sb10063436a-002 I’m very pleased to welcome author Paul Cornell to the blog today. London Falling is Paul’s new urban fantasy novel published by Tor Books. Please give him a warm welcome.

London Falling is my first urban fantasy novel. It’s about a group of modern London undercover police who, in the course of an investigation, accidentally gain the ability to see the magic and the monsters of the capital. They panic, of course, but they finally decide that the only way they’re going to survive is to use (real) police methods against the unknown. The book is very much about the cities (London is made up of two official cities) and the boroughs around them. The landscape and architecture influence the dark things waiting for our heroes.

So when asked to do a Top Ten for Book Chick City (and hello, how nice to be here, what a well-appointed site you have here), I thought the obvious thing to do was a list of my favourite stories set in and talking about London. These are in no particular order, mind you. And they’re mostly a long way from BCC’s wheelhouse, but I suspect you, dear reader, are broadminded enough to be taken for a bit of a wander. So here we go.

1) Quatermass and the Pit. It’s both an early TV drama (1958) and a later Hammer film adaptation. It’s about diggings at an underground station discovering ‘the capsule’ and the things inside, and how they come alive again and tug at race memories of a time before homo sapiens. It’s immensely scary, but as always writer Nigel Kneale shows the lives of everyday people as they react to his cosmic demons, so you get a sense of the modern city and of what lies beneath.

2) The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961). It’s a sensationalist title for a rather calm little movie, as an atomic bomb test sends the planet heading for destruction in one, long, terrible final summer. It does great things with its budget by concentrating its focus on the staff of the (real life) Daily Express newspaper, including a real editor playing a fictionalised version of himself. The scenes of London sweltering towards apocalypse, including the Thames drying up, are played like kitchen sink drama, with a rather touching harsh romance at its centre, but this is, at heart, one of the genre of ‘cosy catastrophes’ that the English so adore, where the world might be ending, dear, but at least it means we’ll be rid of all those awful people.

3) The Sweeney (1975-1978). The classic British TV crime show of the 1970s, this is what Life on Mars was satirising. But at the time, this was the series that was informed by what plain clothes coppers really got up to. The means of production, small filming teams moving at high speed around a London that was swiftly transforming itself during years of austerity, mirrored the Flying Squad depicted therein. It’s very violent, but it’s got a sweet core about male uselessness, bonding, and beer, and was capable of great subtlety. This is where ‘get your trousers on, you’re nicked’ comes from. DI James Quill, in London Falling, tries hard not to be Jack Regan, the lead copper from this series. Until he realises that now he’s pursuing suspects who will probably, owing to their monstrous nature, never appear before a jury.

4) V for Vendetta. The comic strip from the dark days of the 1980s gains much of its power over a British audience from the fact that the fascists portrayed in it look like everyday London folk, living and working in recognisable London streets. David Lloyd’s art captures the bleak normality of it all, and Alan Moore makes it clear that to be a revolutionary in Britain means to embrace Guy Fawkes and level some beloved buildings. It becomes more true every day.

5) The Man who was Thursday. G.K. Chesterton’s modernist masterpiece from 1908 depicts, before its twin twists (the first of which you’ll have heard about or seen repeated, the second of which is like unto the singularity at the end of the Beatles’ ‘A Day in the Life’ and will blow your mind), a glorious London awash with conspirators, but still unruined by war, an Edwardian palace of promenades and good restaurants that contains the seeds of its own destruction.

6) Neverwhere. The initial TV series by Neil Gaiman was a lot of people’s first introduction to urban fantasy, and is still a touchstone, never mind that he turned it into a much better novel. It’s not that his characters named after places are a metaphor for the side of London people ignore (it would be nice to believe that the homeless really did have such societies and adventures); the point is that the world depicted could exist beside ours and most people would never know or care.

7) Anno Dracula. Kim Newman’s novel is a map of the British psyche, created through a very simple change to history: Dracula won his battle with Van Helsing, and married Queen Victoria. And so in a moment, in an extremely British way, vampirism went from being monstrous to being the very latest thing. There’s a telling detail that Newman never says out loud: that since the upper classes have so embraced being undead, therefore the prostitutes are vampires to, and so what at the top of society is an affectation is, in the gutters, a horror that may in the end destroy everything. Originally published in 1992, the themes of the novel have found much favour with other authors.

