Steven Savile is an international sensation, selling over half a million copies of his novels worldwide and writing for cult favorite television shows including Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Stargate. Now, he is finally making his US debut with Glass Town, a brilliantly composed novel revolving around the magic and mystery lurking in London.
There's always been magic in our world
We just needed to know where to look for it
In 1924, two brothers both loved Eleanor Raines, a promising young actress from the East End of London. She disappeared during the filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s debut, Number 13, which itself is now lost. It was the crime of the age, capturing the imagination of the city: the beautiful actress never seen again, and the gangster who disappeared the same day.
Generations have passed. Everyone involved is long dead. But even now their dark, twisted secret threatens to tear the city apart.
Joshua Raines is about to enter a world of macabre beauty, of glittering celluloid and the silver screen, of illusion and deception, of impossibly old gangsters and the fiendish creatures they command, and most frighteningly of all, of genuine magic.
He is about to enter Glass Town.
The generations-old obsession with Eleanor Raines’s unsolved case is about to become his obsession, handed down father-to-son through his bloodline like some unwanted inheritance. But first he needs to bury his grandfather and absorb the implications of the confession in his hand, a letter from one of the brothers, Isaiah, claiming to have seen the missing actress. The woman in the red dress hadn’t aged a day, no matter that it was 1994 and she’d been gone seventy years.
Long buried secrets cannot stay secrets forever. Hidden places cannot stay hidden forever.
The magic that destroyed one of the most brutal families in London’s dark history is finally failing, and Joshua Raines is about to discover that everything he dared dream of, everything he has ever feared, is waiting for him in Glass Town.
|Publisher:||St. Martin's Press|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.30(d)|
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THE UPRIGHT MAN
January 13, 1994
Obsession is difficult to explain to someone, especially if they don't share it. Let's be honest here, no lies between you and me, boy, what are the odds of someone else sharing your obsession? Slim. Incredibly slim. If by some quirk of fate it happens, that two of you are driven by the same strain of madness, well, that would be unfortunate to say the least.
That was her name.
The object of my desire. I was going to say affection, but there was nothing remotely affectionate about it. Desire is a much better word. Less wholesome. Desire speaks of dark places, of yearning, sweat. It reeks of sex. Affection is something best saved for your grandmother.
Eleanor. My Eleanor.
Sometimes you see a face and you just know. You look at it and something inside you comes alive. I'm not sure I can explain it any better than that. It's strange trying to remember it now, trying to put into words a feeling felt in 1924 about a face that until yesterday I hadn't seen for seventy years. But I'm going to try, because I need you to understand. Otherwise everything's been for nothing. I couldn't bear that. She deserves to be remembered.
She's particularly sharp in my mind this morning because it's the anniversary of her disappearance. It's funny when you think of it, time being this arbitrary thing we conjured up to delineate a day and assign it a number of hours. Of course hours are equally fictitious. There is day and there is night, the rest of it is all just the space in between where the living is done.
January 13, 1924.
A lifetime ago.
The day Eleanor really became a star.
Before then she'd been working for Gainsborough Pictures on a film, Number 13, Hitchcock's ill-fated effort that ended up as so much silver nitrate on the Gainsborough books. Eleanor had been cast as one of the down-on-their-luck residents of The Peabody, a low-income building down in Rotherhithe. She never really talked about the experience, or about Hitch, just to say he was a sweet young man with his own demons. I never really thought of him that way — the sweet part — he was always just a man with demons as far as I was concerned. But to be fair it didn't help his cause that he was instrumental in introducing Seth Lockwood into our lives.
It's not a name you hear all that much these days, but back then the Lockwoods were the original gangster family running the East End. Nothing happened without their say-so. There was talk, of course. Eleanor was a beautiful woman, Lockwood was a dangerous man, and they were in each other's orbits. Their courtship had been the talk of certain seedier parts of the town, but the police could never prove anything. But I've always thought Lockwood had something to do with her disappearance, even if that meant she'd ended her days propping up some foundation over on Friars Mount. New five- and six-storey buildings were ten a penny back then. They were always building something. Gentrifying the city. The council could try and pretend that the Old Nichol Street Rookery wasn't a slum and pretty it up with a new name. They could even take the scum out of the slum, but what they couldn't do was stop it from being a slum, not when men like Seth Lockwood still ran it. It didn't matter if Cock Lane was called Boundary Street. Those places couldn't change. Not really. The world doesn't work like that.
