Hello and welcome to my blog, which I will be updating now and then. I thought it might be fun to start by giving you a taste of The River of No Return. So here, for your delectation, is a section that spans pages 39, 40 and 41 of the Advanced Reader’s Copy.
those pages? Because it’s in the chapter about Future School, and
Future School makes me very happy. It’s also the section where we meet
the ominous – and badly dressed – Mr. Mibbs. And also ... I started
writing The River of No Return when I was thirty-nine, I worked on it
across the year that I was forty, and it’s going to be published when
I’m forty-one. As a writer of time-travel novels, I’m never one to pass
up synchronicities. The love story doesn’t make an appearance in this
section but never fear!
story: In 1812, Nick Davenant, an aristocrat and a soldier in
Wellington’s army in Spain, is about to be killed by a French Dragoon.
Instead, he jumps forward in time, 200 years. He is met, in the 21st
century, by a mysterious organization called the Guild. The Guild is a
global entity that provides accidental time travelers like Nick with
money and education so that they can make a smooth transition to life in
the future. Here, we catch up with Nick spending a year in “future
school,” at the Guild’s educational compound in Santiago, Chile.
I hope you like it!
discovered that he loved ‘future school’, just as the butcher had said
he would. But nothing lasts forever. In retrospect, Nick believed that
his friendship with Leo and Meg began to unravel the day he saw Leo
talking to Mr Mibbs.
was a beautiful late afternoon. Nick had just spent an hour with a
coach, practising modern American manners, slang, facial expressions,
hand gestures. He was exhausted. Then he caught sight of Leo walking
under one of the huge screens that were everywhere in the education
quad, projecting a constant, silent stream of visual information about
the present. Nick struck out across the grass, hoping to divert his
friend into the bar for a beer. It wasn’t until he was several yards
from Leo that he realized that the man walking near his friend – in
front of him and a few feet to the left – was actually conversing with
him. It was strange. They were not together, and yet they were.
slowed down, and Leo turned as if he had eyes in the back of his head.
His face was still and serious. He shook his head once, with intent:
Don’t come near.
nodded. It had been a soldierly communication, and all Nick’s battle
senses were awakened. He put his hand in his pocket and fished out his
phone, flipped it open, and tucked it against his ear. Then he changed
the angle of his walk to move parallel with the pair. He strolled along
pretending to be talking on the phone, his eyes on Leo’s companion.
first he could only see the man’s back. His hair was thick and brown,
blow-dried. He wore a wide-shouldered business suit as blue as the
summer sky, which he filled with meaty precision. The tailoring was
immaculate and expensive, but the suit was absurd.
who tended to dress for the future in jeans and soft cotton shirts,
smiled to himself. Maybe that terrible suit was why Leo was keeping his
the man turned, as Leo had – as if he knew Nick was watching him. He
had a square chin and a thin mouth, and that blow-dried hair was styled
up and off his forehead. He looked like the handsome, anodyne white men
who predicted the weather on American TV.
But there was something wrong with the way the man looked at Nick.
from several yards away, Nick could feel the flat, frozen emptiness of
that gaze. He lowered his phone and stared back unblinkingly, no longer
pretending disinterest. Time seemed to stop . . . thought fell away . . .
Leo turned, too, and his expression recalled Nick to himself. Leo was
communicating something. A more urgent warning. Nick blinked, pivoted on
his heel, and walked in the other direction.
Nick asked Leo about it the next day, Leo said the man had asked the
way to the amusement park, and Leo had led him there. Leo wasn’t telling
the truth – or at least not the whole truth – but Nick didn’t push it.
He’d learned in Spain. A soldier will tell you what you need to know
when you need to know it.