cover image KING OF THE CITY


Michael Moorcock, . . Morrow, $26 (432pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97589-1

Like Gargantua or Tristram Shandy, Dennis "Denny" Dover is born with all the portents of some future myth. "I was born in Mustard Street. In the top back room of the Hare and Hounds. On 21 December 1952. My dad... was the last real Londoner to be hanged for murder." We first meet Denny, the narrator of Moorcock's scurrilously exuberant London novel, on a downer. He has scored a coup, photographing a supposedly dead English billionaire, Johnny Barbican Begg, enjoying illicit, copulatory bliss with an English countess on a Bahamian island. Denny's scoop is outscooped, however, by Princess Di's car wreck, which not only chases everything else off the headlines, but puts paparazzi in bad odor with the public, forcing Denny to hide out in an English resort town, Skerring. In the long flashback taking up most of the book, we go from the early '70s remnants of a swinging London, with Denny a cult rock and roll guitarist, to his news photography in Rwanda and then his paparazzo days. At the heart of Denny's story is his love for his cousin Rosie Beck, and for working-class London. Rosie metamorphoses from a radical to Barbican Begg's wife and, perhaps, the plotter of his downfall. Moorcock includes real people, like Johnny Lydon, and a host of fictional characters, like the Quentin Crisp–like actor, Norrie Stripling, as though the book were Moorcock's version of the Sgt. Pepper album cover: private favorites and public enemies. Fans of Moorcock's science fiction might find the references hard going, but readers of his Booker Prize–nominated Mother London will enjoy the novel's angry rant against the vices of the age. (Aug.)