The entire family were nasty pieces of work, but Seth was always the worst of a bad bunch.
I don't know how he wormed his way in with Hitchcock — money, no doubt. Lockwood had plenty of it, none of it clean, and Number 13 was bankrupt — but from the moment he laid eyes on Eleanor I knew there was another person who truly understood my obsession. And like I said, that was unfortunate.
I heard someone the other day say, "No stories ever truly begin; neither do they end. They just go on off the page, and continue living." I like that idea. I mean, when I think about it, I could say that this all started at that moment, when Seth Lockwood walked onto the set of Number 13 down in Rotherhithe and fell in love with Eleanor Raines, but that's not really where it all begins, is it? Because he had to fall in with Hitch first, and Hitch had to run out of money midshoot on Number 13 for that to happen, and none of it would have mattered if Eleanor hadn't decided she wanted to be a star of the silver screen like Isobel Elsom, who'd captivated her so completely during Onward Christian Soldiers and A Debt of Honour, and of course was a dear friend of Hitchcock's — you see the convoluted patterns life weaves? Even then, there are a dozen other inciting incidents the tragedy around my life owes its existence to.
They are all here, of course.
And if you've found my journal, then I imagine you've found everything else, Boone. The newspaper cuttings, the reams of notes from my investigation as well as the official police investigation, which was declassified twenty years ago. All of this stuff is in the public domain. There are no secrets here. There are hundreds of interviews and testimonies from people who knew her or were working in the area when she disappeared. Plenty of people who'd run afoul of the Lockwoods came forward with their personal grievances, but eventually the police stopped looking for her. I must have read this stuff ten thousand times over the last seventy years, all of it's here, and all of it points toward Glass Town and Seth Lockwood. Everything that could possibly help I've tried to gather together into one place. This is it, your family legacy, my boy. My gift to you now that I'm gone. There're old photographs, headshots and stills mainly, and what I believe might be the only extant footage of Number 13, just a few minutes worth of material with Eleanor outside the fictitious Peabody, but it's all I have left of her to give you. Our celluloid angel.
I've tried so hard to forget her — God knows I have tried. I tried for your mother, who has had to live her entire life knowing her husband was in love with her sister and that she could never compete with a ghost, and for my own piece of mind. You cannot live day-to-day with this perfect imaginary woman taking up all the space inside your head and still try and devote yourself to a woman who just happens to be her sister. It won't work. You're cheating three people if you try. Not that this is meant to be a lesson in morals — I'm not sure they'll last after your generation grows up anyway. I can't remember the last time I saw someone give up their seat on the District Line. Holding the door open for someone is a lost art. Everyone is in so much of a hurry they're forgetting about the best part of being alive — the here and now. If there's one thing this old man would love to teach you, boy, it's that. Live and love in the now. Don't mourn the past or yearn for the future. I know, I know; do as I say, not do as I do. Not that I think you can. I couldn't. I never found a way to escape the past, but that was because I never truly wanted to. It's a dangerous country, the past. Seductive. Alluring. Easy to lose yourself in. Maybe you're a better man than me. I hope you are, for your sake.
But here you have it, all the elements of my confession. It's for you to do with as you will. I'm not even sure if I want to hand my obsession on to you. It consumed my life — why should I feed it yours? So ignore it, take it out and make a huge bonfire out of the stuff in the backyard, and be free of this thing. Or don't.
I'm fighting the urge to tell you more about the personalities involved. I really want to paint you a fuller picture of the Lockwoods and the Raineses, of how they existed in each other's orbits, and to conjure up some of the other players, too, like the young Hitchcock who's at the center of it all, and Claire Greet, the actress; Ruben Glass, the King of Glass Town; Damiola, the stage magician; and Eleanor, of course. But I don't want to color your discovery with my own prejudices. Better that you come at this with new eyes. Perhaps they will see something else? Perhaps after all this time they will see the truth? Or maybe there is no truth? That frightens me. The fact that everything I've dedicated my life to could be lies and deception. That frightens me almost as much as Seth Lockwood.
