We are to believe there was a time when The Birmingham Quean was just a poem: a mock-epic burlesque in which a fake pound coin told how she was won in a game of darts by a drag-queen called Britannia Spears. It parodied Popés The Rape of the Lock, Byrońs Don Juan and an anonymous eighteenth century novel, The Birmingham Counterfeit. The transformation of this bit of picaresque doggerel into the sprawling work barely contained by this cover is the central mystery of a ludic novel. It mirrors the unlikely story of a dirty little settlement of nailers and cutlers becoming the principle city of the Industrial Revolution by flooding the Restoration economy with counterfeit coins. What remains is an absurd scholarly edition of a poem recast as a futuristic dystopia in which nothing is authentic. It is also the tale of an impossible love affair that uncovers an impossible text by an impossible author. It is as strange, ironic, sombre, flashy and anarchic as the city to which it owes its existence.