…and it looks like my hopes for continuing the story of the Armstrongs on the Moon will have to wait. At least for a while.
I have a day or so left to go on the first draft of PIRATES OF THE MOON, following which I will be jumping back into the dieselpunk world of Sohu, to complete the dark urban fantasy that I call THE PRISONER OF SOHO.
I’d like to give you a flavour of what you’ve voted for, so here’s a short extract. Our hero, Inigo Jones, has just been shoved through a portal that leads to … well, this.
He frowned up at the sky. It was an unhealthy turd-yellow, and black at the edges. It had been bleak and grey when he disappeared underneath Soho, but this looked more like sunset to Inigo. He checked the Nixon. That concurred with his internal clock.
12:23. No more that a couple of hours had passed since he had first met Litany, but there was a distinct chill in the air that slipped through his damp suit like a razor.
Something was not right at all. Further, there was something odd about the air. It smelt wrong somehow, even through the stink of garbage. It had a softness and a spiced fragrance to it that was utterly unlike the pissbeerrot stink that he found familiar. And there was music. A pulse. A beat that he knew. A skipping, skittering vibration that tangled up in his spine.
A shudder zapped up his spine. He suddenly felt very alone.
With his hand on his knife, he stepped out of Kraiey Court, and into another world.
Boulevard Francescu Bacon was wide, filthy and crammed with people. Porn shops, bars and strip joints lined both sides of the thoroughfare, while stalls selling clothing, knock-offs and hot snacks spilled off the pavements into the road. Traffic was a growl away from a snarl-up. Pedestrians and cyclists weaved through whatever gaps they could find.
There were no vehicles Inigo recognised. The street looked like three different car collector rallys all competing for the same exhibition space. There was nothing even remotely modern. Two-stroke powered Trabants thakkered their way through tiny gaps in the gridlock, while Morris Oxfords engaged in automotive combat with high-sided Bedford vans and the occasional tricked-out Wolseley. He could see nothing that dated any later than 1965. Adding to the carnage, sharp-dressed geezers on scooters buzzed through the throng, mounting the pavement if it made things easier. They scattered pedestrians as they went, screaming insults and jeering at the tops of their voices.
The noise was huge, filling Inigo’s head to straining point. Blatting horns provided a 4/4 kick overlaid with the shrill yelps of street vendors and the throb of over-revved engines. The battering thud of music blared from every open door, a wild mix that Inigo struggled to find familiar elements. Algerian rai was mixed in with Kodo drums, the sweet majesty of qawwali backed with the sonorous drone of Nepalese throat-singing, and somewhere at the back of it all, sweetening the mix, the same pulse, the same intoxicant throb of a backbeat, twisted through the mix like silver wire, the lost chord that tied everything together.
He swayed, dizzied by the noise, assaulted by the stench of petrol, hot fat and frying meat, a tang of decay that made his tongue arch. It was a Ridley Scott remix of “Absolute Beginners”. It was 50s Soho mashed together with 22nd century Algiers, coated in chilli paste and microwaved until it fizzed.
The buildings looked sort of familiar. To his left a narrow cylinder-ended construction reminded me of the Sun And 13 Cantons pub in Beak Street. Unlike the Sun, this building had been festooned in rickety neon signage, bilious pink worms of light that proclaimed … something … in a language that looked like a bastard mix of Pashtun and Cyrillic. Every building sported the same encrustation. Some had two-storey mediatronic screens flaring out commercials at blipvert speed. None of them touted a brand name Inigo recognised.
He stumbled backwards, eyes puppy-wide. He’d walked into some bizarre Arab-Stalinist version of Times Square, and it was squeezing his head out of shape.