Who we are (what we are) is often determined by who we’re with.
There Will Be Blood (the novel) begins with There Will Be Blood (the band) causing a stir at the Gwando Awards: physical assault, damage to a gold bottle of Gwando Spunk and stripping the award presenter. When Susan Bekker leads the charge into the green room backstage they discover a very different version of the Belarussian hooligans.
The theme of the third Toten Herzen novel was the deception generated by the way we all have a public and private persona. In the previous novels the theme concentrated on two or three characters, but human nature being what it is meant that everyone in There Will Be Blood had two faces.
Backstage, the band cowered as their manager Mikhail Pushkin took them apart for not sticking to the script. Greater outrages were missed. Pushkin is a crook, a money launderer for Russian arms dealers, but as the novel progresses he loses his grip on his main task (to launder money through the band’s business dealings), and evolves into an impressario determined to go beyond the self-inflicted catastrophes of Toten Herzen.
Blood can’t compete with Toten Herzen, and behind the scenes, in spite of the bravado, the members of Blood have no appetite to take on their stadium-filling rivals. They hate the images presented by their videos and even though lead singer Valken Dobrosiev is a former enforcer for Pushkin, in private he can’t even stomach the site of a body laid out in a coffin.
Inspired by the twin drummers used by Laibach, I decided to include identical twin drummers in the second line-up of There Will Blood. Where most of the characters had two personalities in one body, I inverted the theme by having one personality in two bodies; Sasha and Natasha Pojzerova. (They even hint at the possibility of a third twin Dasha!) The twins are individuals, but in the story they are constantly mistaken for each other, and only people prepared to spend time with them learn who is who, or which is which.
Deliberate deception and deception unawares are distributed across the novel’s cast of characters. Rene is increasingly tired of life in Toten Herzen, confiding in Blood’s second guitarist, the mysterious Romanian Ria Geanescu, possibly the only character who doesn’t present two sides to her personality, possibly by concealing one side from readers as well as characters around her. She can see vampires where others can’t, but in spite of this unexplained ability, Rene still feels she is the only person he can talk to and trust. Through her he gets a glimpse of the real Blood and the fact that they’re no threat to Toten’s dominance, a threat that drives Susan to destructive rage especially when the press start to present Ria as the new Hendrix.
Elsewhere, Interpol agent Bernadette Maldini – imported from the first Malandanti novel Who Among Us… to investigate Susan Bekker – struggles to reconcile her private Catholic beliefs with her professional rejection of the supernatural crimes engulfing her investigations. This blind spot infuriates her partner Pierre Dremba and ultimateley her boss Leonard Thwaite. She will one day open her eyes to the truth, but as Dremba is told, only after she becomes a vampire like the people she’s investigating!
Bernadette’s experiences demonstrate one of my intentions with the TotenSeries: allowing the reader to sneak behind the scenes and witness events denied to many of the characters. Bernadette refuses to believe a levitating ashtray is being carried by a ghost, but the reader knows who the ghost is, where she comes from and what she’s doing in the same room as Bernadette. The conceit is that the reader is always one step ahead of the characters, waiting for the moment when circumstances take an ugly turn.
The final addition to this installment of the TotenSeries is Frieda Schoenhofer, drifting over from her own Reflections novel The One Rule of Magic. In her own novel we watch as she discovers Rob Wallet’s presence in Monaco leading to several encounters told from her point of view. In There Will Be Blood – the events running concurrently with those of The One Rule of Magic – we see the encounters again, but from Rob Wallet’s point of view. Frieda is the one character that evolves from one state to another and through the eye of Wallet we are left wondering which Frieda we’re watching: the old Malandanti witch, or the new reformed post-Malandanti finder of lost memorabilia collections.
I couldn’t write this novel without including a trick of my own, riffing on the theme of disguises and concealed identities. In Monaco, Wallet teams up with four British ex-pats: Barny Flowers, William Kent, Eric Fleetwood and Albert Cole. To avoid accusations of comedy plagiarism I included a note at the beginning of the book explaining that these four characters were directly based on Keith Floyd, Kenneth Williams, Eric Morecambe and George Cole in his role as television spiv Arthur Daley. Behind each character lurked a real funnyman, my tribute to their deliberate or unintended and fictionalised comedy genius. These four probably won’t make sense to anyone outside the UK, but British readers of a certain age might recognise Eric Fleetwood’s comment to Wallet, “I’ll go and get the Geiger counter . . . It’s in Chesterfield.”
Ultimately, There Will Be Blood disects the reasons for showing different faces to different people. To deceive, to excite, to hide personal flaws, or reject an uncomfortable truth. The quantum-philosophical presence of Sunier and Ronsons’ janomes is never far away, and the synchronous dead and alive existence of Schroedinger’s Cat flows through the narrative waiting for the next collapse of a superposition to throw out another vampire, another ghost, another otherworldly creature.
The one deception we still fall short of explaining, although Bernadette Maldini’s investigation almost pulls away their multiple masks, is who are Toten Herzen?