During a recent Paperback Game tournament involving a couple of BookPage staffers, few rounds garnered the amount of laughter that the one involving British novelist Nick Harkaway’s The Goneaway World (Knopf, 2005) did. Harkaway’s lauded debut was a mishmash of genres—suspense, sci-fi and literary fiction—that led to some curious imagined opening lines.
From the description of his second novel, coming March 20, I think we’d have just as much fun trying to create a believable opening line for Angelmaker:
Joe Spork repairs clocks, a far cry from his late father, a flashy London gangster. But when Joe fixes one particularly unusual device, his life is suddenly upended. Joe’s client, Edie Banister, is more than just a kindly old lady–she’s a former superspy. And the device? It’s a 1950s doomsday machine. And having triggered it, Joe now faces the wrath of both the government and a diabolical South Asian dictator, Edie’s old arch-nemesis. With Joe’s once-quiet world now populated with mad monks, psychopathic serial killers, scientific geniuses, girls in pink leather, and threats to the future of conscious life in the universe, he realizes that the only way to survive is to muster the courage to fight, help Edie complete a mission she gave up years ago, and pick up his father’s old gun…
Harkaway’s description of the writing process for Angelmaker gives a taste of his unique voice and witty writing style.
It was a long and winding road. The elephant as court scribe/narrator was the first casualty, then the golden man, then back to the elephant and the tricky business of the parachute. The hat-tip toWarren Ellis’s Planetary bit the dust at some point, then the pink leather engine driver’s uniform, and finally the reference to The Princess Bride. On the advice of Twitter in general, and knowing that it was the right thing to do, I removed the Emperor Palpatine quote.
Fun fact: Harkaway is John le Carré’s son. How do you feel about quirky genre-jumping bo0ks?