Friday, 13 September 2019

The Devil Upstairs

Blog tour time! I know, what is going on this Murder Month?!

And this is linked to The Devil Upstairs by Anthony O'Neill. I read his previous novel, Dr Jekyll and Mr Seek (a "sequel" or sorts to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde) a few years ago and thorough enjoyed myself. So when I was asked if I wanted to be involved in this blog tour, I jumped at it. But, this sounds a little creepy...

The Devil Upstairs follows Cat Thomas, who moves from Florida to Edinburgh into her dream house. Everything is perfect. Expect the neighbour upstairs. He is loud, rude and respects nothing. In sheer desperation, Cat appeals to the Devil to do something, anything.

Then upstairs goes deafly quiet. Has Cat's nightmare ended, or just begun...?

I am so excited to be involved in this tour and I have something to share. Anthony O'Neill found time to write a small guest post for the tour about the novel's title! How very intriguing!

Before I hand you over to Anthony, I just want to thank him for finding time to write this and to Jaz at Black and White Publishing for asking if I wanted to be involved in the tour! If you fancy checking out his website - - you are always welcome. And if you are curious over The Devil Upstairs, you can read more about it on Black and White Publishing website. Now, over to Anthony!

I’m inordinately proud of The Devil Upstairs. – the title of the book, that is. Ostensibly it refers to the obnoxious musician who lives above my lead character in Edinburgh. But it also suggests satanic elements, diabolical chicanery and macabre developments in the narrative. And all of these certainly come to pass – to rid herself of her bothersome neighbour, my protagonist ends up attending a satanic ritual and seeking the help of the Devil himself.
But, more importantly, the title has a double meaning. A multi-faceted meaning. Because there are no less than six “devils upstairs” in the book. Four of these should be obvious to anyone who reaches the last page; two are obscure enough for me to consider offering a prize to anyone who spots them. 
Then again, I’ve always had a fondness for word games and multi-pronged titles, possibly a legacy of my early ambition to be a cartoonist. My first novel, Scheherazade, not only featured the legendary storyteller but was a meditation on popular storytelling in general. The Lamplighter – set in 1886 Edinburgh – features a mysterious lamplighter (or “leerie”) whose name turns out to have a devilish significance (SPOILER ALERT – it’s Lucifer, the Bringer of Light). The Empire of Eternity refers to the Napoleonic Empire, the Egyptian Empire, and the quest for immortality. The Unscratchables, a sociological satire featuring a police dog teaming up with a Siamese cat from the Feline Bureau of Investigation, is an obvious riff on The Untouchables. The Dark Side, the title of my lunar crime book, has a colloquial meaning – the dark side of human nature – and a literal one – the far side of the moon. My unofficial sequel Dr Jekyll & Mr Seek cadges a line from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – “If he be Hyde,” Utterson had thought, “then I shall be Mr Seek” and fashions for the character of Utterson a man desperately seeking truth, justice, and his own sanity.
In some cases, I’ve found the title even dictating the shape of the narrative. It establishes the themes. It wags the dog. It demands to be honoured.
And all because I’ve imagined the reader closing the book, reconsidering the title, and admiring me for investing it with such unforeseen significance.
But is it there any evidence that that ever happens? Or that multi-faceted titles are in any way popular? Looking at my bookshelf now I see prosaic tiles: Around the World in 80 Days, Gulliver’s Travels, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I see character-name titles: Rebecca, Julian, Papillon, Lolita. I see poetic titles: To Kill a Mockingbird, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Lonesome Dove, The Unbearable Lightness of Being. But it’s rare that I see anything with more than one meaning. Love in the Time of Cholera, perhaps – a title that’s strikingly prosaic even as it cunningly equates love with serious illness. Falling Angel, too  – a book that features gumshoe Harry Angel being led to hell by the greatest fallen angel of them all, Lucifer. And the enigmatic The Name of the Rose, which could mean either the abbey’s library or the seductive servant girl or “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. Or, indeed, nothing at all – author Umberto Eco claimed that it was a last-minute substitute for Adso of Melk, a title wisely rejected by his publishers.
Which brings us neatly to iconic books that were almost lumbered with less-than-iconic titles. Peter Benchley reportedly toyed with a never-ending list of banal titles, including White Shark, Death from the Sea and What Have We Done?, before settling very reluctantly on Jaws. Bram Stoker’s Dracula very nearly went out under the less-than-seductiveThe Un-dead. Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 was only changed from Catch-18 at the eleventh hour because Leon Uris had just published a book, also set during World War Two, called Mile 18. And we can all be can be grateful that George Orwell’s publisher forced him to choose 1984 over his preferred title, The Last Man in Europe
Would a rose by any other name become a cultural phenomenon?
Examining the titles of the current century’s bestsellers – Harry Potter, The Da Vinci Code, The Girl on the Train, Gone Girl, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – one comes away feeling that no real gravity is necessary, beyond perhaps the use of the word “girl”. And that only reminds me of a friend’s well-meaning  suggestion – that a more marketable title for The Devil Upstairs would be The Girl Who Made Love to the Devil. Or maybe even The Girl Who F***ed the Devil. And I could certainly see his point. 
But I stuck to my guns anyway. Because I’m hopelessly addicted to multi-faceted titles.

Even if no one appreciates them.

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