Black City is Christian Read’s debut novel, an occult noir tale set in a city seething with magic, home to a modern melting-pot of mixed magical traditions that coexist alongside and underneath the ordinary everyday lives of “citizens”.
Christian’s published work to date has included the supernatural-wild-west graphic novel The Eldritch Kid: Whiskey and Hate and the slice-of-life supervillan comic series Unmasked. He’s had work featured in the comic anthologies Flinch, Character Sketches and Home Brew Vampire Bullets and has also written for US based Dark Horse Comics’ Star Wars Tales.
Black City is the story of Lark, an ex-enforcer for a major magical institution who’s hired by his ex-girlfriend to investigate a magical massacre. His investigation uncovers a conspiracy that earns him the unwanted attention of some seriously out-of-his-league powers that he nonetheless has to face without the support of his usual network of friends and colleagues, his former employers or his fomer girlfriend.
Lark’s story is written in a raw, intense and urgent style, exploring his relationships with magic and its institutions, his thoughts about power and his suspicion of those who want to wield it. It’s also a great look at what happens to relationships – personal and professional – when people’s worldviews diverge.
Lark is a compelling antihero, at turns arrogant and selfish or sympathetic and altruistic without ever losing his essential cynicism and skepticism, which sit comfortably, though contradictory, alongside his magical beliefs and practices.
He’s a great protagonist, a self-centred man who acts unselfishly when it’s needed, a guy you can barrack for at the same time as shaking your head at and tut-tutting.
I swapped a few emails with Christian to find out more about his thoughts on magic, the publishing game and making the distinction between writing novels and writing comics.
Caveat: Christian is a friend of mine, so if that sort of thing seems relevant to you when reading this sort of review-slash-interview, consider yourself duly informed.
What’s your elevator pitch for Black City?
It’s an occult crime story involving the seedy underworld of the City, a place where Lodges and Covens practice lurid magic. When a battle between two cults releases something onto the streets, Lark, former informal policeman of these cults turned freelancer for scraps, is hired to sort out the mess.
What do you think of the elevator pitch concept in general?
Well, the term itself reeks of the usual desperation of Hollywood. But no one’s got time to hear you bark like a beast about your goddamned novel’s plot all day.
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