The call went to voicemail last week, while I was in the shower.
When I returned to my desk, I saw the call had come from my friend John Higgs' mobile. Nothing strange about that, I thought to myself, while pressing play on the voicemail.
That’s when the unmistakable tones of Alan Moore filled my ear and the room went as hot and hazy as Arizona.
“Jason, I thought Jack Sparks was an excellent book,” said the man behind Watchmen, V For Vendetta, From Hell and The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The final twists were absolutely amazing.” He went on to say some other ludicrously nice things, but they would spoiler you, so I’ll draw a veil.
Incredibly, when I finished playing this voicemail back, I did not wake up. Seriously, I didn't. Not even after the twenty-seventh play. While this was very much the stuff of dreams, it had actually bloody happened, in reality and everything.
I had known that John Higgs, who is a friend of Alan Moore, had placed a copy of my Orbit Books novel The Last Days Of Jack Sparks into the great man’s hands at some point last year, motivated by the belief that Alan would appreciate a modern take on horror. But who knew if Alan would ever read it, let alone even vaguely enjoy it? Far as I was concerned, I’d have genuinely been happy if the book had ended its days propping up a wonky table in the Moore residence.
I sat down for a while. Then stood up and paced around. Finally I mustered the courage to phone John back. After picking up, he handed me over to Alan (apparently my tinny voice was heard squeaking out of the phone at this point, going, “Oh fuck!”), who said ludicrously nice things all over again, but this time directly into my brain in real time. All I could really do was try to balance my insane level of gratitude against the need to stay relatively cool while talking to Alan Moore. That, and try to ensure that I listened a lot more than I spoke.
I definitely jabbered about how I’d been recently been watching and enjoying Show Pieces, his and Mitch Jenkins’ collection of linked short films. That aside, I’ve no idea what I said. Hopefully I really did just listen. But what a very lovely man.
Before leaving John's company that day, Alan hand-wrote the following blurb quote about The Last Days Of Jack Sparks...
‘Classic supernatural horror that takes a frenetic and self-obsessed modern world in its confident stride. The Last Days Of Jack Sparks gives us ingenious and funny diabolism, repurposed for the 21st Century. A magnificent millennial nightmare.’
I still haven’t got my head around this. No, not at all. It really is the cherry on the cake after such kind words on the book from the mighty likes of M.R. Carey, Sarah Lotz, Chuck Wendig, Christopher Brookmyre, David Schneider, Lisa Jewell, Paul Tremblay, Andy Nyman, Rick O'Shea, Ken Bruen and Andrew O’Neill.
Also, let's be clear: this blurb means that if you don’t enjoy The Last Days Of Jack Sparks, you might as well be calling Alan Moore a liar.
Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what it means. Ahem.
Partly because writing is really really tough, my writing confidence had blipped, the day before Alan Moore’s voicemail arrived. Happens to us all from time to time. And sometimes the universe seems to know exactly you need and sets about delivering it to you in a bizarre and surreal manner.
I now have possession of Alan Moore’s actual handwritten quote on Sparks. It’s going up on the wall above my desk, to remind me never to doubt myself again. Not unduly, anyway. Regular flashes of self doubt are absolutely essential, in a Can I Do This Better? or Have I Taken A Wrong Narrative Turn? or Would Crystal Meth Reaaaally Help Me Hit This Deadline? kind of way. When self doubt gets out of control, though, that’s when you run the risk of paralysis. And we simply can't have that. Like sharks, we must swim or die.
So. That’s put a spring in my step for the rest of the millennium. If you haven’t read The Last Days Of Jack Sparks and would like to become an early adopter, here’s my handy Jack Sparks page listing various worldwide outlets. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off for a lie down with a cold flannel on my head.
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