King of the City

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Michael Moorcock, "one of the most exciting discoveries in the contemporary English novel [in] forty or so years" (Washington Post), returns with the story of the times and trials of Dennis Dover, former rock guitarist, photojournalist, paparazzo, and loyal denizen of Mother London, and his brilliant, beautiful, and socially conscious cousin, Rosie Beck. Since childhood they have been inseparable, delighting in the daily discoveries of a life with no limits. But now a powerful, unstoppable force that consumes the...
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Overview

Michael Moorcock, "one of the most exciting discoveries in the contemporary English novel [in] forty or so years" (Washington Post), returns with the story of the times and trials of Dennis Dover, former rock guitarist, photojournalist, paparazzo, and loyal denizen of Mother London, and his brilliant, beautiful, and socially conscious cousin, Rosie Beck. Since childhood they have been inseparable, delighting in the daily discoveries of a life with no limits. But now a powerful, unstoppable force that consumes the past indiscriminately, leaving nothing of substance in its wake, threatens the metropolis that nurtured them. 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, with but one goal: to devour the entire world. And their only choices left are to join in, drop out ... or plot to destroy him.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Like Gargantua or Tristram Shandy, Dennis "Denny" Dover is born with all the portents of some future myth. "I was born in Mustard Street. In the top back room of the Hare and Hounds. On 21 December 1952. My dad... was the last real Londoner to be hanged for murder." We first meet Denny, the narrator of Moorcock's scurrilously exuberant London novel, on a downer. He has scored a coup, photographing a supposedly dead English billionaire, Johnny Barbican Begg, enjoying illicit, copulatory bliss with an English countess on a Bahamian island. Denny's scoop is outscooped, however, by Princess Di's car wreck, which not only chases everything else off the headlines, but puts paparazzi in bad odor with the public, forcing Denny to hide out in an English resort town, Skerring. In the long flashback taking up most of the book, we go from the early '70s remnants of a swinging London, with Denny a cult rock and roll guitarist, to his news photography in Rwanda and then his paparazzo days. At the heart of Denny's story is his love for his cousin Rosie Beck, and for working-class London. Rosie metamorphoses from a radical to Barbican Begg's wife and, perhaps, the plotter of his downfall. Moorcock includes real people, like Johnny Lydon, and a host of fictional characters, like the Quentin Crisp-like actor, Norrie Stripling, as though the book were Moorcock's version of the Sgt. Pepper album cover: private favorites and public enemies. Fans of Moorcock's science fiction might find the references hard going, but readers of his Booker Prize-nominated Mother London will enjoy the novel's angry rant against the vices of the age. (Aug.) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Shortlisted for the Whitbread, nominated for the Booker: another fabulous ride through London's recent history-here, the last four decades-that manages to be as sprawling as a Victorian social novel and as vigorous as an 18th-century picaresque. Author of more than 70 novels (including the SF trilogy begun with "Blood", 1995), Moorcock here picks up where he left off-artistically, not literally-with "Mother London "(1989). The story concerns three lives. Narrator Dennis Dover, son of the last Londoner hanged for murder, started out as a documentary photographer and ended up a sleazy paparazzo-and now, in newly sensitive, post-Di England-is unemployed. From this miserable perch, he takes a long, bitter, nostalgic, backwards look. Then there's Rosie, Dennis's cousin, whom Dennis dearly loves and who also, like Dennis, managed to pull herself out of working-class Brookgate. But most importantly, there's John Barbican Begg, who has evolved, through genius and ruthless avarice, into a media magnate, one of the world's wealthiest men. As these three move through the pop-riddled '60s, through the years of drugs, assassinations, and social upheavals and on to Thatcherite England and the present day, Moorcock fills the tale with real characters and situations, made-up characters and situations, and those somewhere in between. Americans at times may feel they could use a concordance-presumably the Brits could figure it out for themselves when it was published in England last year-but you soon give up caring. Moorcock's storytelling is just too powerful in a novel more than likely to invite comparisons to Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities". Certainly Moorcock strikes his big themes:sojourns to Africa and the Balkans echo with imperialism (both cultural and corporate) while contemporary London loses its soul to American-style consumerism. Yet at the same time "King of the City "is far more idiosyncratic than Wolfe's book-and more successful because of it-with a strongly autobiographic feel. Dennis, Rosie, and John Begg never illustrate the fable, as Moorcock calls it, but it emerges completely through them. One of our topmost novelists writing at the peak of his powers.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380795031
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/5/2002
  • Edition description: REPRINT
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.97 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Moorcock has published more than seventy novels, and there are more than twenty million copies of his books in print worldwide. Among the major literary prizes Moorcock has received are the Guardian Fiction Prize and the Nebula Award. He and his wife divide their time between homes in London, Texas, and Spain.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



The Form



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.

Eldo-fucking-rado!

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.
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Table of Contents

1. The Form 1
2. The Squeeze 9
3. The Pinch 17
4. The Crack 28
5. The Patch 37
6. The Twist 50
7. The Sniff 57
8. The Score 65
9. The Scrap 76
10. The Snap 83
11. The Lick 95
12. The Drift 103
13. The Jack 116
14. The Queen 143
15. The King 170
16. The Pull 187
17. The Touch 196
18. The Smack 208
19. The Shaft 220
20. The Skin 230
21. The Spit 241
22. The Rap 252
23. The Reds 267
24. The Whites 282
25. The Blues 307
26. The Set 338
27. The Plot 374
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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 16, 2001

    Brilliant

    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.

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