Wake Up and Dream

Wake Up and Dream

by Ian R. MacLeod

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Winner of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History: Nineteen-forties Hollywood is dazzlingly transformed and recreated in this alternate history fantasy noir about former screen actor–turned–private eye Clark Gable who investigates a deadly conspiracy in a neo-fascist Tinsel Town
In a different 1940, with Europe in flames and an anti-Semitic…  See more details below


Winner of the Sidewise Award for Alternate History: Nineteen-forties Hollywood is dazzlingly transformed and recreated in this alternate history fantasy noir about former screen actor–turned–private eye Clark Gable who investigates a deadly conspiracy in a neo-fascist Tinsel Town
In a different 1940, with Europe in flames and an anti-Semitic America creeping towards fascism, movie making has been revolutionized: A wondrous technological advancement made possible by the discovery of the Bechmeir field now transmits actors’ emotions directly into the minds of the audience—effectively ending the acting career of a cynical loner named Clark Gable. No longer a handsome screen idol, Clark now makes his living as an unlicensed matrimonial private eye. When gorgeous April Lamotte contacts the low-rent gumshoe, he sees a golden opportunity to make some quick and easy cash. All he has to do is impersonate April’s wealthy,reclusive screenwriter husband, sign a contract for a new biopic, and then slip back into the shadows. But when someone tries to assassinate Clark and pass it off as a suicide, he realizes he’s gotten too deep into something deadly. And as more and more of the Hollywood elite start turning up dead, Clark must race to uncover the shocking truth behind the Bechmeir field’s origins, and expose a terrible secret that someone’s all too willing to kill for.    

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
It’s 1940 and Hollywood is dominated by the feelies, movies that use the mysterious Bechmeir Field to transmit emotions into the minds of viewers. Clark Gable, a movie star turned private detective, is hired by April Lamotte to briefly impersonate her reclusive screenwriter husband, who’s about to sell a biopic based on the inventor of the Bechmeir Field. After everything is signed, someone tries to kill Gable and pass it off as suicide. Gable’s investigation into the incident draws him into a sordid conspiracy involving Hollywood’s elite, far too many of whom are turning up dead. It all leads back to something called Thrasis, and a secret worth killing for. MacLeod (Journeys) expertly hits all the hard-boiled beats, delivering the creepy, fascinating, strange, and wholly enjoyable story with a noir melancholy, a keen eye for detail, and plenty of snappy dialogue. (Oct.)

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Wake Up and Dream

By Ian R. MacLeod


Copyright © 2011 Ian R. MacLeod
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4804-2371-8


A perfect morning in late June. The last of the mist had burned away and the smog had yet to settle as he took the offramp from the new Olympic Parkway and rattled north through Hollywood in his battered '36 Ford. Stargazy queues were already lengthening outside the feelie houses for today's first shows. Backstabber Wife, starring Trudy Rester—whoever the hell she was—was on at the Aladdin, and The Wonderful Prairie and Midnight's Dust were in continuous double bill at the Classic, both featuring Saffron Knowles and James H. Pack, and he hadn't heard of them, either. Not for the first time, he told himself that he should pay more attention to the industry on which this city thrived.

Today was his chance. Up along Franklin beside the high fences of the new Paramount-Shindo studios. On past the stores offering sightseeing tours and the boys selling maps of the stars and girls selling themselves and the plateglass boutiques and the bars which were already open for the morning, or hadn't yet closed from the night before. And up. Into the hills.

There were pines. White clouds. Air so clean it tasted like God's aftershave. The Ford's engine made an ominous coughing sound as it climbed the hairpins. It wasn't used to this kind of world. Neither was he.

He took the grade above Stone Canyon. The road here kicked and turned, with fine views all the way to the Pacific. He was struggling with his street guide as it flapped on the passenger seat when a siren blooped behind him. Cursing, he pulled away from the drop and into the farside verge as the other car swung around in front just before a large private estate sign that announced Woodsville.

Not a police car, although you'd have to look twice to be sure. The same black Mercury sedan the LAPD used. It even had the siren, and the blue toplight, although a badge on the side announced Gladmont Securities. Upscale areas like this used these kinds of companies to keep out sightseers and ne'er-do-wells.