Only one thing remains for me to tell you here, one final confession. I've hinted at it already, but here it is: I saw her yesterday. It was a crowded street around Spitalfields. She stepped out of a narrow grotty little alleyway; turned, saw me, but didn't recognize this grizzled old face of mine because time is such a feckless bastard and makes husks of us all. She disappeared into the crowd before I could catch up with her. I don't know what I would have said even if I had. I can't even be sure it was her. It might have been the weight of decades of grief on my soul, the burden of all that longing manifesting itself in her presence, because she hadn't changed. Not in the slightest. She was still the same heart-stopping beauty. For a few seconds I saw the face your mother might have had, but for a crime that ripped her out of my life and, for a couple of years, was the talk of the town.
I know. I know it's crazy. Impossible. But there you have it. Perhaps it was an episode. Isn't that what you like to call it when your old man starts losing his mind? "Oh, don't worry about Dad, he's just having an episode." I'd love to tell you the marbles are all inside the bag and not rattling around on the floor, but I did just confess to seeing a ghost, didn't I? Or if not a ghost, what? A doppelgänger? Eleanor reincarnated? Or maybe I saw the impossible? Maybe I saw Eleanor Raines step out of 1924 and that's the reason why no one could ever find her?
So now you have it all — my confession that I never loved your mother, not truly, because my heart belonged to her sister, that she reminded me every day of what I had lost, that in my dotage I'm losing my mind, and that for all of my adult life I have hoarded every piece of memorabilia around your aunt Eleanor's disappearance, and that's it, I am unburdened. I wasn't a good father to you. I know that. You know that. I hope that during the coming weeks and months as you walk a few miles in my shoes you come to understand what drove me, at least. I don't expect forgiveness. I'll be rotting long before you ever forgive me. Life isn't all hearts and flowers. Sometimes it is just holding onto pain too long before letting it go.
Your Father, Isaiah Raines
Joshua Raines folded up the letter, not sure what to make of it. Twenty-four years had passed since his great-grandfather's deathbed confession to his son — Josh's grandfather, Boone. Isaiah Raines had died that year, 1994, just a few weeks after writing the letter, judging by the date. Not that Josh remembered it well, he'd only been eight at the time and the only things he recalled about his great-grandfather were the old-man smell and that he used to leave his false teeth in a glass on the kitchen sink. Isaiah had been nineteen when Eleanor Raines had disappeared, though he hadn't been a Raines at the time. Isaiah had taken his wife's name in the summer of 1926, after a long courtship. Reading his confession it was obvious that he had changed his name to be closer somehow to Eleanor, as if by sharing a name they were linked even more so than by the ties of marriage to her twin sister, Lilly. His given name was Isaiah Lockwood. Seth had been his older brother. It was a messy family history, but weren't they all?
Josh had found the letter among his grandfather's things that morning. His name had been written on the envelope. One last gift from Boone. He had no idea if his grandfather had ever done anything about it, and as of six days ago the chance to ask him had disappeared forever. Boone Raines, son of Isaiah and Lilly Raines, loving husband of Katherine Raines, devoted father of Barclay Raines (deceased) and doting grandfather of one Josh Raines and his baby sister, Lexy, had shuffled rather ungraciously off this mortal coil at 4:06 a.m. after pitching headfirst down the stairs on the way to the toilet.
His grandfather's broken neck left Josh and Lexy as the last of the Raineses. It all ended with them, the weight of generations, the continuation of the family name, the passing of the baton, it stopped with them, and given Josh's inability to nurture a relationship beyond the one-month mark, it was likely to stay that way.
He looked at the grandmother clock in the corner of the room. It ticked on. He had two hours until the funeral. What he didn't have were the promised notes and pictures Isaiah had left to Boone twenty-four years ago, and he didn't have the faintest idea where to go looking for them, either.
Josh slipped the letter into the back pocket of his jeans and went through to his grandfather's kitchen. Like everything else of his grandfather's, it was impeccably organized to the point of OCD obsessiveness. There were seven aromas of coffee bean in the cupboard and a Swiss-made hand grinder on the bench beside the percolator so he could decide exactly how fine the grounds for each should be depending upon his mood. The cupboard smelled like his grandfather. Everything in the house did. He wasn't ready to deal with the loss — he didn't have any coping mechanisms in place. After his father's death, which he'd been too young to really understand, Boone had stepped up and been the man in his life. But even then it was one thing when death was expected, but it was something else entirely when it came sweeping down from nowhere. Barclay Raines had gone out one morning to pick up his Sunday paper and packet of cigarettes from the corner shop — a habit his wife had always said would kill him one day — and never came home. Some kid trying to rob the store had stuck a six-inch blade in his kidneys and that was that. There was no big argument to hang guiltily over his head for the rest of his life, no last words to hold on to. One minute his father had been there, the next he wasn't.
