By Toby Ball
A sprawling, big-city novel set in the 1960s, with a cast of colourful characters as long as your arm.
What have you got? Well, there are cops, ranging from rogue to crooked; canniving politicians, predatory businessmen and their enforcers; a crusading reporter; poets and artists and stool pigeons; even the odd saint. They are all here.
At the centre of it all sits Nathan Canada and his precious brainchild, the New City Project, a plan to create a city for the future, an infrastructure fit for the car. Old, established neighbourhoods will need to be razed to the ground, which involves negotiation, bribes, kickbacks… corruption. That’s one engine which drives the novel, but there’s another narrative strand as well, this one surrounding the use of LSD to control the population and/or explore how to make people vulnerable to suggestion. One character, name of Ebanks, is perhaps based in part on Timothy Leary. As for Canada, he very much put me in mind of Robert Moses, the city planner who was the subject of Gore Vidal’s celebrated review essay, ‘What Robert Moses Did to New York City’.
I very much enjoyed Toby Ball’s novel, the way his snappy prose propelled the story forward, making everything both more convoluted and clearer at once. He conjured up a vital, bustling sense of place. But, by the end, do we actually learn who was trying to incriminate Dorman on the wire?
The publisher’s description of the book can be read here.