8) The Peter Grant books of Ben Aaronovitch. We are the two people in the Amazon subgenre urban fantasy/modern London/Metropolitan Police/former Doctor Who writers. Ben used to be famously slow to write, so when I realised that the two of us were working on novels with quite similar subject matter, I thought I’d get there first. But he got two of his out before I’d finished! He’s been very kind and supportive, sharing interviews with me, giving us a brilliant quote. We had a long walk at one point dividing up the subject matter of London between us. But actually, thank goodness, our approaches are quite different, so we probably could both deal with, say, the London Stone and not have people stare at us in horrified bewilderment. I like the fact that there are books that dive deeply into the lore of London, both occult and otherwise that have, in the end, quite a sunny outlook to them.

9) Murder by Decree. We live in a bit of a golden age of Sherlock Holmes, but this 1979 movie is from an age when some of the clichés were still regard as vital props. However, it makes shocking use of the familiar. Christopher Plummer’s emotional, morally outraged Holmes is on the trail of Jack the Ripper, and finds himself, almost because he’s fictional, unable to bring down the ‘real life’ villains responsible. I’m not a fan of the Ripper industry myself, something that informs the forthcoming London Falling sequel, The Severed Streets, the premise of which is ‘Jack the Ripper is back, and this time he’s killing rich white men’. But just for once this is a film which seems to share my unease and distaste concerning its own subject matter. That effect is achieved chiefly, I think, by how powerless Holmes is.

10) Strange Report. The heroes of this 1969 ITC forensic series lived in not swinging London but the hungover beige London of my earliest memories, the place where, in my unconscious, Michael Moorcock’s antihero Jerry Cornelius still resides. Check out the title sequence on YouTube, and you’ll see a world that still attempts Beatlesque eccentricity, but is just a touch colder, where realism seems to be pushing at its chains, waiting to bring down the whole absurd edifice of such cheap detective shows. You can imagine this lot ending the episode not with a shared laugh but with a handful of pills. As a toddler, I wandered down a darkened Kensington hallway and looked up at a woman with extraordinary eye make-up beside a mural of what seemed to be Hell. That archaeological layer of the capital and of myself will probably surface somewhere in the London Falling sequels.

I hope this has been an interesting journey. I now return you to our shared genre of choice. Cheerio!

Author Paul Cornell outside New Scotland Yard in London

Paul Cornell is a British writer of science fiction and fantasy prose, comics and television. He’s been Hugo Award-nominated for all three media, and has won the BSFA Award for his short fiction, and the Eagle Award for his comics. He’s the writer of Saucer Country for Vertigo, Demon Knights for DC, and has written for the Doctor Who TV series. His new urban fantasy novel is London Falling, out from Tor on December 6th. (Wikipedia)

To find out more about Paul and his books, visit his website, www.paulcornell.com. You can also connect with him on Twitter (@Paul_Cornell) and Facebook.

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GIVEAWAY

We have TWO (2) copies of London Falling to giveaway thanks to Tor Books. This giveaway is US/Cananda only and ends 26th April 2013. To enter please leave a comment or question for the author.

PLEASE NOTE: Before entering please take the time to read our Giveaway Policy. As from Jan 2013, we will not be contacting giveaway winner/s by email. Winner/s will be announced on the blog via a post containing a link to claim their prize. Failure to claim your prize within SEVEN (7) days of the giveaway announcement post means you will forfeit your prize/s. So as to not miss these announcement posts, as well as future giveaways, subscribe via RSS or Email.

Carolyn

Carolyn created Book Chick City in July 2009 due to her love of books. A Brit chick obsessed with zombies, kick-arse chicks and sexy heroes. She's also seriously addicted to chocolate, shopping, and coffee. Her favourite genres are Urban Fantasy, Romance and Zombie Lit... Brrraaaaiiinnnnsss!

21 Comments


erinf1 April 18, 2013 at 8:33 pm

Congrats to Paul on the new release! Thanks for sharing! What was the most fun thing you’ve done to “research” this book or others?

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Ailsa April 18, 2013 at 8:51 pm

Ooh, this sounds really interesting! I’ll have to keep my eyes open for it.
(Not entering as I’ll be leaving the US very soon.)
~Ailsa

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Dawn Roberto April 18, 2013 at 9:06 pm

What a very interesting book….congrats on the new release.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What type of books did you enjoy reading?

Thanks for being here

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Creative Mind April 18, 2013 at 10:15 pm

Congrats on the new release!! Your book seems really interesting, so I will definately read it in the future! (unfortunately for me I can’t participate in the giveaway!).
And your list is great- I believe that London has a special atmosphere and I just love to watch series or movies set on London. And neverwher was a tv series first??I didn’t know that!… I’ll start by watching this series from your list!! :-D

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Readsalot81 April 19, 2013 at 12:10 am

Congrats on the release! :) I can’t wait to check out the book!!