Just to show willing, he uncricked himself from his Ford and put on his best aw shucks grin as the security guard—who was lean and tall, and carrying a gun in a pop-down leather holster on his belt—approached. The sunlight was turning the waters of the reservoir beneath them to glittering gold. The sun was doing a pretty good job up here all round.

"You got business in this area?" The security guard was wearing aviator sunglasses and the sort of uniform you saw in pictures of those German parades, right down to the peaked cap. The armband might as well have had a swastika, but it was just another Gladmont Securities shield.

"Wouldn't be here otherwise."

The security guard's reflected gaze traveled up and down more slowly. Absorbed in greater detail the suit, which was faded yellow at the hem and edges from too much dry cleaning, the frayed necktie which had worked loose from his shirt collar, which was loose and frayed as well, and finally the shoes, which lacked the intense shine of the trouser knees. The gaze then traveled back to the dusty, two door, black Ford Tudor which had seen considerably better years, let alone days.

"Maybe this'll help…" He reached into the outside pocket of his suit coat and removed a letter. It drooped from the dampness of his fingers as he held it out.

The security guard's thin lips pursed as he studied it. "So you're the addressee? Clark Gable?"

Nice, that: addressee. "Yeah. That's right."

"And you're here to see a Mrs April Lamotte up in Woodsville?"

"She wrote the letter. Said that was what she wanted. As you can see, I'm supposed to be there at ten o-clock."

"You realize it's quarter gone already?"

"The longer we stand here, the more I'm late." "Do you have any other proof of identity?"

Making sure he got the letter back first, Clark reached into his top pocket and produced one of his business cards. Watching as the security guard studied it, he decided he really needed to splash out on a fresh print run without the telephone number changed and then crossed out. "So you're a private eye?" The security guard folded over the card's corner and pocketed it.

"That's what it says. My permit's in the car."

The security guard didn't exactly raise his eyebrows; at least not as far as Clark could tell behind those sunglasses. It was more subtle than that. "You're carrying a gun?"

"Never could bother with the things." He opened his arms to show willing. "Pat me down if you like."

What Clark could see of the tan, long face remained resolutely deadpan. This guy wasn't much like any security guard he'd ever encountered. Far too young and too slim to be an ex-cop, and most of the rest were paid bullies. Then there was his light voice and cultured manner, which didn't fit either—more like the guy was playing a role—although he reckoned the explanation was most likely the usual one you found when you came across someone doing seemingly odd work in this city. With those nice cheekbones, that regular complexion and thin, expressive mouth, he was probably just another actor between roles.

The security guard gave an eloquent smile, then he turned from Clark and with a rasp of his steel-tipped heels strode over to the far side of the road. He began to whistle tunelessly as he regarded the view. "Some fine morning, isn't it, Mr Gable?" he said eventually.

"I was just thinking the same myself." The whistling began again. The birds sang. The guard remained standing gazing at the view across the reservoir. Clark got the impression that this was one of those moments which could go on and on.

"By the way," he asked, "you don't happen to know the exact way I should be going to get to my client, do you?"

"The exact way?" Something close to amusement played across the guard's face as he turned and wrapped his long fingers around his gleaming belt. "Don't think I do. All I can honestly recommend, Mr Gable, is that you keep on going in the direction you're already on … "


Woodsville. an exclusive development of the kind you saw advertised in the back of shiny magazines, but never for real. He passed a clumpy-looking guy pushing a wheelbarrow beside the lush hedges. A place like this, even roadsides were planted with brilliant borders and kept trim and neat.

There were no gates. No dogs, either. Or only the sort that sat on their matrons' laps and licked the cream from their coffee. No sign of any of the security guard's colleagues, either, and Clark was just starting to wish he'd stopped to ask the wheelbarrow guy for directions when he saw a big slab of polished stone carved with the word Erewhon on a slope beneath a fuchsia hedge. He braked and turned up the steep drive.

The overheating Ford made it across the last of the gravel before it stalled. There were big bushes of bright flowers. There was cool dampness in the air which felt good on his face as he climbed out and unpicked his suit from off his back and around his crotch. The house was a Chinese puzzle in glass and brick, when he'd been calculating on mock Gothic or farmhouse French. But that was probably next door, and the one which looked like a Greek or a Roman temple would be the one beyond that.

Two cars were parked by the steps. One was a dark red Cadillac Series 90, the latest model with the V16 engine, and the other a rare and beautiful cream-colored French sports coupé—a Delahaye. His Ford Tudor, which was wheezing and ticking like an unsprung clock as it cooled, didn't look like a machine which had been designed to serve anything remotely like the same purpose as these. The Delahaye was particularly superb. Its top was down. There were so many buttons and switches it looked like the console of an airplane.

Erewhon's front door was smoked glass. The sides around it were angled, and of glass as well. Several dozen different versions of Clark Gable swam up to him as he climbed to the last stretch of marble and searched for a doorbell, or a knocker, or anything resembling a handle. Then came a small, electric hum, and the doors opened neither in nor out, but sideways into hidden recesses.

Stepping inside, he called hello. Seemingly with a will entirely of their own, the sides of the door hummed shut behind him. The huge, polished hallway shimmered with dark reflections like silent birds. Should have done what he often did when he first saw a client and wandered around back on the pretense of not being able to find the right entrance— which would have made perfect sense here. Or talked to the neighbors. Or the servants or the houseboys. Or that gardener, maybe. Anything, really, other than just charge straight in like he had. He'd got distracted by the beautiful roadster, and the way the sun had flashed and sparkled on that reservoir, and the security guard, and the eau de cologne-scented air.

The hallway opened into a kind of atrium. His voice echoed and was lost as he called hello again. There was glass above him. Clouds fractured where the edges of the panes met as if they'd been put together like some huge, moving jigsaw. He caught glimpses of antique sofas and rugs in empty rooms. Flowers everywhere. Some of them were real. Some were in paintings. With some he couldn't tell.

He reached a corridor. It was long and wide and tall, set to the left with dozens of windows open to the gardens beyond. White curtains drifted, bringing in the scent of cut grass. Midway along it, something else seemed to be moving, although he took it at first to be the curtains' shifting reflections caught in mirror glass.

Close to, he realized that this was something else. He felt a cool prethunderstorm prickle across the hairs on his hands and forearms and down his neck which even he, who rarely went to the feelies, recognized as coming from a Bechmeir field. But this wasn't like the dusty grids which fizzed behind the projector screen in thousands of theaters in every town and city across the country. This field coiled like gusting snow—or a dust devil—in the space between a black plinth and the swan-neck which curved six or seven feet above it. Held between the two charged plates which this structure, elegant in itself, supported, the feelie wraith gave off a faint crackling as it shimmered and danced. The plinth looked to be made of solid marble, although he guessed that it wasn't; you had to put all the electronics somewhere, and he presumed that it was in there. A brass plaque—or solid gold, for all he knew—was inset into the plinth. Finely engraved on it was the single word Muse.

This, he supposed, was what you got. What you got, that was, when you'd already got the house, and the Cadillac and the Delahaye and all those gardens and the walk-in closet you could get seriously lost in.

He felt a thickening in his throat and the imminent pressure of sound within his ears as he looked up at it. It really had been years since he'd been to a feelie theater, and he'd forgotten just how powerful the sensation was when you stood before the plasm of a Bechmeir field. And how unsettlingly weird. No use telling yourself that some tiny nub in your brain was simply picking up the amplified waves of a clever recording. No use thinking of wires and transformers. And here, unaccompanied by the usual moving images and soundtrack, the feeling seemed to be strengthened rather than weakened.

Instead of a shapeless blur, the swirl, the presence, of the wraith seemed to form itself into a misty amalgam. Translucent mouths smiled down at him. Limbs stretched out in chill embrace. He caught flashes of vanished laughter, dark whispers of lost lives. He blinked hard. He knew how easy it was to get drawn in by a Bechmeir field's tawdry allure. But it didn't feel tawdry. Not at the time. That was the damndest thing.

"You're like everyone else who comes here, Mr Gable…"

He turned. Something was coming towards him from the far end of the corridor. It seemed for a moment to be dark and indefinite, and he felt a sense of dread. But then he saw that the figure was human, and that it was female, and plainly composed of flesh and blood.

"… that damn thing stops almost everyone in their tracks. I'm April Lamotte. You obviously got my letter." She held out a hand. She smelled expensive and she'd recently put on some kind of hand cream, but the grip was hard and purposeful. As was the way that she was looking at him. "Have to say you're not quite what I was hoping for, Mr Gable. No, not at all, really. But I guess you'll have to do."

"Mrs Lamotte…" He cleared his throat as she finally let go of him. "You have a very nice place here."

