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More than a decade ago, Michael Moorcock's extraordinary Mother London gave stunning new breath and style to contemporary literature. With Bruce Chatwin's Utz and Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, the novel was short-listed for Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize. Now, with scathing wit and enthralling vision, the author whom the Washington Post has praised as "one of the most exciting discoveries in the contemporary English novel [in] 40 or so years" returns to a city ...
More than a decade ago, Michael Moorcock's extraordinary Mother London gave stunning new breath and style to contemporary literature. With Bruce Chatwin's Utz and Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, the novel was short-listed for Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize. Now, with scathing wit and enthralling vision, the author whom the Washington Post has praised as "one of the most exciting discoveries in the contemporary English novel [in] 40 or so years" returns to a city transformed and transforming, and in peril of its life.
These are the times and trials of Dennis Dover, former rock guitarist, photojournalist, and paparazzo. Denny inhabits a world of vibrant color, smell, and sound, where novel experience and unpredictability are anchored by steadfast tradition and history. Mother London's many vagaries give Denny Dover joy and succor, always seducing him home from the Earth's terrible places, where the face of death is as common as the blood that stains the local dirt. And London is where Rosie Beck is, when she isn't off elsewhere combating the planet's great ills.
Denny's brilliant, beautiful, socially conscious cousin has always been an indispensable part of his being -- his soul mate and his soul. Since childhood they have been inseparable, delighting in the daily discoveries of a life with no limits. But now the metropolis that nurtured them is threatened by a powerful, unstoppable force that consumes the past indiscriminately and leaves nothing of substance in its wake.
The terminator is named John Barbican Begg. A hanger-on from Denny and Rosie's youth, he has become the morally corrupt center of their London and the richest, most rapacious creature in the Western Hemisphere. Now, as their cherished landmarks tumble, conspiracy, secrets, lies, and betrayal become the centerpieces of Rosie and Dennis's days. For Barbican has but one goal: to devour the entire world. And the only choice left is to join in, drop out ... or plot to destroy.
A sprawling work of incomparable invention, King of the City is eccentric and remarkable, a unique urban love story with a pit-bull bite that confirms the unparalleled literary genius of the amazing Michael Moorcock.
Believe me, pards, we're living in an age of myths and miracles.
Call it divine coincidence, good instincts or bad timing, but at the very moment the People's Princess and Prince Harrod-al-Ritz hit the concrete in Paris I was zonked out of my brain, hanging in a frayed Troll harness from the basket of a Hitsu FG-180 hot-air balloon drifting through Little Cayman's perfect skies in the mellow light of the setting sun and snapping the godzilla bonkshot of the century.
Orgasmic flesh rippled like flowing grain. Flanked by luscious palms, sharp and sweet at maximum zoom, that familiar pink arse mooned magnificently into frame. With rhythmic balance and enthusiasm, his perfect pelt glowing and pulsing, feeling no pain, deceased zillionaire Sir John Barbican Begg was skilfully demonstrating the missionary swing to that flower of English womanhood, our good old reliable Duchess of Essex, Antonia Staines.
In a hammock.
A symphony in pink and gold.
My cousin Barbi wasn't doing at all badly for a dead man. Publicly drowned in London, publicly flamed in Kensal Rise Crematorium and sentimentally remembered at St Alban's, Brookgate, he was easily recognized by his distinctively marked but well-nourished buttocks; she from the idiosyncratic heavings of her bucolic thighs, her Pre-Raphaelite mane, her hearty faraway whoops.
Barbi had been the richest man in the world when he was wacoed. I knew for sure, however, that hedefinitely hadn't been divorced. His ex-widow, Rose, was my other cousin. My ex-wife, his step-sister, had also married him, which made Barbican my ex-brother-in-law...
Some of those relationships went back to the womb but just then old mister wonderself didn't give a Welshman's wank about relationships. Moi was bathing in the sensual flame of transcendental onanism. Had hit the $G spot. Was scooping the superpoop. Snapping my place into the tabloid hall of fame.
The balloon rental had cost me my remaining credit card but by tomorrow I would be immortal. And so would Barbi. I was about to make him a legend in both lifetimes. I'd never even liked him up to that moment but now I genuinely loved him. How could I not? He was my meal-ticket to the multiverse.
Definition better than perfect at maximum magnification, back from the dead and bonking like a buffalo, there he was: The Midas Kid. The man who had reaped the profits of a dozen recessions, used the Fortune Five Hundred as a shopping list, dumped Maxwell, bought Trump, outfoxed Soros, massacred Murdoch, dismissed Ted Turner as a sentimental amateur and considered Citizen Kane a philanthropist.
My pictures were the prize for weeks of unsleeping obsession, decades of dissatisfaction, a heap of subtle humiliations, some serious inconveniences and miseries. Pix that were every photojournalist's dream. International currency. In a couple of days, when the pix saw print, the island would be thicker with photogs than flies on a Frenchman's fart. Barbican would have scarpered by then, of course. But the game would definitely be afoot; the pack would be legging it to the view halloo while I'd be rediscovering the emperor-size feather bed at the Dorset and phoning down for the full English for myself and glamorous young pard. For a moment I felt profound empathy with the pair below. Frame by zipping frame I shared every delicious nuance of their photo opportunity. The moment was saturated with sex. All it lacked to make it perfect was the sound of a two-stroke as Cathy Tyson arrived to carry me off in her microlite...
I only had one crack at the shots. Drunk or sober, mad or sane, I only needed one. As we dropped lower over the convulsing soulmates, I clipped on to the D-ring so that I could lean further out and take some side views, hoping that in their ecstasy they couldn't hear the thump of batty-gangsta rap vibrating from my pilot's pulsing boombox and amplified by our vast silver canopy, or catch a whiff of the roiling cushions of reefer smoke probably keeping us airborne.
Not that you could do much about steering or speed in an FG-180. Plus the volume was busted on the blasta. Plus Captain Desmond Bastable, the pilot, had insisted on bringing two magnums of champagne for the trip as well as a pound of ganja so strong you could get cheerful just being in the same city with it. Also a bottle of Stolichnaya. I never drink on the job, it interferes with what I put up my nose, so Captain B had enjoyed both magnums and now lay spreadeagled on the bottom of the basket -- chewing on his dreadlocks and cackling at his own smutty porkboy stories. Every so often he did something amusing with his burner. I didn't care. I had three full rolls of FX-15+ with digital backup and I was on my fourth. The smoke pacified my mind. I relaxed so much I almost went completely over the side. I started to laugh. Captain Bastable found the vodka bottle. Life was never going to be better.
Five rolls finished and then our Panasonic hiccuped radically from Really Hip Hop into Cat Stevens's Moonshadow at full volume. Captain Bastable's musical taste was eclectic but strictly Reformed Muslim.
The air was the clearest it would ever be. I went in for a portrait. Full zoom and still sharp as a stockbroker's trousers. I might have been standing beside her.
Maybe she was telepathic. Suddenly, open-mouthed with glazed confusion, the duchess stared into my excited lens as if into my face. Clickety-click. Then the wind had changed. I was invisible again. I dropped our penultimate sandbag, and we rushed rapidly upward and back the way we'd come. As Rai Twist gave it some stick with their...King of the City. Copyright © by Michael Moorcock. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Posted October 16, 2001
This is Michael Moorcock at his absolute best -- incredible language, complex plot, wonderful characters, real life with that peculiar optimism which allows him to look at a wicked world and still love it. If you don't know Michael Moorcock's literary fiction, you really do have a treat in store. This is first rate literature by any standards.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.