Books: High Noon for the zombies of Wardour St

Soho Black

by Christopher Fowler Warner Books pounds 8.99

Most of the action of is set in what Christopher Fowler is pleased to call London's creative square mile, by which he means the network of film production and distribution, and the advertising and music industry executives who work and play there. Fowler's day job is running a film production company, and his central character, Richard Tyler, also works in that industry.

Tyler is a nice guy in a cut-throat world. His partner Berry has kept him around because of his encyclopaedic knowledge of movies, but his habit of telling wannabe writer-directors that their pet project is a non-starter has exhausted Berry's patience, and Richard is to be fired at the end of the week. Then he has a heart attack and dies. You might expect this to put a crimp in his style, but on the contrary, he returns to the fray with unexpected vitality. "Like Sunset Boulevard," he remarks at the outset, "this is a tale narrated by a corpse." Many writers use film-culture as a frame of reference, but for once this device is justified.

As an animated corpse with no future prospects, Richard finds it much easier to take charge of his life. He finds being dead liberating, and he ruthlessly sets about correcting the world and paying it back for its slights. In particular he arranges a future for Berry, for his ex- girlfriend and for his autistic son, which depends on his pushing a handful of movie proposals into production before his body decomposes. Although Fowler doesn't make the connection explicitly, this prospect of ultimate corruption acts like the clock in High Noon, adding dramatic tension by reminding us that time is short, and we get detailed bulletins of the disgusting processes which are taking place in Tyler's body. Fowler takes gleeful pains in tracking the course of anatomical decay from the point of view of the corpse, and as the days wear on Tyler's body wears off.

Meanwhile: an Australian biochemist is found dead in Tottenham Court Road tube station, and a new and terrible recreational drug is causing havoc on the streets of Soho. Hot on the case are Fowler's superannuated detectives, Bryant and May, whom we met before in Rune and Darkest Day. Bryant and May are the Met's trouble-shooters for the weird and the unnatural - a sort of Ealing comedy X-Files team, to be played by Alastair Sim and Michael Redgrave perhaps. As they investigate, a skein of Soho underworld is unravelled involving a man with a mysterious and sinister power to charm, comic hoodlums, and an ecdysiast of supernatural abilities, which is to say a stripper, albeit an unusually good one. This is also the world of power-lunches, of runners who traffic drugs as they deliver films, of film-editing sessions that last all night, fuelled by cocaine, and segue straight into the working breakfast. On a lighter note, Soho is an area steeped in history, and Fowler knows it like the back of his hand.

Strictly speaking there are two more or less distinct storylines here - the detective yarn and the zombie romp - but Fowler meshes them together with such assurance and brio that we are inclined to accept the interweaving of his plots at face value. The writing is as ever fluid and pacey, the characterisation deft, and the plots fresh and ingenious. It is hard to imagine Fowler topping his wonderful Spanky, but in he is playing to his strengths, and the book is wholly enjoyable.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks