Greg Mosse and The Coming Darkness locations
Mosse in 2037 Paris
Why did author Greg Mosse write a spy thriller set in 2037’s Paris?
When I was twenty-one years old, I was fed up. I was, simultaneously, successful, but on such a small scale that it didn’t feel like success. I had been working in fringe theatre in London, had received good reviews in Time Out and City Limits, the two rival listings magazines at that time (there was no internet to destroy their businesses back then), and some of the shows I worked on sold out their tiny venues.
This, I decided for reasons that escape me now, was not enough. I packed up all my things and set off to Victoria Coach Station, intending to catch the bus to Edinburgh. It was July and I thought I would somehow get involved with the Festival in August. But when I reached Victoria, however, I found that the night bus to Paris was cheaper and would deposit me, stiff and yawning at seven the next morning, at Place Stalingrad.
I had my money and my passport, my clothes and my malleable dreams. I was sold.
Place Stalingrad – as I might have guessed from the name – made for a grim arrival, with a seedy café and lardy croissants. But I knew where I was going. Belleville, a poor neighbourhood on the Canal Saint-Martin, where a hotel room would cost a thousand francs for a month (about £3 per day) with running water and cockroaches and charming Moroccan neighbours to share the Turkish toilet on a turn on the stairs.
I walked the streets, wearing through my shoe leather, learning the shape and structure of the city, absorbing the language like a small child with nothing else to occupy my mind – nouns, verbs, tenses, voices, adjectives, adverbs and colloquialisms. Eventually, I became a translator and interpreter and added Spanish, now very rusty, and dreamed of relocating to North Africa, maybe Morocco, where my first neighbours were from.
All of this is to say that the place we first think of might be the best. Paris gives shape and structure to my novel, THE COMING DARKNESS, takes me east and west, north and south on an imaginary map that I have overlaid on the city of then and the city of now – because my action is set in 2037 and everything is the same, but more so. More homelessness, more environmental degradation, more concern over transgenic disease.
The same for North Africa, except world events shaped my choice of Libya instead of Morocco, imagining a fragmented nation (Libya already is) with a successful secession for an invented region I call Cyrenia (which doesn’t really exist, though it is the name the place went by in antiquity).
A few months ago, I spent a few days in Paris, photographing myself – as is the modern way – in the places where important things happen in THE COMING DARKNESS: my first civilised accommodation in a maid’s room at the top of an eighteenth century townhouse on Boulevard Henri IV, recycled in my novel as the hero’s mother’s home; the gaunt modernist statue of Saint Genevieve where my hero discusses his first major clues with the head of internal security; the dark shadows beneath the bridge where he saves a homeless family from persecution; the vacant shop-front on Rue Cerisaie that turns out to be …
Well, I can’t tell you that. No spoilers.
I began writing the novel under lockdown in November 2020. I took the trip these photographs come from in May 2022 with significant restrictions still in force. Coming from England where the habit of cashless payments is so all-pervasive, it was a delight to use coins and notes and find streets that were at least as quiet as I remember them from that first August, forty years before, depopulated by coronavirus and summer holidays.
THE COMING DARKNESS will publish in November 2022, almost two years to the day since I first encouraged my memories to coalesce into a new imaginary reality shaped by narrative twists and turns in a city I still love – that shaped and continues to shape me, as well as my writing.
Oh, and a Parisian pigeon shat on me to wish me good luck.