When Alibi Books was created late last century to publish Eric Leclere's first novel, The Lost Son, it was meant to be a short-lived affair. Unwilling to endorse the film based on his novel and original screenplay, Leclere had got into trouble with his publisher, then found all other industry doors shut, and if not for Alibi Books would have had to lay his novel to rest.
The general idea at the time was that, once The Lost Son became old news, Leclere would seek an agent and publisher for his next work and Alibi Books would fold.
Several years on and one novel later - A Place of Gardens and Lilies - the song remains very much the same; Leclere still writes, doors are still shut and Alibi Books remains, so that come Summer 2015, after many delays, we'll be bringing out Xavier Lombard third - and most likely last - adventure, 'The Harvesters'.
'Here we go again,' said Deborah De Moraes; 'Simplify and damn.'
'Don't you believe in simplicity?' asked Lombard.
'We all have to like what we become, Mrs. De Moraes. Cowards included. We achieve this by complicating things a little. But it's never that complicated really,' replied Lombard.
London. Leonard Spitz is thirty years old and missing. Mrs. Spitz is a worried mother, Mr. Spitz a resigned father, and their daughter Deborah as proud as her looks and as cold as the family's money. All reckon the missing man has succumbed to his fondness for drugs again. Only, Xavier Lombard finds out that before vanishing Leonard had got himself involved with people who get up in the morning to peddle children for a living.
Meanwhile, Bill the pet shop owner gets himself a puppy for company. Perkins the butcher-landlord has to raise his rent, and three bored Los Angeles teenage girls kill time in a children's playground. And on Hampstead Heath, a little man with a cellphone and a pony-tail finds life really hard trying to shoot a movie scene…
"Al-my-friend. How you doing tonight?"
"Still floating, Paolo mio."
"Dio cane. How you do it?"
"Easy. You got to be as handsome within as without."
No bones about it: Alan Winston didn't invent the wheel, isn't invariably sweet to puppies, and hasn't necessarily got what it takes to become another anybody. As a matter of fact, it could even be said Alan Winston is not truly there, or, come to think of it, always getting through to himself. So, on account of him knowing a few difficulties like that, maybe there was always a certain inevitability to his ending up at the end of a Mile End dead-end in a bid to dissolve among Greater London's oohing and aahing hungry hordes; drop out of sight until you drop out of mind, so to speak. Who can tell? But there can be no doubt about some things: whatever else he may or may not be, Alan Winston is gorgeous. Twenty-twenty-vision gorgeous. Can-see-the-stars-and-the-gold as in apples-in-your-eyes gorgeous. And, like someone somewhere is guaranteed to have said, when you're lost and alone and still find it in you to pause and take stock of all that glistens and flutters, the world's got to be better for having you in it. Or so you'd think.
"A malicious spirit must haunt the living. I ask you, what path ought a rational mother or father to take when faced with one of these two choices: entrust their baby to a stranger marked out for having shot his enemy's children; or hand baby over to one known for using their own children as sacrificial shields? Which murderer would you rather be, huh?"
By and by, in regard to some quarrels and through the agencies of newspapers, broadcasters, artists, politicians and other assorted leaders, swathes of Londoners have come to champion people who sacrifice their children over those who set no limit to protecting their own. Hardly an extraordinary state of affairs given the nature peculiar to humanity, some may say. But John Bowdion deplores these things as moral turpitude, is a restless storm for it, for he knows neither merciful prophet nor religion nor any like soothing provision which to the seeker and the high-spirited is akin to a birdless land stretching for thousands of miles in every directions.
"You want to get out of that wretched place you're in fast, Mr. Bowdion," Lombard merely offered; his concern lay elsewhere, with dead and disappeared ones, and dwelling alone.
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