Michael Moorcock Goes Metatemporal
Michael Moorcock, recently named one of the top 50 British writers of the post-war era, has written just about every kind of fiction you can imagine. That includes cross-temporal detective fiction. Say what? That's right. Cross-temporal detective fiction. In Moorcock's latest, The Metatemporal Detective, Seaton Begg and his constant companion, pathologist Dr “Taffy” Sinclair, both head the secret British Home Office section of the Metatemporal Investigation Department. As the book's dust jacket reveals, "Begg's cases cover a multitude of crimes in dozens of alternate worlds, generally where transport is run by electricity, where the internal combustion engine is unknown, and where giant airships are the chief form of international carrier." But the story is much richer and deeper than that. For example, who is the mysterious Sexton Blake? And why is Zenith the Albino such a compelling character? To get to the bottom of it all, I recently interrogated Mr. Moorcock...
Amazon.com: Why do you persist in mixing genres and ideas and milieus? Why can’t you just stand still every once in awhile?
Michael Moorcock: I'm easily bored. For that reason I usually don't read much genre fiction. I like fiction which precedes genre or when it has begun to parody or otherwise question the tropes.
(The marvelous cover of The Metatemporal Detective, by John Picacio, side-by-side with the original art.)
Amazon.com: Which of the following best describes your metatemporal detective, Seaton Begg (and why): “time-drunk slave to his insatiable appetites”, “linear successor to the hardboiled eccentrics of Dashiell Hammett,” “debonair ladies man who hardly has time out of the sack to solve crimes.”
All of them.
Amazon.com: Does Begg usually get his man, and what’s his relationship to Dr. “Taffy” Sinclair?
Michael Moorcock: Always. Pinocchio to Jiminy Cricket.
Amazon.com: Just why is Zenith the Albino so evil?
Michael Moorcock: He is in no way evil. He is merely misunderstood. Indeed, if you read between the lines, it's obvious that only Zenith could have stopped Hitler's career in many areas of the multiverse. Few know, moreover, that every Christmas Zenith volunteers as Santa Claus and helps many impoverished children. He is usually to be found in a mall in Columbus, Mississippi, which is also where Santa goes to get his catfish dinner before flying back to the North Pole the day after Christmas.
Amazon.com: Tell us a little bit about Sexton Blake, an influence on this book--why was he a boyhood hero?
Michael Moorcock: Blake is the longest-running series detective in publishing history. He appeared in his own weekly magazine (originally called The Union Jack, later Detective Weekly) and from the early 1900s had up to six novel-length stories published a month in The Sexton Blake Library. Other novels appeared in other series from the same publisher and other adventures were serialized in several other weeklies. His adventures also ran as a comic strip for many years in yet another weekly. There were movies and radio serials produced into the 60s and TV series into the 70s. Many famous British writers have had a hand in telling his adventures since the 1880s and Blake stories are still being written. Check out the Blakiana website for more information.
Blake wasn't really a boyhood hero but I loved some of the writers who used him--their writing and their own characters made those stories good (I also read their non-Blake fiction). He was a pretty cardboard character (again, except in certain hands) but Zenith the Albino, Waldo the Wonderman, Huxton Rymer, Mademoiselle Julie, Roxanne, RSV Purvale and various other characters (both heroes and villains) were great...The villains were the ones I liked. This was also true of other juvenile fiction such as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Gollum was the only character I liked. I liked the Mervyn Peake Titus trilogy most because of its grotesques and villains, such as Steerpike. That said, the stories in The Metatemporal Detective also include homages to Dashiell Hammett, Clarence E. Mulford (Hopalong Cassidy author), Georges Simenon (creator of Maigret) and Honore de Balzac.
Amazon.com: Is there anything you’ve held back from the book that you’d like to reveal now, to all of those book-hungry Amazon readers?
Michael Moorcock: The strong sexual passion Sir Seaton holds for Rose von Bek and a similar sexual obsession Taffy Sinclair holds for Mrs Una Persson. The clues and "secret stories" are there for the discerning reader to find. But only mature readers will understand what's going on. And I've still to reveal the real name of The Masked Buckaroo. His wonder horse, however, is really called Geoffrey.
For more on these and other topics, you'll just have to pick up the book. --Jeff