“The City”, a novel

After 18 months of inadvertent research in London, 3 months of tailspinning in Laos and 4 months of introspection in Sydney (including the writing of my debut novella Unmedicated), I am now pre-selling copies of The City (due 2019) to fundraise for the year that will be required for its writing. The novel has been described by its author as an “anthem for a new generation of disillusioned Bright Young Things – at the same time a cross between 1984, American Psycho, Absolutely Fabulous and Portrait (both of Dorian Gray and an Artist as a Young Man), and like nothing you’ve seen before”.

Different packages available for pre-order include:

  • Signed first-edition hardback copy – £30 / $A50
  • E-book only – £12 / $A20
  • E-book and signed 6″ x 9″ coverart print £15 / $A25

To place your order, or to contribute any other amount to the fundraising campaign, please visit my indiegogo page

The following excerpt from the online novella, Unmedicated, previews The City:

I’m not going to give too many factual details about Nervous Breakdown Number Four, which transpired in March 2015 in London, UK or Nervous Breakdown Number Five, which transpired in December 2016 in Luang Prabang, Laos, partially because what was originally meant to be just another blog post is now longer than my university dissertation, and partly because those two occasions and the giant string of ridiculous events that took place between them (which because of the lack of any period of calm or recovery between them are better viewed as one protracted nervous breakdown) constitute material which I am using as VAGUE AND INDIRECT inspiration for the STRICTLY FICTIONAL AND IN NO LEGALLY RELEVANT WAY FACTUAL OR BASED-ON-REALITY novel that I am currently writing (the first draft of which looks like it will be twenty times the length of this piece, which I suppose we should start calling a novella given it has expanded well beyond a blog post). But this ‘novella’ would be incomplete without a pharmaceutically-focussed synopsis, so here it is.

After eleven consecutive days of sleeplessness (only one of which was actually caused by my benevolent principal not allowing me to leave the office because I was needed to proofread last-minute changes to the transaction documents of the billion-pound deal that only closed 4pm the day after its ‘execution date’) in the serviced flat in which I had been put up (which itself looked across a narrow London City lane directly into the offices of a rival law firm, at least 20% of the lawyers of which were working through the nights which I wasn’t, the light from their offices blearing through the cheap blinds on my full-length bedroom windows), I found myself grasping for dear life onto the last slim threads of my sanity, and after doing some Googling, I found myself at the reception desk of a Central London NHS clinic with a week-long waiting list for appointments, begging for someone to write me a script for Xanax and Lamotrigine. The most solid East-End lass you’ve ever met agreed to see me and wrote the scripts (and made a space for me as her last patient every Tuesday thereafter at 8.30pm just “because I’m worried about you, love”, letting me pour my heart for as long as I wanted (which was not very long, because I was anxious to get back from my work ‘dinner break) – God save the NHS, and Dr Haoli James). After the three darkest months of my life (which considering the nature of the years that preceded it, I think says something), the sun came out on a crisp May morning in London Fields (where the wildflowers were already in bloom when I moved there after losing the City flat) to illuminate the true nature of the events of that bitterly cold March. It became abundantly clear that just like in Cape Town 2009, Sydney 2012 and Gottingen 2013, all that London 2015 had been was the throbbing intuitive organ which had either been neglected, medically straightjacketed or downright abused for most my life suddenly finding itself an open stage and an uncovered microphone, and sensing the immense danger that lay ahead everyone in the audience, and in one final attempt to make itself heard, yelling with all its might. And because I hadn’t ever learned to listen to my intuition even when it was speaking at a normal volume, now it was screaming like a raving lunatic, all I had been able to make out at the time of eruption was:


▄︻̷̿┻̿═━一    ▄︻̷̿┻̿═━一     ☠☠☠☠☠☠☠☠


            And because most of my life I had been conditioned to believe that any overly-emotional or ‘self-sabotaging’ behaviour I had ever displayed was attributable to a horrible, incurable mental illness (whether that be homosexuality or ‘bipolar disorder’), I of course got completely freaked out at this sudden, 24/7 internal screaming. I never stopped to consider whether something was actually wrong outside of my head. As far I was concerned, a lifelong, incurable disease had just ‘flared up’ again. And I took what I thought was the sensible, responsible course of action, which was to not tell anyone, keep calm, and seek medical attention. I didn’t miss a single day of work despite my ‘utilisation’ continuing to exceed 120% for my first couple of months (I don’t know how if any non-lawyers will understand how horrific a figure that is – 100% utilisation means 10 hours billed per day). I was too scared (and too busy) to tell anyone in Australia about my relapse, which fortunately meant that there wasn’t an opportunity for them to corroborate my self-diagnosis, and panic me further, and tell me how I had to immediately return to Australia to go straight into a psychiatric clinic. Although it was horrendously lonely, just sitting in that office dealing with all of this gave my slow-on-the-uptake rational mind the time it needed in the corporate trenches (where though over 100% of my time was required, only about 7% of intellectual capacity was needed for the work I was actually doing) to work out that I hadn’t been ill at all (or at least not before I made myself so). It took all that time for my supposedly terrifically clever brain to work out what it had taken my much maligned intuition only a matter of hours, and to properly decipher the message that nearly got mistranslated as a command to commit a tragic and irreversible act, a message that actually was:

