Author Guy Adams currently lives in Spain and used to work as an actor and comedian. When he turned his attention to writing, he threw genre “boundaries” out the window, producing humorous fiction, weird westerns, comics, and more. His books include The Clown Service and Deadbeat series; comics include Ulysses Sweet: Maniac for Hire, Rogue Trooper and Max Normal for 2000AD.
Adams talked to me about his latest book, For A Few Souls More, the third in his Heaven’s Gate weird western trilogy, as well as an exciting new project for Solaris. So hold onto your hat and enjoy the ride.
Rachel Cordasco: FOR A FEW SOULS MORE is the third book in your Heaven’s Gate trilogy: can you give us an overview of this latest installment and explain how it fits into the series as a whole?
Guy Adams: Certainly. The trilogy as a whole is about a ghost town that contains a doorway to the afterlife (hence, Heaven’s Gate, I’m not evoking Cimino’s horse-slaughtering, studio-busting, navel-gazing movie completely at random). The first book concerned the journey taken by several disparate groups to get there, book two concerned what happened when they did- this book deals with the fallout. Book two ends with a rather major event that demands a good deal of sweeping up, to say what it is would be a spoiler too far.
It’s humans and the population of the afterlife trying to co-exist, demons and gunslingers. Immigration on an infernal scale. It’s about — as indeed, all the books have been — defining the nature of ‘freak’. To quote the famous philosopher, David Bowie, it’s all about loving the alien.
RC: You mention on your website that “it took an Italian [Sergio Leone] to evoke the magic of the American West” for you. Can you describe the ways in which you’ve built upon Leone’s techniques (if at all) and what particularly drew you to his style?
GA: I tried to emulate his style a couple of times but naturally it doesn’t really translate. Like all great filmmakers, Leone’s genius is hard to pin down. Partly — and this was what I played with in the prose a couple of times in book one — it’s the juxtaposition of the extreme close-up and the huge wide shot. The outlaw’s stubble and the open desert plain. That same trick can be seen in his eye for beauty and the grotesque; his films are filled with the dirty and repellent alongside the breathtaking and gorgeous.
That latter element is something that runs through everything I do really.
His real trick, though, was to mythologize it all in a way that wasn’t jingoistic. The wild west of the cinema never really existed (well, to be clear, I’m talking up until the point Leone took up his camera, there have been modern attempts). The clean, noble world of The Duke was a fable (in the hands of John Ford a beautiful one). Leone didn’t bring us fables, he brought us legends, fantasy landscapes filled with fantasy characters. They felt magic, unreal and apocalyptic. Not just Leone of course, Corbucci, Damiani, Barboni… The world of the Spaghetti Western is rich, violent and crazy.
We mustn’t forget Ennio Morricone either, his music brought it all to life, alongside the likes of Riz Ortolani, Stelvio Cipriani and Bruno Nicolai. These men write the soundtrack to most of my working life. Operatic, audacious and, like the films they accompany, equal parts beautiful and horrid.
GA: It was always a trilogy. And more. What I really wanted to do is build a world I could play in forever. Don’t worry, the story’s done; the books are complete, but one day I may go back there anyway, a few years after the events of this story, just to see how everyone’s getting on.
RC: How has writing “weird westerns” informed your approach to other genres (since you “never met a genre [you] didn’t like”)?
GA: I’m not sure it’s informed my approach at all. Well, maybe that’s a slight lie… Every book informs the next because you’re always learning. These are the books in which I finally learned to completely let rip. They are the wildest, most eclectic books of my career. Well, they were… my current project may have eclipsed them! Maybe they gave me the bravery for what came next.
RC: Who are your favorite writers and why?
GA: I have a lot of favourite writers. I’ll try and pick a random few…
Stephen King because his voice is just gorgeous. That man can tell me any story he wants because I could listen to his words all day. A true master.
P.G. Wodehouse for the same reason as above and yes, I love the fact I’m comparing them… (“I say old thing, you really are a dirty bird.”)
Agatha Christie because snobs give her a hard time she simply doesn’t deserve. Yes, she was prolific, no, her quality isn’t consistent and yet… at her best she was astonishingly witty and clever, at her worst she was still wildly entertaining. We could all dream of being as brilliant as Agatha Christie.
Grant Morrison, because he expanded my mind at just the right age.
RC: What are you currently working on? And in which genre?
GA: My big project at the moment — and this is the first time I’ve really talked about it, I think — is called The Change. It’s also for Solaris and I can’t thank them enough for letting me try it because it really is a crazy experiment.
It will be a series of novellas, initially digital only (if it’s wildly successful we may collect for print but that’s by no means certain so please don’t bank on it because I’m not!). It’s aimed at a younger, YA market than my previous work and is my attempt to tell a completely global tale of a near-apocalyptic event. One morning, things appear in our skies. They are beyond description, utterly alien, the sort of Elder Gods that gave Lovecraft the collywobbles. Anyone who saw them died instantly. Those who saw the limited video footage of their appearance went mad.
The world was broken in a matter of minutes. Reality too, because their intrusion into our physical space made changes. Changes that are psycho-geographical in nature. The myths and legends and dreams of our physical world are now informing it. Monsters are real and nothing can be taken for granted.
With that basic background I’m telling various stories. There are two, ongoing series:
The Change: London where a young amnesiac wakes up on the M25 and makes a long journey to the centre of the city. On the way he meets biker gangs, killer plants, lethal shopping centres, a West End filled with cat-human hybrids and Roman gods in the Underground.
Then there is The Change: New York which follows Grace, a fifteen year old girl who is trying to reach Rikers Island in the hope of finding her brother. She travels with a man who believes he’s God and two escapees from a Coney Island Freak Show. They will contend with the inhabitants of the Dreamland amusement park, cannibal fishermen on the Hudson, the Statue of Liberty and sundry other Big Apple worms.
Alongside these two series will be one-off stories set in other locations. Initially, The Change: Paris which sees a young homeless man try to rescue his friend from The Impressionists, paint-men who have taken over the Louvre and The Change: Tokyo where Noriko must keep out of the clutches of the Bunraku Puppeteers who are controlling the city.
It’s all explosive, mad, fun and is something I’ve been wanting to do for many years. All hail Solaris for letting me have a go.
If it’s successful then my hope is to keep going until it builds to a truly epic narrative. I have a long story in mind for both the New York and London series (though each novella will read as a complete adventure, think in terms of a TV or comic series, ongoing characters having episodic adventures) and I can only hope sales are enough that I get to complete this mad, fictional map of a world gone mad. If it takes off, it will likely be the biggest thing I ever write.
We’ll see! My future is in the hands of readers. But then, it always was.
RC: Thanks so much for your time!
GA: Thank you!