Imagine the Schroedinger’s Cat thought experiment, but with a difference; inside the box is the RealUniverse and the TotenUniverse.
Both exist simultaneously until you open the lid and take a look. The RealUniverse disappears and you find yourself inside the TotenUniverse where your journey starts. It’s a story with its origins on a drizzly night in Ipswich and leads to a lost castle in the Bavarian Alps. Along the way you go from Rotterdam to Rio via crocodiles refused entry to concerts and laughing guests at a funeral in Milan.
“Perhaps you can tell us, Frieda, why Germany is still hell bent on controlling Europe? You’ve tried it twice and failed. Can’t you take a hint.”
“I thought fascism was invented by the Italians?”
“Yes, it was, but you lot perfected the formula. You only lost the war because you left a bloody Austrian in charge. Ask them to write you a symphony and you’re in good hands. Invade Russia and you can barely make it to the other side of Romania.”
I sat upright and made room for a servant to take away my dessert bowl.
“Sorry, I don’t mean to embarrass you, Frieda. It could be worse. You could have been born in Belgium.” The volcanic yell of laughter rattled the cutlery and I felt excluded again from some hidden joke. Brancona bowed his head and chortled. “The fucking Belgians. . . .” Perhaps they were mourning the burial of Europe.
Another man asked, “Which part of Germany are you from, Frieda?”
“Bamberg.” I answered quickly. A nervous hush fell across the diners.
(The One Rule of Magic)
Any journey has an element of time built into it. The TotenUniverse draws on the history of the Bamberg witch trials and visits re-enactors in the ancient surroundings of Avignon. But not all history is ancient. You’ll learn which is the fastest motorbike in a 1970s version of Top Trumps and who was responsible for the murders of Baader-Meinhof terrorists in Stammheim Prison in 1977. (Yes, they were murdered, it wasn’t suicide.)
The central character Rob Wallet is a vessel for nostalgia, an individual searching for a long lost childhood. Driven by an unobtainable goal his gathering of stuff from the 70s and 80s becomes borderline obsessive and a distraction from his original goal, which he never quite reveals.
Which brings us to the world of conspiracy theory and hoax and the suspicion that Rob Wallet’s discovery of the dead rock band could be the biggest hoax of them all. As the reader you have exclusive access behind the scenes, access denied to the other players in this drama. For example, you’ll be there in the room when rival band There Will Be Blood are butchered at the Gwando Music Awards.
“Time for Plan B?” Susan headed for the steps.
Toten Herzen descended towards the pandemonium, passing through it all like dark neutrinos, unseen, unknown, unmoved by the energy. Susan ignored the chatter: “The other lot’ll be feeling sick now.” “Someone’s for the jump tomorrow.” But one exchange pulled her back.
“You know why they lost, don’t you?”
“Didn’t have an umlaut over the O in Toten.”
Susan reacted. “A fucking umlaut over the O. We don’t need an umlaut over the O.”
Wallet pulled her away. “They can’t hear you.”
“What the fuck have umlauts got to do with it?”
(There Will Be Blood)
The cast of players is wide. It needs to be to fill a universe. When the band release their comeback album they open a box of their own: a Pandora’s Box containing a four hundred year old secret hiding behind Satanic assassins, a network of covens spread across Europe, a hapless Interpol complicit and outwitted by millionaire witches and killers helped by their succubi and incubi. From its urban origins, the TotenUniverse soon enters a trail of events from Mayfair to Macedonia, massacres in Carpathian forests and theatrical displays of murder victims impaled on cathedral spires. A journey that leaves our world and crosses over into one we are aware of, but can’t access.
“There is someone who knows?”
The ash on the end of Shalini’s cigarette hung on to hear the answer. “Knows what?”
“The devil’s piss, you said. . . . ”
“What about it?”
“Problem is no one has ever summoned him and lived.”
“You’re not making any sense.”
“Gran talked about someone years ago. She used to threaten me, she’d say if you don’t behave, if you don’t do as you’re told I’ll go for Brother Polder.”
“He attempted the Abramelin. Got it all wrong. Instead of a legion of demons. . . .” Shalini came into focus, her huge brown eyes burning through the wispy trails of her cigarette. “The devil’s piss. You don’t summon Lucifer. No one ever summoned him and lived.”
“Except this Brother Polder guy?”
Jenzo thought better on her feet. She circled the campfire, switching direction until Shalini gave up trying to follow her. “He would know the names. He would know the names, Shalini.”
“Brother Polder? How?”
“No.” Jenzo stopped pacing and dropped onto her knees. “Lucifer. The one who knows everything. Lucifer will know the names.”
(Who Among Us…)
The settings are hidden in darkness, but when the urban facades disappear you’ll travel to that other world beyond the TotenUniverse: the hidden realms of prime demons accessed via wet woodland and a futuristic circus where AI and quantum mechanics open up landscapes normally reserved for the dead.
“Back from the dead?”
“Yes. Didn’t you know? Of course, you’re not in the loop, are you? You’re one of the powerless, Berthold. You’re a bystander, like billions of other members of the public who don’t know and don’t care. At the moment this other place is in the realm of folklore, religion and superstition, but there are real laws of physics controlling it. If we can understand the physics we can circumvent the laws.”
“As simple as that?”
She opened the palms of her hands. Two small flickering flames illuminated the interior, the light reflecting in Virginia’s eyes. She did have the Devil in them, sweet and malevolent, beautiful and tricky. He understood Gert’s attraction, how he became bewitched, and in that moment of magic with the tiny fires dancing playfully he became filled with a lust he’d never known. He was working for her. Happy to be working for her.
“I think we’re getting closer,” he said.
“Do you? Encouraging.”
“If we can persuade someone to. . . .”
“Step into the Void?” Virginia’s grin widened into a terrible smile. “Let’s have a think who that might be.”
(Lords of Misrule)
These worlds are contained in novels and short stories, features and interviews. A new universe to explore with new characters travelling with you, some welcome, some not so welcome. It’s an unforgettable journey that will make you question everything about the RealUniverse you currently occupy and those that might be waiting for you when this one ends.
“Can I ask you a stupid question?” Raven leaned a knowing shoulder towards Bella who licked away a frothy moustache after every swig of Guinness. “If you’re a witch, right, can you not stop your track rod ends failing the MoT?”
(Toten Herzen Malandanti)