GET OUT! GET OUT NOW! GET OUT WHILE YOU STILL CAN! GO! GO NOW! DO NOT PASS ‘GO’, DO NOT COLLECT TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS (OR £40k)! JUST GET OUT OF HERE! THIS IS NOT A GOOD PLACE! THIS IS AZKABAN! LOOK AT THESE PEOPLE!!! THEY ARE DEATH EATERS!! THIS IS YOUR SOUL SPEAKING AND I DO NOT WANT TO BE EATEN!! What are you doing there on the edge of that bed? Do you think you’re some sort of Moses Marcus Aurellius? What are those – deep breathing exercise? Do you think you’ve become immune to emotionally-triggered insomnia just because you’ve been doing yoga for a year? FUCK YOGA – JUST LISTEN TO ME!!! I KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON HERE, WHEREAS YOU NEVER HAVE AND CLEARLY NEVER WILL! I’ve been trying to keep you away from this place anyway I could for the past five years, but now that you’ve finally stuck your nose right up to the abyss, I’m just going to have to bring out every piece of heavy artillery at my disposal to stop you falling in. I’M NOT GOING TO LET YOU SLEEP! NO SLEEP, NEVER!! NO WAY, JOSE! You can sleep as much as you want once you are the hell away from this giant corporate incinerator that will swallow you up into its squalid belly and spit you out into another contract laying machine like the rows of suited battery hens rotting in their glass cages just outside your bedroom window! Just go take a look another look if you need proof. See what I mean? LOOK AT THEM!! Look at that forty year-old hag in a crinkled Marks and Spencer blazer almost collapsing onto her keyboard. Do you know how old she actually is? TWENTY-SEVEN!!! She was probably also a starry-eyed hot shot from somewhere nice and sunny like Sydney when she arrived at the ‘magic circle’ three years ago. And just look at her now! THAT’S MAGIC FOR YOU!!!! Do you want to be that hag in three years? NO! THE ANSWER IS NO! NO!??! FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, CHOOSE LIFE! ACTUAL LIFE, NOT TRAINSPOTTING-IRONIC-LIFE! Just pack your things, leave the key under the mat, take the lift down to Ground, tip the nice door-man, get in a cab and L-E-A-V-E!!!!!!!

Or something along those lines (wait for the novel for a longer, more elegant description, without the J.K. Rowling or Danny Boyle allusions – there will only be middle to highbrow literary allusions in the novel). But somehow even once I had decoded this exceptionally clear, direct message, I managed to rationalise myself out of listening to it. I made a long list of reasons for staying at the job, the least romantic of which was that I would have owed the firm a whole heap of money from all the strings-attached sweeteners they had offered when they still thought they needed to woe me over from paradise (sweeteners which soon after greedily gulped down left a too-good-to-be-true, sick-to-my-stomach feeling that now makes complete sense). Other reasons for staying included ‘not wanting to be a quitter’, not quite being ready to walk away from such a once-in-a-lifetime (please God, let it have just been once!!) opportunity, and desperately not wanting to go back to Australia for reasons that only became clear when I was eventually forced to return. Despite having felt like I was lucky to have got through those three months in London alive, Australia still seemed like an even greater hell and one that I had only just escaped from. So I conjured up an extremely farfetched plan, one borne out of sheer desperation and perhaps fuelled by the close-to-hypomanic state in which I may or may not have been at the time (who will ever know?) The plan was to keep participating in the Hunger Games of Central London, but to start making everyone else play according to my rules. And I’d do this by viewing the remainder of my Training Contract only as ‘field research’ (from which I could walk away at any time) for the revolutionary novel I was going to write at the end, one which was going to be so inspiring and widely read that it was going to turn the sordid, sequestered world inside out. I thus reconstructed the experience through which I was only an eighth of the way out of being an introduction to the lifelong career in which I was inevitably going to die at my desk, to being a thrilling espionage escapade, and a noble sacrifice of a small chunk of my precious youth for the betterment of humankind.

An essential part of the fantasy was that following my two years undercover, I was going to spend another two years writing in the tropical paradise of Laos, resuming the previous year’s hard work (any progress now being entirely undone) of untying all the emotional and spiritual knots and working out who the fuck I actually was. Why Laos of all places? I suppose in my head it seemed like the closest to being the exact opposite of both London and Sydney (even being roughly halfway between them physically), and it was during a fortnight trip to Laos before London (part of my last-gasp ‘world tour’) that I had most recently felt like life was, incontrovertibly, worth living. Don’t make fun of me – writing a novel in Laos was a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel I had to manufacture for myself in a moment of desperation when I just couldn’t see any. And it had to be extra artificially bright to get me through a very dark and long tunnel. But it worked. Undercover corporate misery proved to be much more endurable than unfiltered corporate misery. It even became fun (not the work – there is nothing fun about corporate law when you take it seriously. But there’s plenty of fun to be had around the edges of such a life, once you know where to look).