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Lye Street by Alan Campbell, cover illustration by Dave McKean

April 12, 2008

I stepped off the planned trail while hanging out in the stacks and came upon something I found intriguing. The cover is what captured me. I already had my Stainless Steel Droppings Once Upon a Time Challenge list setup, but the cover of this book….

My favorite style of art is the Nederlandish period, during the 1400’s. In the Dutch town of Hertogenbosch there lived a painter who was called Hieronymous Bosch. Very little is know about him, other than he died in 1516, and had become famous for his powers of depicting evil incarnate. Here was an artist, who, for the first time, gave observable shape to the fears that haunted the minds of men and women in the Middle Ages. His most famous works (and my favorite) show agony piled upon anguish, fire, and torment. There are various species of demons, half animal, half human or half machine, who plague and punish the poor sinners for eternity. I am not sure why they are my favorite, I haven’t really inspected it. I am certainly not a gloomy person, plagued by fear of sin or punishment or hell. Maybe it is just the fantasy aspect of it I am attracted to. Do you see the similarities to the book cover here?

Back to the codex. The name of it was Lye Street, by Alan Campbell. Hence, after being attracted to the cover, of course I had to read the blurb inside to find out what this book was about. I had never heard of it, never seen it, knew nothing of the author. This is what the blurb said:

Alan Campbell has graced us with a 26,000 word novella, a prequel to his stunning fantasy debut, Scar Night, the first novel of the Deepgate Codex. Lye Street ends just where the novel picks up! The Greene family is cursed. Every fifty years Deepgate’s scarred angel, Carnival, returns to murder another descendant. Now, five hundred years after the first victim s death, Sal Greene is facing his own doom. His time has almost run out. In a desperate attempt to break the chain of violence and save his family, he summons a demon to the chained city: a warrior he hopes is powerful enough to stand against the angel. Yet the creature which arrives in Deepgate is not quite the legendary mercenary Sal Greene was expecting.

Sounded good, so I took it to one of the Keepers of the Books and checked it out. It is a very strange story. I think a key to this is the fact that it is a prequel to Scar Night (2006), and when I finished Lye Street, and read some reviews of Scar Night, I had a more clear understanding of its prequel. Deepgate is one very strange place. It is a city built over an apparently bottomless abyss, suspended on chains, with buildings occasionally falling in, or bodies being dumped over the edge. This is a novella, which is nice, I don’t come across many novellas, so it was a quick read. It was very, very dark. I haven’t decided if I will read Scar Night. The reviews I read are mixed. I was intrigued enough, however, to check out the author, Alan Campbell. Campbell has a quite personable blog, which I will probably add to my bookmark of “Daily Read for Writer.” He lives in that very special country of Scotland, which adds to the attraction for me. But the cover! I had to find out more about the artist, Dave McKean. I could not track down his personal website or blog, but there are numerous places you can find McKean’s work featured. He has collaborated quite a bit with Neal Gaiman (gee, he shows up everywhere!). They have done graphic novels and comics together. McKean is quite prolific, and has done many CD covers as well as other collaborative work. He has illustrated a children’s books written by Gaiman, one of which is The Wolves in the Walls, in 2003. I had actually checked it out of my school library years ago, attracted to the illustrations. I enjoyed it, and check it back in without knowing anything about author or illustrator. Tell me, do you see any influence, similarities, or connections between McKean’s work and Bosch? I am so glad I found this artist. Although I don’t do anything with Tarrot cards, I am attracted to the illustrations, and I would love to find a set of McKean’s. Very cool stuff. Check it out.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. April 13, 2008 1:10 am

    I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’ve read mixed reviews of Scar Night as well but I don’t think that will stop me from reading the book. If you are interested you can read my review of Lye Street here:

    My only problem with it, which I indicated in the review, was that I found the swearing very distracting. I am no prude and have no problem with the well placed expletive, but in some chapters of Lye Street it bordered on the ridiculous.

    McKean’s art is amazing. Have you seen the film, Mirrormask which was done by McKean and a small computer graphics team, script by Neil Gaiman? It is one of those films that I find amazing and can see something new and interesting in it each time I watch it. Review here:

    I don’t think McKean has an ‘official website’ but you are correct in that there are several places to go see examples of his amazing work. I hadn’t made the Bosch connection but I can see it. I like Bosch’s work too and don’t generally like art that is quite that graphic. There is just something different about his work, there is a fantastical element to it all.

  2. April 19, 2008 12:22 am

    This sounds fascinating – I love both artists, so I’ll definitely have to check this one out. Thanks for the review!

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