Friday, October 05, 2007

Pg. 69: Stephen Gallagher's "The Kingdom of Bones"

The current feature at the Page 69 Test: Stephen Gallagher's The Kingdom of Bones.

About the book, from the publisher:
The Kingdom of Bones is the haunting story of Tom Sayers, a former boxing champion who must continue to fight — to clear his name after a series of gruesome murders, for the heart and soul of a leading lady, and to uncover the truth behind a legend as old as evil itself.

Wrongly accused of the slaughter of pauper children in the wake of the touring theater company he manages, Tom Sayers is forced to disappear into a twilight world of music halls and traveling boxing booths. Beginning with a chance encounter in a Philadelphia pleasure park one weekend in 1903, this brilliantly macabre mystery traces Sayers’ journey from England’s provincial playhouses through London’s mighty Lyceum Theatre and on to the high society of a transforming American South — with many a secret to be uncovered in the dark alleyways, backstage areas, and houses of ill repute that lie along the way.

As Sayers seeks the truth behind the killings, he is pursued in turn by the tireless Detective Inspector Sebastian Becker. Desperate to ensure the safety of actress Louise Porter, Sayers calls on an old friend, Bram Stoker, for help. But Stoker’s links with the world of the Victorian occult lead Sayers to discover a danger even greater than he could have imagined.

Thrown into a maelstrom of obsession, betrayal, and sacrifice — where even the pure may not escape damnation — Sayers must face the implications of an unthinkable bargain: the exchange of a soul for a chance at eternal life.

With action that spans continents, decades, and every level of society, The Kingdom of Bones follows the troubled lives of those touched by Tom Sayers, ultimately weaving their stories into a harrowing climax that stirs the mind — and the blood.
Among the early praise for The Kingdom of Bones:
"Set mainly in late 19th-century England, Gallagher's ingenious horror thriller revolves around the extraordinary life — and death — of Tom Sayers, a real-life bare-knuckle fighter who, after retiring, briefly traveled the country staging reenactments of his most memorable bouts. While working as a manager for a touring theatrical company, Sayers falls in love with the troupe's leading lady, 22-year-old Louise Porter, who unfortunately doesn't share his feelings. Sayers also becomes the prime suspect in a series of mutilation murders and, while barely evading arrest, embarks on a quest to save Porter, who's become hopelessly entangled in an all-too-real occult legend. Bram Stoker and Aleister Crowley play minor roles. Combining the meticulous historical detail of Caleb Carr's The Alienist with gothic mysticism and Christian mythology, Gallagher (The Painted Bride) delivers a nicely macabre blend of fact and fiction."
--Publishers Weekly

"Beautifully written and tenderly portrayed with a depth not often found in thrillers, The Kingdom of Bones melds history and mystery for a spectacular result."
--Kate Ayers,

"[A] moody, gripping period thriller.... Gallagher skillfully weaves together vampire myths and the theatrical world of late Victorian England.... Dark but splendid entertainment."
--Kirkus Reviews

"Stephen Gallagher's Gothic tale of Victorian villainy entangles three key figures: boxer/impresario Tom Sayers; Louise Porter, the actress he loves; and the mysterious murderer who frames Tom and seduces Louise, tainting her with a curse that compels its bearer to do evil. (Louise finesses her dilemma by becoming a dominatrix, inflicting pain from London to New Orleans.) The Kingdom of Bones' Gilded Age period detail includes some melodramatic prose — 'into that devil's hands I've delivered Louise!' — and dodgy occult lore. But Gallagher (The Spirit Box) includes gripping set-pieces — bare-knuckle bouts, exquisite kink — to produce an affecting study of sado-masochistic desire."
--Entertainment Weekly
Stephen Gallagher is a novelist, screenwriter, and director. His many novels include Nightmare, with Angel; Red, Red Robin; and The Spirit Box. Read more about The Kingdom of Bones at the publisher's website, and visit Gallagher's website and his blog.

The Page 69 Test: The Kingdom of Bones.

--Marshal Zeringue