She glanced around as if the thought had never struck her. "You don't think it over-ostentatious?"

"I'm hardly equipped to judge."

"But you wouldn't want to live here?" "Not sure I'd know how."

"There probably is a knack to it." She gave a sharp laugh. Standing as close to the wraith as they still were, he tried not to shiver. "One I'm still attempting to learn…" She turned and headed back along the corridor towards the room from which she had emerged, glancing back as he followed in a way which he might normally have thought of as almost flirtatious. Here, he wasn't sure. This really was a different world.


"Please sit down."

April Lamotte looked gracefully young in the measured way that only rich, mature women ever did. She was wearing a pale green silk pants suit and seemingly little else. She was slim, almost thin—not his type, really—and her feet were bare. She had lustrous center-parted, red hair. He already had her down as a sharp and determined piece of work as she gestured for him to sit on a long couch.

His ass sank and his legs bobbed high, but she remained standing, her fingers turning her gold wedding ring in quick circles, and he was glad to see that small sign of nervousness.

"You did as I asked? You brought the letter? No one else knows or is at all aware that you're coming here?"

He nodded. Clients were often over-obsessed with secrecy, and that security guard who'd stopped his car really didn't seem worth mentioning. "Discretion's a given in the sort of work I do, Mrs Lamotte."

"As you can see, I've given leave to all my servants. None of this must come out. Absolutely nothing. Ever. You understand? I'd like that letter now. May I have it please? And the envelope… ?"

He watched her flick a large silver lighter, turn the papers under its flame and lay the burning, blackening remains in a big crystal ashtray. The process made him wonder again how the letter, and the enticing fifty-C note which had come with it, had arrived at his delivery locker back in Venice with no stamp or postmark.

"Maybe," he said, "you could tell me a little more of what all this is about. Perhaps we could begin with some basic details—"

"I'm more than aware of the sort of work you do, Mr Gable. Before you start asking questions which aren't appropriate, I should tell you that I don't want a divorce. Neither is my husband having any kind of affair. In a way, perhaps, that might have helped."

"You say you know what I do, Mrs Lamotte," he said. "But I think you should know what I don't do as well. There's no violence or coercion. I don't carry a gun. Beyond parking fines, for which I bill as normal, I try to avoid breaking any kind of law. I may help evidence along but I don't manufacture it. In fact, most of what I do is simply to find out about what people are already doing, and then make sure it's witnessed and photographed as cleanly and clearly as such things ever can be. My hourly rate's three dollars."

April Lamotte made a small gesture of dismissal; even the tripling of his normal fee didn't faze her. It was hard to tell the exact color of her eyes, although he'd have guessed at green. There was a slight pinch at the tip of her nose which, in its own way, wasn't unattractive. The light was strange in here, dim after the brightness of those corridors, lit from a semi-circular bay of half-closed drapes which covered a wider sweep of window, but caught within the gloss of so many shining objects, this silk-clad woman included, that it sort of had a quality and substance of its own. Like fresh paint, the shine of that Delahaye's dials, or that feelie ghost.

"You'll have a drink?" She slung ice from a silver bucket into a cut glass jug.


Excerpted from Wake Up and Dream by Ian R. MacLeod. Copyright © 2011 Ian R. MacLeod. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Ian R. MacLeod is the acclaimed writer of challenging and innovative speculative and fantastic fiction. His most recent novel, Wake Up and Dream, won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, while his previous works have won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and the World Fantasy Award, and have been translated into many languages. His short story “Snodgrass” was developed for television in the United Kingdom as part of the Sky Arts series Playhouse Presents. MacLeod grew up in the West Midlands region of England, studied law, and spent time working and dreaming in the civil service before moving on to teaching and house-husbandry. He lives with his wife in the riverside town of Bewdley.   
Ian R. MacLeod is the acclaimed writer of challenging and innovative speculative and fantastic fiction. His most recent novel, Wake Up and Dream, won the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, while his previous works have won the Arthur C. Clarke Award, the John W. Campbell Memorial Award, and the World Fantasy Award, and have been translated into many languages. His short story, “Snodgrass,” was developed for television in the United Kingdom as part of the Sky Arts series Playhouse Presents. MacLeod grew up in the West Midlands region of England, studied law, and spent time working and dreaming in the civil service before moving on to teaching and house-husbandry. He lives with his wife in the riverside town of Bewdley.  

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