Review: The Face of Twilight, Mark Samuels, 2006, 2016.
Ivan Gilman is a writer making little headway on his fourth book and, when his apartment building burns down, his depleting funds force him into a room on London’s Archway Road. It does have a couple of advantages. It’s cheap, and it’s near the Rochester Pub, a conducive environ for filling notebooks with text and helping the regulars out with crossword puzzles.
There is one drawback – the creepy, balding neighbor in the apartment below by the name of Conrad Stymm.
Gilman develops a professional interest in apocalyptic sects, the notion of graffiti covered bridges and buildings as symbols of a magical project to raise the dead. Then there’s the abandoned tv station in North London.
It’s not all failed drafts and a growing obsession with the psychogeography of the city. There are the weekly meetings with other writers – mostly so Gilman can mooch drinks. When Gilman rescues the attractive Kate Collins from the troillist clutches of one writer and takes her home, things become more uncertain. Kate leaves Gilman before he wakes up, and shows up dead and mutilated later on.
And Gilman begins to think Stymm is involved.
The rest of the novel is a progressive revelation of the monstrous nature of London and its transformation.
At this point, I could mention the thematic ties to his short stories written before and after this, his first novel. I could note the one explicit allusion to one of his stories. However, that would imply the use of similar images and themes makes this novel less interesting. I still found it compelling and apocalyptic if not as interesting as Samuels’ best shorter works.
Samuels excels at urban creepiness with his sinister buildings that often invert their purpose and giving us a city where graffiti is more than a visual blight and suicide is not all it seems.