Quite a lot has happened since I finished writing Europe at Midnight. When I handed the book in to the publishers, an EU referendum was still a vague promise, a coalition was still running the country, and Great British Bake Off was still on the BBC. I remember I got my first look at a proof of Midnight at last year’s Clarke Awards do, the day before the general election, the day before we all took what turned out to be the first step into the abyss.
What a difference a year makes. David Cameron is about to become a (very well-off) private citizen, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are no more, the Labour Party is now apparently being directed by Mack Sennett, and we are being led by St Theresa, Our Lady of Brexit.
Meanwhile, Midnight has been well-received, thankfully. I was really worried about how it would go down. I read it again just before publication and it seemed kind of lightweight to me, not as dense or as textured as Autumn and I was sure I’d made a mistake. I’d written it as well as I could, but I thought it sat awkwardly beside its predecessor.
And so here we go again. Europe in Autumn, the book I was basically picking away at now and again as a hobby, is about to spawn a third book. Europe in Winter comes out in about a month and a half, and I have the Doubt again. Is it any good? Well, yes, bits of it are very good, I’m particularly proud of the first chapter; there are a couple of very good gags in there. Does it work, as a book? Just about. Does it sit well alongside Autumn and Midnight? I hope so; I’ve come to realise I genuinely can’t tell.
It’s more of a direct sequel to Autumn than Midnight, but the engine of the plot arises from stuff that happens in Midnight. Rudi is the central character again – one of the things that have surprised me is how popular he seems to be; he’s basically me, or at least we share a worldview, so it’s been odd to discover how much people like him – and Rupert makes a return, along with a cast of new characters.
It’s also been a bit strange to see how much people are looking forward to the book. I’m not used to that and it’s a little bit scary; I sense a weight of expectation and I hope people aren’t disappointed. I worked my tits off on this one, and it wasn’t easy – I only got a sense of what it was about when I was in the last third of writing it – but once it’s in the reader’s hands I can’t do anything else. After having total control over the book for so long, there’s a terrifying feeling of helplessness.
I know I told people to shoot me if I even looked as if I was going to write another Europe book, but there will be one more, Europe at Dawn. Again, because I realised there’s stuff I haven’t tackled in the earlier books. The refugee crisis and its effects on Europe’s southern borders, what I’m starting to see as a growing split between the wealthy countries of the North and the poorer ones of the South, a two-tier Europe. Canals. I can’t believe I overlooked canals in the other books. I plan to throw the fucking kitchen sink at this one. But this will be the last; there’s a limit to how many world-shaking conspiracies a series of novels will stand. Also, I like the idea of a Quartet.
So, here we go again, in a new world, waiting for a new Europe book. It has an absolutely fantastic cover; Clint Langley has done me proud with all the books, and this is no exception. I think it’s a fun book; I don’t think it stands alone the way Midnight does, but it pushes Rudi’s story along and in the process really pisses him off. I’m starting to feel sorry about messing the poor sod about so much; all he really wants to do is cook.
Anyway. Onward. Hope you like the book.