August 30 2017
The Lucifer Chord is set in the weeks following the events of the concluding novel in my Colony trilogy; a couple of years after the events recounted in my novella, The Going and the Rise. Chronology is important because my character Ruthie Gillespie is emotionally bruised at the start of the story. That’s what prompts her to leave her Wight home and apply for a research job in London. She urgently needs a change. She contacts architect Michael Aldridge in pursuit of a job reference. She did some vital research for him in The Going and he remains grateful. My opening scene is their reunion. I’ve always though they had unfinished business. I’m writing him in the third-person (rather than the first-person) in this one, though he remains the same essentially decent man. And I’m writing in such a way that it isn’t necessary to have read anything by me preceding it. The cause of Ruthie’s broken-heart is fully (if quite briefly) explained.
The research Ruthie undertakes is into the life of Martin Mear, lead-singer and guitarist with Ghost Legion, the biggest and most decadent rock band on the planet when Martin checked-out prematurely in 1973. His career is to be the subject of a definitive box-set of Legion recordings and Ruthie’s brief is to separate man and myth for the glossy 10, 000 word essay included in that. The commission comes from Legion manager Carter Melville, who has persuaded Martin’s long-term girlfriend and daughter to speak about him on the record for the first time (I know – terrible pun).
Separating man and myth is pretty tricky, though. For one thing die-hard fans (Legionaries) are convinced that Martin is coming back. They plan to orchestrate a ritual to accomplish this, an event they refer to as, The Clamouring. Then there’s the seance Melville encourages Ruthie to attend hosted by a medium claiming to be in contact with his spirit. There’s the oddness at Proctor Court in the Shadwell flat occupied by Martin’s uncle when he worked as an import clerk on the docks for Martens & Degrue. And Ruthie will have to go back to Wight eventually. It was at a derelict mansion there that Martin wrote The Legion’s breakthrough album, King Lud. In a sense, that’s where the Martin the world came to know was born.
I started this novel in 2013 and generally a book takes me about three months to write. But I didn’t quite know where to take it either plot or structure-wise and so it was superseded by other writing projects. It’s shuffled back to the front of the queue because I’m much surer about where the narrative is going and because though practice doesn’t make anyone a perfect writer, it does make a writer technically more proficient. I want readers so convinced that Martin Mear really existed, they’re googling his name. I wasn’t sure I could do that four years ago. I think I can do it now.
Today’s illustration is another of my brother’s canvases. He tends to write this one off as overly sentimental. I think it’s charming.