Author A.J. Kirby gives us a tantalising glimpse of his soon to be published Leeds novel, The Lost Boys of Prometheus City, by Armley Press.
Game of Thrones fans have been waiting impatiently since July 2011 for the next instalment of the George R.R. Martin fantasy series. The last book took the author five years to write; the next volume, The Winds of Winter, has been five years and counting. For some, the wait has been excruciating. Like watching paint dry. While they’ve been waiting, the series’ legion of fans have taken to the internet, and to social media, to speculate as to what might be taking Martin so long. Numerous publishers’ deadlines have come and gone and still there’s no sign of the book; indeed, the TV adaptation, which first aired only a couple of months before the last book was released, has now overtaken the series of books. People are starting to get frustrated: get a move on already, George R.R. Martin. Pull your finger out!
Well, I for one have quite a bit of sympathy with Mr. Martin. You see, I’ve been in the same boat. For any number of reasons – writers’ block, writers’ reluctance to ever be satisfied that a piece of work is done, dusted, there’s nothing more you can do, distractions from other projects and side issues, moving house, having two kids – my novel The Lost Boys of Prometheus City has been five long years in the making. There have been times along the way that I thought I’d never complete it. I set myself (arbitrary) deadlines and then repeatedly broke them. And though the internet and social media haven’t exactly gone crazy with theories as to why I hadn’t finished the book – I’m no George R.R. Martin after all – people have asked about it more than they’ve asked about any of my other works over the years.
Back in 2013 I thought I was halfway there with the book. I submitted an extract of it to the Leeds Big Bookend competition which was designed to discover the best twenty writers under forty years-of-age, and the piece was selected to appear in the LS13 anthology. I was lucky enough to receive quite a bit of praise for the story, and lots of folk asked me when they’d be able to read the novel as a whole. Naively, I told them it should be within a year. I hadn’t even finished writing it then, let alone found a publisher for it, but I thought my central idea for the book was so strong that it would carry me over the finish line.
It didn’t happen. I got side-tracked. I wrote some sports books instead, as the pay was good and, to be brutally honest, the writing of them came easier. Whenever I did try and get back into the flow of writing Lost Boys I got bogged down. I wasn’t enjoying writing it any more. The central idea of it, which I’d once seen so clearly, was now clouded. I felt there was a pressure on me to write this ‘statement’ book and that people had an expectation as to what it would be. Of course, that pressure was nothing like the pressure Mr. Martin must be feeling, every day he sits down behind his keyboard to revisit those characters which his audience feel they ‘own’ almost as much as he does, but it was there all the same. And of course, I wasn’t writing an epic which would weigh in at over a thousand pages, but there was still a lot I had to wade through. And I just couldn’t see an end to it.
I gave up on the book on countless occasions, thinking I’d come back to it in a decade maybe (or maybe even that I’d stop thinking about it altogether). But then, towards the back end of 2015, on a whim, I picked it back out of my bottom drawer again, and I don’t know why – maybe it was the lack of other projects on the go at the time; maybe it was just having a break from the text – but this time I got right back into the flow of it.
I finished it early in 2016, and now I’m delighted to be able to say that at last The Lost Boys of Prometheus City is about to be published. It’s been a long and winding road to get to this stage but I’m happy that the book is finally about to see the light of day, especially with such a progressive, heart-on-its-sleeve Yorkshire publisher such as Armley Press. This week I got to hold the finished book for the first time when an advance reader copy was delivered to my house, and my heart beat just that little bit faster. It was worth the wait. I’m delighted by how Armley Press has treated the book and I’m particularly thrilled by the cover, which is a joint venture between Mick Lake and the digital artist Jack Hurley (who is responsible for the original image of the decaying Leeds skyline you can see on the cover – more of Jack’s work can be seen at www.loudribs.wordpress.com.
The next step is to get the book out there, to the readers, and with that in mind I’d like you to watch this space for details of a launch event, which should take place in January or February 2017. It promises to be a pretty good do, especially given the fact that the guys behind Armley Press, John Lake and Mick McCann, could start a party in an empty room in a lonely cabin somewhere uninhabitable (like London, Mick might say).
So let me tell you about the book. It’s been a labour of love. Above all else it is the story of the city of Leeds, brash and bold, living out the boom times before the bust; over-reaching like Prometheus to be bigger, taller, higher than other northern powerhouse cities. It is the story of Leeds’ fall after the financial crash in 2008. All those tall towers empty and sad, testament to the Ozymandian folly of the city. But ultimately The Lost Boys of Prometheus City is a tubthumper of a book. Leeds gets knocked down, but it gets back up again, and just as the protagonists achieve redemption, so does the city.
I’m hoping the book will appeal to readers who love twists and turns in their fiction; readers who love their characters flawed (and unreliable), but determined to be better; readers who want to be immersed in location, location, location; readers who want to be taken on a journey, just as I have, living in Leeds. It is at once a love song, sung to the city in which I’ve lived for longer than I’ve lived anywhere else; and a ballad, mourning what once could have been. It’s by turn comic, tragic, and the reader will plumb the depths as well as soar to heights in which her wings will be warmed by the sun.
About the The Lost Boys of Prometheus City
“We lived life closer to the sun than most. Sometimes we got blinded by it. We lived the high life. By day, we worked on the top floor of One City Square; by night, the top floors of clubs. Then back to bed at our penthouses.”
Neal Grace, Carl Sharp, and Adam Warshawski are A-list. They’re young, handsome, and rich. They go to all the best parties. Women want to bed them; men want their phone numbers. They are the face of brash, post-millennium Leeds, a city which is itself on its uppers.
But one false move is all it takes for these three ‘young princes’ of Leeds to tumble off their pedestal. After they instigate an incident of shocking violence against two definite Z-listers, life spins into a terrifying downward spiral for them.