The Night Mayor by Kim Newman

(8.5/10)

Author of the popular Anno Dracula series, Kim Newman’s novels have become iconic to horror and short story readers. A Bram Stoker Award, International Horror Guild Award, British Fantasy and British Science Fiction Award winner he has also been nominated for the Hugo and World Fantasy Award. He writes for Empire, The Guardian, The Times and Time Out and co-authored books with other popular author, Neil Gaiman. A reviewer and film critic, he has created shows for BBC Radio 2, 3, and 4 and television channels BBC 1, 2 and 4. His books The Diogenes Club, Jago, The Quorum, Life's Lottery, and Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D'Urbevilles and non-fiction on history and cinema make him one of the most prolific authors in the UK.

For avid readers of Newman's novels, The Night Mayor comes with four short stories which are all set in the same universe. In Newman's world it is the future, but the progression hasn't stretched to the setting where everything is old-fashioned B-movie style Mickey Spillane and a future where celluloid films have undergone a change as no one is interested in them. But dreams are the new in-thing. Professional dreamers are the ones calling the shots but they can also get into a lot of trouble.

Tom Tunney is a detective and a Dreamer, Susan Bishopric is an author of romance dreams and they have to get together to net a criminal, Truro Daine, who has escaped prison and gone into the City, a world he has made and established himself as the Night Mayor. Tom investigates Truro Daine under the detective pseudonym of Richie Quick, but gets nowhere. Truro is so powerful in the City that he can control the environment he is in and even change his own clothes at will; he only has to use the power of thought.

Tom thought it would prove easy to find Truro and book him, but in the City where Truro's king and lounges with all the top society people, it's Richie who has to be careful as he's been accused of Truro's murder. Tom doubts Truro is dead, it's more viable that he has left something of himself around to act as his other half. Truro being dead, though it is a great idea for him, is unlikely. Truro has taken all the top acting talent with him to the City from the great ages of cinema, Claude Raines, Bela Lugosi, Orson Welles, Vincent Price, Lee Marvin and Rita Hayworth.
These give him credibility, a reason to be there and more than that, a reason for others to look up to him.

Though the novel looks like it is set in the past of early black and white cinema, Newman has put in place some very interesting technology that gets the essential characters into the dream world of the City. Dr Groome hooks people up to a contraption called Yggdrasil, floating them in one of the many tanks where they go into several layers of dreamscape thanks to the Psych techs. Despite everything that happens to Tom, he can still maintain a smile, good outlook and several more than witty one-liners that involve something about Truro and his cronies.

Yggdrasil is the key to the entire story as it is an interface everyone relies on to be a storage keeper, but since it had become sentient, and chosen Truro Daine to become the one who would take over from him as he had been the one great influence for that century everyone remembered, what remains to be seen is whether Tom and Bishopric can stop Truro from his evil rein and put things back to normal. The sight of prominent figures of old cinema being used for the amusement of Truro in his new world order is bizarre and humorous.

The Night Mayor is everything I would expect from Kim Newman, decidedly noir, funny and deliciously twisted. Fantastic!

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