Nicholas Royle (one of our writers)
September 2011

About the publication

Carl meets Annie Risk and falls for her. Hurt by a recent relationship, she resists becoming involved. A chance find offers distraction: Carl stumbles across part of a map to an unknown town. He becomes convinced it represents the city of his dreams, where ice skaters turn quintuple loops and trumpeters hit impossibly high notes.... where Annie Risk will agree to see him again. But if he ever finds himself in the streets on his map, will they turn out to be the land of his dreams or the world of his worst nightmares? British Fantasy Award winner Nicholas Royle has written a powerful story set in a nightmarish otherworld of fathers and sons, hopes and dreams, love and death.


When record shop owner Carl almost gets lost walking new girlfriend Annie back from their first date through streets he should know well from his days as a cycle courier, it's just the first in a sequence of unsettling events that will lead him to a disturbingly grim otherworld from which he may never escape. Walking home, he is drawn to a relentlessly ringing telephone, breaking into a house to answer it, only to hear a woman's voice pleading for him to help her. Outside his shop he finds a photocopied map showing streets he doesn't recognise and can't track down, and he finds himself steadily drawn into an alternative world that exists in the gaps between places in this one. Royle's deceptively informal prose draws you in so that each step in the deepening of Carl's story seems logical, inevitable even, until you end up in a place that is decidedly strange and nightmarish the kind of place that China Miéville or Jonathan Carroll might take you to. It's written with the deft and economical touch of a skilled short-story writer.

The Guardian