The bestselling author could easily have filled the function room of the bookseller’s London’s flagship store, yet it was an upstairs corner of the Islington branch that had the pleasure of their company, and a lucky 50 members of the public who grabbed the tickets before the event understandably sold out. Sold out is of course a phrase that could never be used to describe the Watchmen/V for Vendetta writer who has at every stage of his career called the shots on what he will and won’t do, famously having no interest in the middling to awful screen adaptations of his work.
At the time of writing this review I haven’t yet read the book (the audio book has been downloaded in all its 60 plus hour glory); arguably only the hardcore Moore fans would have devoured all 1,200 pages of prose. When asked if anyone had read it yet, one fan revealed she was 300 pages from the end.
While it seems superficial to focus so much on the length of the book, the fact remains that “…as it is, it’s just longer than War and Peace,” shared Moore. If he’d written a further long chapter it would be longer than the complete works of Shakespeare, a comment by Moore that seemed most apt considering that a copy of the Bard’s plays was visible on the bookshelf just over his left shoulder. He also added that the tome is longer than the Holy Bible – New Testament or Old Testament – but not if you put them both together.
Moore’s pre-occupation with the concept of a block universe – solid time – is prominent in the book; what is referred to as the persistent illusion of transience. “If Einstein is right, we inhabit a universe that has at least four physical dimensions.”
Ince describes Moore as having the correct magazine balance: “Fortean Times, New Scientist… and Viz in the middle.” But does that explain his ability to get into the mindsets of others? “I don’t know if I’m naturally polyphonic, but I have to believe in the characters completely. It’s a form of schizophrenic possession where you allow a multitude of characters into your head.” Ince also made the observation that for two nights while he was reading the book his dreams were replaced by incidents that happened in the second part of the book.
And of Moore’s beloved Northampton, now immortalised in the book: “The neighbourhood I grew up in – The Boroughs – it was glorious and had everything I ever needed as a writer… It is an attempt to rescue my neighbourhood, and that is not in any physical sense. There’s hardly anything left of it now but I can rescue it – that is the power of writing. We can take the things we love, save everything that was important and somehow embalm it in words.”
On structuring the book: “I sat down and wrote 35 smart arse titles – ‘ASBOs of Desire’ – that’s pretty good isn’t it?!” This then translated into three 11-chapter books plus a prologue and epilogue. “I then decided for no discernible that this title should go in book one and this one in book three. I know it’s not the traditional way of writing a novel – you’d expect something with a bit more planning and structure.” It was only when he was a third of the way through that he checked the word count realised that the final novel was going to be “more than enormous”.
This has been a labour of love for Moore, a project that he started a decade ago and kept returning to between other projects. I asked him if in light of the time it had taken him to write the book whether there had been a real chance that it would never be completed. “There’s always the double-decker bus you don’t see coming. That was a real concern. I don’t think that really during Jerusalem there was any point when I thought ‘you’re not going to finish it.’ For one thing, when you’ve announced you’re going to do this gigantic book, you’re going to look silly if you peter out halfway through… The book is already there in the future, I just need to play my part in making it exist.”
Drug stupors, deja vu, solar husbandry, crack addicts and Spangles – it’s never a dull evening in the world of our favourite Northampton wizard. Moore is more.