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More than a decade ago, Michael Moorcock's extraordinary Mother London gave stunning new breath and style to contemporary literature. With Bruce Chatwin's Utz and Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses, the novel was short-listed for Britain's prestigious Whitbread Prize. Now, with scathing wit and enthralling vision, the author whom the Washington Post has praised as "one of the most exciting discoveries in the contemporary English novel [in] 40 or so years" returns to a city transformed and transforming, and in peril of its life.
These are the times and trials of Dennis Dover, former rock guitarist, photojournalist, and paparazzo. Denny inhabits a world of vibrant color, smell, and sound, where novel experience and unpredictability are anchored by steadfast tradition and history. Mother London's many vagaries give Denny Dover joy and succor, always seducing him home from the Earth's terrible places, where the face of death is as common as the blood that stains the local dirt. And London is where Rosie Beck is, when she isn't off elsewhere combating the planet's great ills.
Denny's brilliant, beautiful, socially conscious cousin has always been an indispensable part of his being -- his soul mate and his soul. Since childhood they have been inseparable, delighting in the daily discoveries of a life with no limits. But now the metropolis that nurtured them is threatened by a powerful, unstoppable force that consumes the past indiscriminately and leaves nothing of substance in its wake.
The terminator is named John Barbican Begg. A hanger-on from Denny and Rosie's youth, he has become the morally corrupt center of their London and the richest, most rapacious creature in the Western Hemisphere. Now, as their cherished landmarks tumble, conspiracy, secrets, lies, and betrayal become the centerpieces of Rosie and Dennis's days. For Barbican has but one goal: to devour the entire world. And the only choice left is to join in, drop out ... or plot to destroy.
A sprawling work of incomparable invention, King of the City is eccentric and remarkable, a unique urban love story with a pit-bull bite that confirms the unparalleled literary genius of the amazing Michael Moorcock.
Like Gargantua or Tristram Shandy, Dennis "Denny" Dover is born with all the portents of some future myth. "I was born in Mustard Street. In the top back room of the Hare and Hounds. On 21 December 1952. My dad... was the last real Londoner to be hanged for murder." We first meet Denny, the narrator of Moorcock's scurrilously exuberant London novel, on a downer. He has scored a coup, photographing a supposedly dead English billionaire, Johnny Barbican Begg, enjoying illicit, copulatory bliss with an English countess on a Bahamian island. Denny's scoop is outscooped, however, by Princess Di's car wreck, which not only chases everything else off the headlines, but puts paparazzi in bad odor with the public, forcing Denny to hide out in an English resort town, Skerring. In the long flashback taking up most of the book, we go from the early '70s remnants of a swinging London, with Denny a cult rock and roll guitarist, to his news photography in Rwanda and then his paparazzo days. At the heart of Denny's story is his love for his cousin Rosie Beck, and for working-class London. Rosie metamorphoses from a radical to Barbican Begg's wife and, perhaps, the plotter of his downfall. Moorcock includes real people, like Johnny Lydon, and a host of fictional characters, like the Quentin Crisp like actor, Norrie Stripling, as though the book were Moorcock's version of the Sgt. Pepper album cover: private favorites and public enemies. Fans of Moorcock's science fiction might find the references hard going, but readers of his Booker Prize nominated Mother London will enjoy the novel's angry rant against the vices of the age.