British Fiction Focus

A New NME: The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp

From the writer of Beast in the Basement, a decent number of Doctor Who audiobooks “and further tomfoolery” such as A Sincere Warning About the Entity in Your Home comes The Last Days of Jack Sparks: a “chilling and utterly immersive” account of the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of the eponymous provocateur and pop culture critic.

To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone. It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He’d already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy.  Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed…

“Compiled from the files found after his death,” including interview transcripts, emails and other assorted ephemera, The Last Days of Jack Sparks—one of two standalone titles Orbit UK has acquired from the author and journalist Jason Arnopp—“reveals the chilling details of Jack’s final hours.”

As Arnopp asserts:

Whilst the majority of Jack’s social media accounts have now been deleted out of respect [him] personal website remains online at JackSparks.co.uk in an edited and curated form, as an enduring tribute to him. Take a look and you’ll get an idea of his personality. Maybe a sense of the downward spiral his life took during his final year on Earth. You’ll also read anecdotes about meeting Jack from the likes of Derren Brown collaborator Andy Nyman and the tremendous authors Sarah Lotz, M. R. Carey, Christopher Brookmyre and John Higgs.

Before you click that link, be warned, all: I’ve already lost hours of my life to that site, which features a fast-expanding assemblage of screen caps, status updates, Tumblr titbits and controversial tweets—in addition to videos of floating ghost toast!

Not unrelatedly, Bedlam author Christopher Brookmyre calls The Last Days of Jack SparksThe Omen for the social media age.” Rebecca Levene and Sarah Lotz also both adore it. Long story short: sign me up!

If you still need a little convincing, check out this blog post by Jack’s estranged brother Alastair, who claims he has been harassed since news of the novel, not least by a troll who turned up at his doorstep wielding a meat cleaver:

Believe me, the decision to publish Jack Sparks On The Supernatural in its entirely uncensored form was in no way taken lightly and I know how very difficult it is for the bereaved to read accounts of such horrendous events. Yet I also hope this book may yield some form of closure and put an end to unhelpful internet speculation—not least concerning the nature of my brother’s death. I would like to thank my beautiful wife Chloe and our children Sophie and Xanna for their incredible support.

How I wish Jack had never attended that exorcism.

How I wish he had never laid eyes on that YouTube video.

Rest in peace, my brother, and please know that I forgive you.

Good to go? Good. Then let me hand it back to Arnopp, who explains that “the first editions of The Last Days of Jack Sparks, for quick-on-the-draw early adopters, will be the trade paperback and ebook in March 2016. These will be followed by the main release, a mass-market paperback in July.”

The question, then, is whether to early adopt or not…

Niall Alexander is an extra-curricular English teacher who reads and writes about all things weird and wonderful for The Speculative ScotsmanStrange Horizons, and Tor.com. He lives with about a bazillion books, his better half and a certain sleekit wee beastie in the central belt of bonnie Scotland.

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