The Obald was a novel, or an idea for a novel, that just refused to die. I first wrote it in 1983, then had another go in 2009. Now, in 2014, I’ve finally finished and published it in paperback and for Kindle.
(My other novel, French Blood, is available for 99p on a Kindle countdown deal for the next five days.)
Back in 2003, when I started my first blog, I revisited a number of my abandoned writing projects, and posted entries summarising what I remembered about them.
So here’s what I wrote about (the original, 1983) Obald, in 2003.
Theobald was a neon sign in a sewing machine shop in Luton. This is ca. 1983. I’m sitting on the bus stop bench with Kim M. for nights on end doing the dirty under our coats while we waited for bus. I noticed that the neon sign was badly made, with a gap between The and obald.
The Obald was born.
Set in a dystopian future, it features a heroine, Melody Midwinter, who came from the fantasy regions of my brain. Her dad, her mentor, was voiced in my head as I was writing by Burt Lancaster. He’s somewhere between the Lancaster of Sweet Smell of Success, and the self-charicature who turns up in Local Hero. “Good sky you’ve got here tonight, Macintyre. Well done.”
Melody and her father are the hub of a resistance movement, struggling against a secret government, you know. The ones who are really controlling everything underneath the quotidian politics you see on the news. There’s some kind of secret book, a small pamphlet of around 118 pages, which gives The Answer.
It’s like a Zen thing, a little like a Richard Bach book. Naturally the Secret Government is trying to suppress it, and is doing so with violence. Establishing the truth about people and all that.
The Obald stands both for this secret government and for a real place, a place of secrets. You’re walking on the London Underground and you see a door with no label, locked, leading where? You’re in an underground car park, and there in the wall, behind the barrier, is another door, painted green. Not an exit, but where does it lead?
This is the Obald, found in the oldest and strangest stations, like Elephant and Castle, at the bottom of the spiral staircase; on the end of the lift that doesn’t open when you get down there.
The secret government knows everything about you, from your shoe size upwards. This anticipated the kind of 24-hour surveillance identity card society we’re still moving towards; the society of calls being monitored and email being read.