Neverwhere is a storyline which will always be close to my heart. Nine years old, sick in bed with flu and bored out of my skull I stole a library book off of my mum's shelf to try to get through the illness. I wasn't the greatest of readers back then having been born with dyslexia. I struggled through it as best I could, having to ask a lot of the complex words. Yes, there was a world before google! There really was one guys, honest.
Until I got to where Richard Mayhew was facing the test of the Black Friars. Stood in a London tube station, everyone telling him to jump in front of the train. Be a man! Kill yourself! Have a fatal accident today! Richard breaking down as the taunting, the hopelessness in his life overwhelming him. As he starts to feel the weight on his past on his shoulders, realizing that no one would miss him if he did die. Coming to the conclusion that suicide really was the only option open to him. That everything would be solved if he just jumped in front of the train that was coming into the station just feet away from where he stood.
That scene terrified my younger self, that deep emotive writing. How in just a few words the storyteller could change your whole mood. How deeply he could rip into your heart, make you desperate for Richard to live! In that moment as I reread the scene for the fourth time I knew that I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. That I wanted to be able to twist someone's emotions in just that deeply chilling way. To gain master control over someone's feelings completely, that is the true power of a writer. From then on I did everything I could to beat my dyslexia, keeping writing even if it was terrible as a learning experience. And now look at me? A reporter for an amazing web site, my first novel self publishing this year. Thank you Mr. Gaiman for being my muse for all of these years.
The book's concept of what if there really was a night on the knights’ bridge, an angel called Islington, or an Earl who runs his court is inspired. A London below the city streets, where the homeless and people who fall through the cracks end up. A deeply lost land of people with little or no hope. A violent land, where you could be killed just for a bite of food. Where you trade information or items for food. People from London Below cannot be seen by those from London above, they are just a random passerby, just faceless. You couldn't remember what they looked like if you tried, but if you accidentally look too long and take too much notice then bad things happen. You can only exist in one London at any one time. As Richard discovered when his promising office career, long-term relationship and wedding on the way all vanish when he stops to help a bleeding homeless girl. He moves through London Below to find her help from the Marquis De Carabas and finds himself tagging along with her quest to find the Angel. Hoping somehow to find himself a way back home.
The BBC made this book into a mini-series in 1996, repeated several times and highly popular on DVD. Not only was the series true to the original storyline it actually heightened it in several places. Giving more scope to explain parts that had been skimmed over in the novel. It also heavily credits Lenny Henry on the writing side, who was the person with the original idea before speaking to Neil Gaiman over it. Starring Gary Bakewell, Laura Fraser, Paterson Joseph, Peter Capaldi along others.
Sarah Beth James