If you could go back in time, and tell your younger writer self something – what would it be and why? What sage advice would you give your younger self? :D

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Len D. April 19, 2013 at 1:20 am

This is such an interesting story! I love London as well.

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cybrbeth April 19, 2013 at 2:08 am

Really looking forward to reading this novel. I also delighted in the recent BBC dramatization of Neverwhere. Hope to get my copy of London Falling autographed at Worldcon!

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Denise Z April 19, 2013 at 5:48 am

Thank you for sharing with us today. That is quite a ten’s list, some familiar and some new to be checked. out. London Falling sounds like a fresh UF twist and I love the premise. Looking forward to the read.

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Michelle @ The True Book Addict April 19, 2013 at 6:56 am

This book definitely sounds like an urban fantasy I would like. And great list! I have had Anno-Dracula in my home library for years. I really need to read it.

Thanks for the giveaway!

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greg April 19, 2013 at 7:28 am

Congratulations to Paul on the new novel and I can’t wait to read it…
Since I’ve been a longtime comics and 2000ad fan I’d ask what comics character would you mist like a crack at…. I’d really love to see a Dredd story by you….

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Tammy Sparks April 19, 2013 at 3:37 pm

Wow Paul, what a great guest post! Living on the other side of the “pond” I haven’t seen a lot of the tv shows you’ve referenced, but when you mentioned Life on Mars I got really excited…I HAVE seen the original British version of that amazing show (as well as the very short-lived American one), and now I want to see if I can buy it on DVD and watch it again.

Dying to read your book! Plus the cover is very cool…thanks for the giveaway:)

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Paul Cornell April 19, 2013 at 4:46 pm

Thanks for the enthusiasm, everyone, and to BCC for giving me the chance to blog here. My research involved making sure I knew all about the London locations involved, and talking with my police and intelligence analyst sources, who read the manuscript for me. I was indeed an avid reader as a child, notably Enid Blyton, WE Johns and ‘BB’ (a writer of wonderful children’s fantasy that just went by those initials). I think I’d tell my younger self to hurry up, I still feel I didn’t get enough done in my twenties. Comics character I’d like to write for: Dan Dare. A life-long ambition, that one. Cheers.

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Ari B. April 19, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Here’s a question for Paul:

Other than London, what other major city would do you think works well for urban fantasy?

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Craig April 19, 2013 at 6:25 pm

Looking forward to reading this, Paul. A pleasant little surprise to discover you had a novel out. Question: Now that you’re writing again for Marvel, any chance of working a little Captain Britain and MI-13 back into the world. One of my favourite comics in recent history. Vampire State, in particular, was bloody clever.

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Jessica April 19, 2013 at 6:46 pm

Really enjoyed “British Summertime” and “Something More,” so looking forward to this one! Congrats, Paul.

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Jessica B. April 19, 2013 at 6:51 pm

(Ignore – Just adding a surname initial for giveaway purposes ;-)

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Bill Savage April 19, 2013 at 8:46 pm

Hiya Paul,

I’m really looking forward to reading this. I’m a fan of your work from the Doctor Who: New Adventures series, as well as your work on the new Doctor Who series.

Have you had any thoughts of developing scripts outside of Dr. Who? Or does comics (such as Saucer Country) satisfy that creative outlet for you?

Cheers,

~Bill

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Barbara Elness April 20, 2013 at 9:52 pm

What an interesting list, I saw quite a few that intrigued me and that I’ll be looking up. London Falling sounds like a fantastic story and I’m looking forward to reading it.

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Victoria Zumbrum April 21, 2013 at 2:03 am

Congratulations on your new release. I can’t wait to read this book. It sounds really good.

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Paul Cornell April 21, 2013 at 10:59 am

I actually talk about a few other cities that share the same qualities as London does in the sequel, and I don’t think it’s out of the question that my heroes might spend a book in New York, Cork or Paris. In terms of Marvel, I’m not going back to Captain Britain, because that’s going back and that’s death. I always go forwards. And I am actually working on various scripts right now, but nothing I can talk about. Thanks again, all.

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Chelsea W April 21, 2013 at 3:40 pm

I’m always inspired by anything of the Victorian era, and I’ve read a lot of Victorian novels lately set in and around London (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dracula, Dorian Gray to name a few). Are you inspired by the Victorian era in any way?

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