Carl Neville

Carl Neville’s latest novel, Resolution Way, is out at the moment and it’s wonderful. A smart multi-stranded thriller, set in a terrifyingly plausible dystopian near future, it has all the crystal-ball chops of a William Gibson book but with far more references to 80s rave tunes. We caught up with Carl…

There’s deep sense of pessimism hanging over the novel; even the few acts of resistance to the state are seen as either futile, or worse corrupted. Are you that pessimistic about the country’s future? Or is the novel a worst-case scenario?
Definitely a worst-case scenario. To be honest I am optimistic. I started writing Resolution Way in 2010 and its vision of the near-future was really just a case of mapping out the logic and the trajectory of the Government kind of doubling-down on many of the things that had brought on the crash in the first place, but I don’t think that’s a viable option anymore, either socially or economically. A low-wage, low-inflation, high-debt economy with lots of asset bubbles seemed fantastically successful up to 2008 but now looks like it might result in all kinds of negative blow-back effects for political elites, the rise of Corbyn for example, or the Scottish referendum or Brexit. So I think for any number of reasons from this stage forward some kind of roll back to more Social Democratic models is on the cards. And I think that will happen globally. So that opens up space which I think is already being successfully theorized, captured and fought for by the Left.

The descriptions of Vernon Crane’s music are really intriguing. I kept having to check they weren’t real tunes. What tracks out there come closest to your idea of how his music would sound? What do you listen to while you’re writing?
While I am writing I tend to listen to fairly straightforward rock, I am afraid to say. All pretty unfashionable. So that probably goes from sing-a-long Bruce Springsteen or rockier Richard Thompson through to Big Black or No Means No. Crane’s music I imagined as somewhat akin to industrial bands like Coil or Psychic TV when they discovered rave, albums like Gold is the Metal, or rather what those albums might have been like if they had been a bit less esoteric and precious and a bit more rough and ready, had had a bit more ‘Ardkore in them and a bit less Aleister Crowley.

The WorkingHearts thing in the novel is fiendish – an emotional meter worn by shop assistants and the like that displays whether they are truly enjoying serving the public. Where did the idea for that come from (please don’t tell me it’s a real thing).
It’s almost a real thing. While I was writing Resolution Way I was also living part of the year in Japan and noticed on website that a ”toy” electronic cat tail had been developed that wagged in response to the wearer’s mood. Now, no disrespect to the Japanese but my first thought about the wider applications of this was either the sex industry or the service industry, which largely intersect in Japan anyway. So the Affective Monitors in the book develop out of that and are tied into this expansion of what’s often called “emotional labour”; a part of, or all of your job is making other people feel good and positive about their jobs, and now that might overlap with the borderline-totalitarian demands for product and corporate identification that lots of employees, at all levels of a company have to subscribe to.

You’ve written a lot about film, and British film in particular. Any plans to turn this into a screenplay?
No immediate plans. If anybody asks me though, I certainly wouldn’t turn them down.

And finally, what’s next in the pipeline?
Well, when I first started writing Resolution Way circa 2010 I intended it to be one, dystopian half of a longer novel, the second part would be a Utopian piece ( a thriller) set in a counterfactual modern day UK. In fact I was working on them both side-by-side until Resolution Way took on a life of its own and got so long it became a stand-alone book. So the Utopian half, Eminent Domain, which features as the novel Alex Hargreave’s tries to steal in Resolution Way is sitting around half completed waiting for me to finish it. In that sense, for me at least, Utopia awaits!

Interview: Mat Osman
Photo: Tom Medwell