Josh saw the pair of tickets for tomorrow's Leyton Orient game at the Matchroom Stadium still pinned to the fridge by magnets.
He ground the coffee, but stopped halfway through. His head was all over the place. He needed to get changed. He hated wearing a tie, but it was the least the old man deserved. He was supposed to say a few words, but so far had nothing beyond "As granddads went, Boone was pretty good, mainly because he was mine. I remember watching Four Weddings and a Funeral with him, and when John Hannah read out W. H. Auden's "Funeral Blues," he looked at me and in all seriousness said, 'I don't want any of that bollocks at my funeral, son. Promise me. I don't want people crying. Make sure they play Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and if you can possibly swing it, have some dancing girls to put a smile on everyone's face.' So, smile you miserable bastards, he might be watching." He wasn't sure he could do it, though. It was one thing to imagine saying something, saying it over and over again in his mind, even sounding pithy, but it was quite another to let the words out of his mouth.
Suddenly the house felt claustrophobic. His whole life was in this place gathering dust. All of those firsts; first loves, first kisses, first broken bones, broken hearts, and everything else that had happened to him after he'd moved in here with his mum in the wake of the first death. He could hear her bustling about in the front room, puttering around to keep herself busy. This was the second time the man in her life had died on her. He felt an overwhelming surge of sadness and wanted to go and hold her for a moment. She was the last grown-up in his life. Lexy might argue with that, but not for long. She always said she had no intention of growing up if she could help it.
He went through to the lounge.
She looked so much smaller than she had a week ago.
"Mum," he said, from the doorway. "Strange question, did my great-grandfather know Alfred Hitchcock?"
She cocked her head slightly. It was what she did when she was trying to remember something. "Where on earth would you get an idea like that, love?"
"Just something I read. Did Boone ever mention anything?"
Excerpted from "Glass Town"
Copyright © 2017 Steven Savil.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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.
Table of Contents
1. The Upright Man,
2. The Crooked King,
3. Family Reunion,
4. The Rushes,
5. White Noise,
6. Myrna Shepherd's Eyes,
7. Secret Places,
8. Lonely Avenue,
9. Whiskey Dreams,
10. Wraith Bride,
11. The Angel,
12. Timeless Beauty,
13. Number 13,
14. Blood, Sweat, and Tears,
16. Another Fine Mess,
17. The Book of the Dead,
18. Afternoons and Coffee Spoons,
20. Lost Girl,
22. The Mysteries of Damiola,
23. Mirror Kingdom,
24. The Soulless City,
25. Glass Town,
26. Eternal Flame,
27. Lost Week,
28. Prodigal Son,
29. A Problem Shared or Two Lives Ruined,
30. The Tale of One Bent Bastard,
31. Dead Ends,
32. Hot Leads and Look-Alikes,
33. The Last Picture Show,
34. Love Bites,
35. Down Among the Dead Men,
36. Friends Like These,
37. The Unseen Realm,
38. Clean Slate,
39. Positives and Negatives,
40. Hands Across London,
41. These Dreams,
42. Going Home,
43. Grave Intentions,
44. This Old Man's War,
45. Breaking Glass,
46. The Man in the Mirrors,
47. The Final Curtain,
About the Author,
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Josh’s grandfather dies, leaving a letter written by his grandfather’s father about his brother and a woman they both loved back in the 1920s, even though his great grandfather swears he saw her in 1994, looking just like she did back then. Josh embarks on a mystery that leads him on a journey into madness, mayhem, and magic. I am seriously conflicted about this book. It is well-written and the characters are very interesting. Not to mention, the plot was very unique and intriguing. I never really got into the book, however. Why did I give it four stars, or really 3 ½ rounded up? Well, I think the style of writing isn’t really something I enjoy, and I don’t believe it is fair to give a book so well-written and unique a bad rating just because I didn’t get into it. To be honest, the book reminded me some of the book Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko which I also had a hard time reading. And, I do know that there were a great number of people who liked that series. I do recommend but with reservations. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for the e-book which I voluntarily reviewed.