlights. Prometheus, liquid light, is the drug of choice. The body of young Vivian North, her blood shining brightly with unnatural light, has no place on the streets.
When Cancer is stolen, the weaponisation of its raw power threatens to throw Vox into chaos. Vox needs a hero, and it falls to cop Virgil Yorke to investigate.
But Virgil has had a long cycle and he doesn’t feel like a hero. With the ghosts of his last case still haunting his thoughts, he craves justice for the young woman found dead with veins full of glowing. Aided by his partner Dante, Virgil begins to shed light on the dark city’s even darker secrets.
Haunted by the ghosts of his past and chased by his addictions, which will crack first, Virgil or the case?
I’m very happy to be a part of the blog tour, and be sure to check out Benjamin Judge’s website tomorrow for an interview with Langmead about the book.
For now, I’ll leave this blog in the more than capable hands of Oliver Langmead, enjoy.
Extract and Commentary
When I set out to write Dark Star, I had the idea that my detective, Virgil Yorke, would be the embodiment of his dark city: light-addicted, haunted, gloomy and pessimistic. You can see it in the cover of the book. He’s a broken man, redeemed only because of his determination to see his case through.
In most books, it’s obvious that the author likes his main character. It makes them easy to write as an author, and easy to relate to as a reader. It’s nice to have someone to hope for, and to cheer along when they succeed. There are some examples where this has to be otherwise: for instance, Philip Roth’s Sabbath’s Theatre, which is the best book I’ve never finished, because the main character is just so hideous. Of course, though, I like Virgil. It’s hard not to. He’s a man so downtrodden by his circumstances that it’s difficult to be anything but hopeful for him. You have to hope that there’s a light somewhere in all his darkness. And maybe there is, somewhere in the book.
The passage I’m sharing is a moment when I did not like Virgil. It’s a complete passage from somewhere deep in the second cycle of the book, and it’s a passage I returned to again and again because, during editing, I realised that it was important. It informed a lot of the book. It was a moment when I could not relate to Virgil, because of his apathy in the face of terrible poverty. It was a moment when he truly embodied his city: a place where those without light are said to be less than human. A place where Virgil, so caught up and obsessed with his own darkness, does nothing to help those others in a worse a situation.
Sometimes, it’s important to see the worst in your main character, so that you know when they’re at their best.
I stride through the city in the darkness,
Hat tipped like I’m hiding my eyes from it.
In one hand I have the Heart replica,
And in the other, the camera film reel.
At a crossroads I stop, watch passing cars,
Barely visible vehicles rumbling,
Little more than wavering cones of light,
Flashing windscreens, pale faces, white knuckles.
There’s a ghost across the way, chasing them,
Fingers curling uselessly around glows,
There for fleeting moments, then vanishing.
The wild, wide whites of his eyes are glinting.
Igniting a cigarette, I observe
A quick two-seater clip him, throwing him
Bodily onto the sidewalk, broken,
Slender limbs unmoving, any cry masked.
I stamp the stub of the cigarette out,
Crush it beneath my boot, and carry on.
Funny to think that without Vox’s Hearts,
We would all be turned to that. Less than dead.