bugged out

Nick Hark­away tells us about new novel Gnomon, a cau­tion­ary tale of the near fu­ture

SFX - - Red Alert -

a few years back, nick Hark­away had a con­ver­sa­tion with Wil­liam Gib­son. The cy­ber­punk lu­mi­nary re­vealed him­self as a writer who likes to dive in and fol­low the story. “I’ve al­ways been a bit plan-ori­en­tated and I thought, ‘Right that’s re­ally in­ter­est­ing, I must try this out,’” says Hark­away. “And I started writ­ing, and three years later I de­liv­ered this kind of tele­phone direc­tory to my be­mused ed­i­tors.”

The direc­tory in ques­tion is Gnomon, Hark­away’s fourth novel and by far his most am­bi­tious. Dressed up as a multi-stranded mur­der mys­tery that in­volves a de­tec­tive in a near-fu­ture Bri­tain in­ves­ti­gat­ing “a se­quence of in­creas­ingly im­pos­si­ble things”, it’s a book that deals with sur­veil­lance, the psy­cho­log­i­cal ef­fects of be­ing mon­i­tored, and an im­pulse to­wards au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism that Hark­away sees on both sides of Bri­tish pol­i­tics.

Big themes, as Hark­away, a man who says he’s more com­fort­able us­ing hu­mour “to dis­tract from the fact that I might con­ceiv­ably take my­self se­ri­ously,” ac­knowl­edges. “I had to sign on the dot­ted line and say, ‘Look, there are things in this book that I care about and think are im­por­tant, and I think you should care about too,’” he says.

As for the craft of us­ing story to make you care, that’s deep in Hark­away’s DNA. Fa­mously, he’s the son of John le Carré, yet when Red Alert men­tions a con­ver­sa­tion with Joe Hill – “I know Joe a lit­tle bit now and he is, of course, the only per­son in the world with whom I don’t have to dis­cuss fa­thers” – the in­flu­ence of Hill’s mother, writer Tabitha King, on the hor­ror nov­el­ist’s writ­ing, Hark­away im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fies.

Hark­away’s mother is ex-book edi­tor Valérie Jane Eus­tace, some­one with an “ex­tremely clin­i­cal, ex­tremely foren­sic gift with story”. He con­cludes: “You can’t be in the house that I grew up in and not be aware that it is my mother’s space as much as my fa­ther’s.”

Gnomon is out 2 Novem­ber.

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