I knew I shouldn’t have gone to that bar. There I was, sitting on a stool staring down a shot of Southern Comfort, when in he walked – a weary-looking gumshoe wearing a crumpled fedora and tattered leather coat.
I knew him at once, and why wouldn’t I? He was the hero of my new novel, String City, large as life and looking mad as hell. What follows is a transcript of our conversation. I’ve called it an interview, but really it wasn’t.
It was an interrogation.
GUMSHOE: What in the name of Hades do you think you’re playing at?
GRAHAM EDWARDS: I’m sorry?
GUMSHOE: (pulling a copy of String City from his coat pocket) You think this is funny?
GRAHAM EDWARDS: There are funny parts.
GUMSHOE: Don’t get smart. What gives you the right to pass off my life as fiction?
GRAHAM EDWARDS: I explained this before. Your life is fiction. I invented you.
GUMSHOE: (waggling the book) You ever investigated an explosion at a Titan casino? Entered the lair of a giant spider queen? Crossed the dimensions without getting eaten by boundary wolves? Trust me, buddy, all those things you put in the book – they’re real. I should know.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: But they’re not. And neither are you. Which begs the question – how did you get here?
GUMSHOE: I’m a stringwalker. You know that.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: I know you can travel between dimensions. I just didn’t know you could hop from fiction to fact and back again.
GUMSHOE: Consider yourself educated. So, what are you going to do about it?
GRAHAM EDWARDS: About what?
GUMSHOE: About how you’re making a fortune out of plagiarising my life.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: Trust me, there’s a lot less money in writing than you’d think.
GUMSHOE: Doesn’t mean you’re not a thief.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: What can I say? The book’s already published. People are reading it, right now. They’re finding out what happens when you put cosmic string theory into a blender along with all the world’s mythologies and turn the dial up to eleven. They’re reading about you. Doesn’t that make you feel proud?
GUMSHOE: Try violated. Take it back.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: Come again?
GUMSHOE: Untie the knots.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: Sorry, you really have lost me.
GUMSHOE: It’s simple. You put on your boots, you tie your laces. You untie the laces, you take them off. Reality is all just knots, when you get down to it. Same with fiction. You made one hell of a snarl in the cosmos when you wrote this book. Time to untangle it.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: I don’t know how to do that.
GUMSHOE: Yes, you do. It’s easy. You just write another book.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: Okay. Now I’m confused. You come here to tell me I shouldn’t have written this novel. Now you want me to write a sequel?
GUMSHOE: Right. Double negative. Inverse becomes converse, yin becomes yang. Matter and antimatter, chicken and egg. Everything cancels out, just like when you thread a reverse Riemannian spline through an exposed metaloop in the interdimensional weft.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
GUMSHOE: (striding to the door) Just do it. And do it quick.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: Well, I do have a few ideas.
GUMSHOE: That’s the spirit. Just don’t kill me off in chapter one.
GRAHAM EDWARDS: (with dawning realisation) Wait! That’s it, isn’t it? You didn’t come here because you’re angry. You came because you’re scared! As your author, I could end you just like that. I’m literally holding your life in my hands.
GUMSHOE: I don’t have a life, remember? I’m fictional. You know what you have to do. Get on with it. If you don’t – I’ll be back.
With that, the gumshoe took off his leather coat and turned it inside-out three times until it was made of paduasoy. That’s a kind of corded silk, by the way. He folded himself in half, then in half again, slashed a line through the fundamental weave of the cosmos and hurled himself into the waiting void. I heard the distant howl of what might have been a wolf or an interplanetary beam engine, or both, or neither, then the rip in reality snapped shut and I was alone in the bar once more.
I downed the Southern Comfort, pulled my laptop out of my bag, and began to write.
The new interdimensional thriller String City is available now from all major booksellers, published by Solaris Books in the UK and North America. And, yes, it does feature a Titan casino, a giant spider queen, and an awful lot of cosmic string.
Here’s the synopsis:
The Universe is made of string. When the knots tighten, the Cosmos quakes.
It’s a tough job being a gumshoe in an interdimensional city full of gods, living concepts and weirder things. Good thing I’m a stringwalker, able to jump between realities.
It started when I was hired to investigate an explosion at a casino. A simple heist, I thought, but it turned into a race to stop the apocalypse. So I rolled the dice, and now I’m up against the ancient Greek Titans, an interdimensional spider god and a mysterious creature known as the Fool. I’m going to need more than just luck to solve this one.
If I fail, all things — in all realities — could be destroyed.
Just another day in String City.