The TotenUniverse is a story about people who were never welcome in society, who never quite fitted.
This is their story of revenge, retribution, ambition and the lengths people go to avoiding conformity and fitting in. The methods they use and the levels of success achieved question ideas about right and wrong, innocence and guilt and ultimately who is really in charge of our personal journeys through life.
Throughout the TotenUniverse there are many characters who find themselves on the outside either through choice or historical design. When their comeback is underway Toten Herzen find the world has moved on without them. Not that they care.
Dee pulled at her earlobe. “Dexter, I’ve read all of Umberto Eco’s novels, including Baudolino, and even I don’t understand a word you’re saying.”
“Dexter, sweetheart,” said Susan, “what other wonders of the modern age should we know about? Do people still drive around in motor cars?”
(We Are Toten Herzen)
The four band members struggle to deal with a perception moulded by press headlines, twenty-four hour news feeds and the expectations of their rabid fans, but they’re not immune to creating the occasional outrage themselves. They are the vehicle through which fads and trends are skewered and shown to be the false promises they are. Feigning apathy, they actually relish the task, demonstrated with visceral honesty when they’re invited to appear as guest judges on the Danish talent show Starmakers:
Cupcakes didn’t take too kindly to the suggestion they should play an instrument. One of them spoke into her microphone. “Why all the hate?”
“Hate is good,” said Dee, “hate is what fuels the universe. Cosmologists are searching for the dark energy that holds the universe together. It’s hate, sweetheart. You get used to hate and you’ll conquer the world. Your lesson starts here tonight.”
“And your point is?” said Elaine.
“I’m suggesting that’s Trolls natural home. Parr Street Labour Club. They’ll always be wanting singers like this. You’ve got a long career ahead of you, Trolls. Once your voice breaks there’ll be no stopping you.”
She stopped in front of the DJ and performed a leery dance before sticking her boot heel in his lips, “And suck me all over, and so licky-loo, baby. . . .” He shoved her boot away. The audience bellowed.
“You’ve got a hard on like the Eiffel Tower,” shouted Elaine. “If I open your zip it’ll punch a hole in the roof.”
“Can’t you respect the spirit of the show? These kids have worked hard to get here. They didn’t do all this to be insulted by you.”
“Oh, pardon me for being an overnight sensation,” said Dee. “I’m not bitter or anything watching a bunch of kids offered fame and fortune like a magazine subscription.” She waved her arms in Elaine’s face. “Gone are the days when you had to work fucking hard to achieve anything.”
“Yeah,” said Elaine. “Kids going up chimneys, rickets. Things just aren’t the same anymore.”
“Do you want to make stars out of these so-called kids?” Dee spread herself across the desk. “Alf looks like he’s ninety if he’s a day. You fucking hypocrites, you’re only here to make money from advertising and sponsorships. Whoever wins tonight will be dropped like an infected gall bladder once they’ve had their Christmas hit. Don’t tell us to respect the spirit of the show, you twat.”
(There Will Be Blood)
Following them around is Raven, the blue haired daughter of Nottingham’s last Leninist-Trotskyist parents. She takes every opportunity to tell people she hates her life and her reputation for moaning is matched only by her appetite. By fate or simple bad luck she becomes the closest friend of Rob Wallet, the man who discovered the band and continued as their publicist until they sacked him.
He finds himself in a curious odd couple friendship with Raven, sharing the role of dumped on mug given the tasks no one else wants to do. They reluctantly search for the long lost fifth member of the band Peter Miles and endure the attentions of Interpol, which has its own odd couple pairing in Bernadette Maldini and Pierre Dremba.
“You gotta look the part, you said so yourself.” Raven’s left biker boot sat on the bedside table next to the reading lamp. Her right biker boot, after the three of them searched for it, turned up in the bath. “See,” Raven said, fussing around Bernadette’s ankles, “don’t look such an idiot after all, do you?”
“Now for the hair,” said Dremba. “There must be a joke shop in Helsinki.”
(There Will Be Blood)
Dremba is a classless non-conformist who hates driving around his Carabinieri-seconded colleague from Turin. His refusal to conform usually gets results until he becomes investigated himself after encountering the Gaze of Satan daubed on the kitchen wall of a colleague driven insane by the Malandanti investigation. Maldini’s own torments are the questions placed on her dogmatic Catholic beliefs as she struggles to accept the existence of demons, witchcraft and their use in organised crime.
“So you believe in all this?”
“Actually I find it impossible to believe. And I find it hard to believe I can’t believe it. I accept the virgin birth, the resurrection, heaven and hell, God, the devil, but all this. On duty, off duty, the detective in me kicks in and looks for a rational explanation, but I don’t have one.”
(Lords of Misrule)
Not all the characters in the Toten Universe are hermits and misfits, but the stable marriages of Wurzburg witch Virginia Bruck and former Baader Meinhof terrorist Lena Siebert-Neved create a sharp contrast to the ambiguous wanderings of Frieda Schoenhofer. In her own two novels, Frieda, an ambitious only child, follows a wandering path across Europe, encountering a hapless human cannonball in Luxembourg, squabbling marionettes in Prague and even an earlier version of herself executed for necromancy in the 1300s.
“Oi, show some respect in front of the judge,” the soldier shouted and everyone calmed down. What followed was the kind of embarrassed silence that only happened in human company. (Or so I thought.) The puppets waited for events to proceed. I waited with them, ignoring the self-conscious coughs and glances towards the empty auditorium. Someone (something) spoke out of the corner of its mouth. “It’s your line. M’lud, it’s your line. Bring in the accused.”
“Oh, sorry.” It was my line! “Bring in the accused.”
(The One Rule of Magic)
In the third novel Who Among Us… the Satanist Jennifer Enzo is carried high above the Swiss Alps by her incubus. She looks down on an empty world and wishes she was the last one left in it. Sound familiar? The outsiders in the TotenUniverse are survivors, adept at changing, single minded, and in no rush to conform. In spite of their crimes and their troublemaking, it is the single minded determination to stay above the flock that makes them, in the eyes of the masses down below such an existential threat. They’re not a threat, but a mirror that society refuses to look at.
The group hovered like mini-planets, measuring the extent and nature of the world below and all around: the insignificant banality of existence, mortal existence.
Jenzo rested her chin on Jaravek’s shoulder. “Why do the gods even bother with that lot down there when they have all this up here. And the witches, the witches with their wooden broomsticks and crappy candelabra don’t have a view like this.” She felt Jaravek’s chest exhale. “I know. I’m always moaning. I’ll shut up.”
She wasn’t quiet for long. “What happens now?”
“I put you down.”
“No. I’d rather stay up here.”
“One day. You will.”
“I don’t want to wait for that day, I want to stay here like this forever.” The altitude forced a tear and Jenzo swallowed hard. “I don’t want to go down now.”
(Who Among Us…)