The Neon Boneyard
Forthcoming from Strange Attractor Press/MIT 2019
'The Neon Boneyard' is a fantasy novel inhabited by Gypsies who cook up smelted cinema reel-tape and audio-cassettes as a part of a black market operative which can cause heightened visions and hallucinations. They also deal in bundles of reel2reel melted tape as kindling which, when lit, cause any fire to produce sparking visions of Cowboys and Indians or off-cuts of love-scenes and the Gypsy children deal in this. Our protagonist is Marilyn Monroe's son, Nicholas, who is also a stand-in for Father Christmas as a boy and he is obsessed with finding his mother but also concerned with a new star in that world's desert horizon and what it means. Hunting down the holographic Gypsy King to discover the meaning of the strange and vast migratory flock of birds, bats and moths that is growing ever-larger on the horizon, Nicholas meets two other strange figures – one the son of Hitler, a camp cabaret artist – in an unholy trio who vaguely approximate the Magi in this cinematic tinker-town, where the star is alluded to as 'The Neon Boneyard.'
An excerpt read at 'To Gypsyland', a Romany Symposium:
"The Gypsies, in their dark shades, collected recorded music and ingested it slowly, absorbing it through their lungs. They melted down tape spools and vinyl, squatting in the heavy fumes to create compound liquors. The high sweat voices of American singers made a thin syrup that drew in hummingbirds. Any liquid lost was a grave concern and those birds that could immediately hit the ground, speedily drawing up the plastic juices through their beaks. Buddy Holly robins, Blondie sparrows. All the old-timers ventriloquised the birds. Nicholas came across an old Caruso swan one evening, waddling through the chandeliers, warbling on the cold night air an ancient Palermo hotel room song - one of dusty velvet vermillion and a terror of thunderstorms.The chandelier shuddered and cracked under the wending billed pitch of the aria which ended in a long slow crack, a fat swan burp, as the creature deposited scat under the sharp moonlight and Caruso's presence was gone. But the smaller birds might hold onto a fragment of song for a lifetime, absorbed into its tiny bloodstream so that the hummingbird that drew up James Brown would croon 'get up' endlessly. The Gypsies usually shot them, because it drove the small thing mad in itself. Dietrich's 'Where Have All the Flowers Gone?' spilt badly one summer afternoon and was devoured by a rook of crows in its entirety. Somehow in an alchemical twist of sound - the Gypsies felt this was because the smelting was of vinyl and not the acetate tape spools - or perhaps it was entrenched on the grooves: the result was a divisible orchestra and three Dietrichs. The pizzicato of the strings - her special bullets - were heard for months after in the trees and her own melancholy crooning in the autumn woods at sunset, carried out from a bitter nest. Piaf too, had spilt on occasion. 'Je Ne Regrette Rien' became a point of hilarity not least because in a faultless moment of irony it was subsumed by a vulture."