To celebrate the publication of his latest novel, Out of Office, from Legend Press, it's Mark Piggott week in Outsideleft.
Set against a backdrop of an ongoing, seemingly permaterror terrorist campaign on London's streets. Out of Office tastes as grit ridden as the landscape it portrays. Here's a brief excerpt chosen by Mark.
OUT OF OFFICE
"Swiping his Oyster, Hook joins the headlong rush underground. The lift's out of action so he teeters down metal spiral steps with yellow edging, a Day-glo constrictor cork-screwing its way into the planet. Hook descends cautiously, one hand on the rail, as grumbling commuters fall past and warnings, announcements and regulations tumble from loudspeakers above.
The walls are decorated, dogmatic proclamations in vivid colours. Halfway down someone has scrawled, in large red marker: Boycott Hotel Ukraine!! Beneath, in thoughtful blue biro, Hook's added: To be honest it doesn't sound like the sort of establishment I'd wish to frequent on a regular basis anyway. He's beginning to think it would have been funnier just to write OK.
Near the bottom, tube-noise echoing, ankle throbbing, Hook sees something that makes him smile: a banking advert has recently been removed as another lost cause; the brickwork exposed for the first time in decades and there's a symbol, a cross between a CND sign and the sign symbol for 'anarchy', all sharp edges and arrows; and beneath it a teenage punk has scrawled:
In the thirty seconds or so it's taken him to descend from street level at least three messages have been broadcast from the PA: don't smoke, forgotten bags will be vaporised, have a nice day...
Hook's oblivious to it all; he's thinking about the spiky child he once was, before he was jemmied into suits, followed orders from above.
When he finally squeezes into a train Hook notes men in plain clothes with bulging trousers looking for someone to shoot. An Asian boy makes the mistake of wearing a rucksack in a public place; the seats either side of him remain empty despite the crush so Hook sits down. The kid isn't grateful, maybe he prefers having his space. Hook can relate to that. At Moorgate everyone raises their paper as the kid's pulled off the train.
The DLR is closed due to a security alert. It's a relief for Hook to emerge into hard sunlight at the centre of the whirlwind that is the City. In the shade of a building resembling a root vegetable he swipes at the flies landing on his nose and turns on his BlackBerry, but there are no messages to say work's cancelled. A line of buses avail themselves; Hook boards the most relevant and drowses on the top deck. When he resurfaces he's floating on his invisible ship through the crystal canyons of Canary
Wharf, like Hook sober and on the twelve-step programme after decades of extravagance.
When the bus stops at a temporary light Hook watches a young, business-like couple walk along the pavement beneath a monumental glass building; in its reflection he sees an escalator inside the foyer and his bus on the street, Hook gazing into space with a blank, urban expression. Then the woman ascends the escalator, the man walks along the street. Hook decides to get his eyes tested."