We are very proud to introduce "Final Diagnosis", by author Peter Garrett and artist Simon Walpole.
"Final Diagnosis" is the second project from our A Thousand Word Picture section: illustrated novelettes where artist and writer work together to bring a story to life.
Peter Garrett joined the Luna family a year ago. He is a physician with Medecins Sans Frontieres, a Visiting Lecturer in Nephrology at the University of Ulster, and a writer of both fact and fiction. For Luna Press he has combined his writing skills, his passion for SF, and his medical knowledge, to deliver a gripping detective story:
"In the port city of Searcy, murder is no longer a common occurrence, despite its history of violence. But when a senior psychiatrist is found with his head quite literally emptied out, it seems things might be about to take a dark turn. For DI Shaymie Sjaemusson, it marks the beginning of an investigation unlike any before, even as he’s forced to confront a deep trauma from his childhood.
As if things couldn’t get any stranger, all evidence points to a perpetrator that may not be human. And then, a myth from the dawn of human sentience appears from the shadows."
Simon Walpole is no stranger to the Luna family. He won the opening year of Beyond Realities, Luna's writer and illustrator contest, creating the cover of the book. He then gave us "The Lord of the Grins" cover illustrations, before teaming up with Peter for "Final Diagnosis".
"Most of my illustrated work," says Simon, "is a mix of pen, ink and markers. However, for this project, I thought I’d try something different. In keeping with the noirish tone of the story, I decided to draw a mix of white charcoal and white pencil on black paper. To keep a certain amount of mystery and ambiguity, I also decided to pull back on the detail and opt for more tonal values to help you, the reader, to create Peter's world in your imagination."
We asked Peter to share a bit of the background of "Final Diagnosis":
"Although it wasn't something often discussed, I had known since childhood that dinosaurs, a technologically-advanced culture, had not been destroyed by accidental catastrophe but rather had left Earth deliberately, in order to escape an ecological disaster of their own making. The realisation that this fact is not universally accepted dawned on me only very gradually.
How to correct this knowledge deficit without appearing a crank? Fiction struck me as the best method. I would allow a member of a rump faction of dinosaurs who had remained on Earth to explain the situation in a psychiatrist's office, and how he had come to realise his own genetic heritage.
Vampire novels (a category that does not include Final Diagnosis) are extremely common, but very few attempt any biological explanation of the vampire phenomenon. Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow had introduced me to the concept of an alien predator species mimicking the phenotype of an otherwise completely different prey species. In Firefall, Peter Watts's vampires are also aggressive mimics, but of a species closely related to humanity. Phenotypic convergence by aggressive mimics from a completely different species struck me as more likely, and more satisfying.
The part-Celtic, part-Nordic city of Searcy had been created as the setting for a planned novel. When the novel's ambition outgrew the scanty framework of my talent, the project collapsed and Searcy was left unpopulated. And therefore ready to be the setting for the psychiatrist's office of the new tale.
I was pleased with the resulting short story, seeing it as complete in itself, so was surprised when peer readers asked, what happens next? I hadn't considered this possibility but, once it was raised, the answer came very quickly: a post-modern detective story.
Once this had been decided, the piece wrote itself over a six week period. The only remaining problem was how to insert the self-awareness of one character into the nervous system of another. The answer to this involved Roger Penrose's quantum theory of consciousness, expounded in The Emperor's New Mind, as well as a sexually-transmitted xenovirus.
If the symmetry of the structure suggests intricate plotting, this is a false impression. The plot is in fact very simple: one of the main characters meets a series of interesting individuals in the course of a murder investigation, while the personalities of other two coalesce into a single entity who goes on a mountain walk and then returns. Events merely follow their course.
Although writing Final Diagnosis has been enormous fun, it could not have happened without the help of my peer readers (Fergus Smith, Rachel Sargent, Gillian Walker, Jennifer Sanders, Gwen Garrett, Jen Becker, Lyvia Dabydeen, Colin Lancely, Steve Becker, and Matthew and Sarah Garrett), the support of Robert S Malan and Francesca T Barbini at Luna Press Publishing, the firm but sympathetic hand of my editor, Kat Harvey of Athena Copy, and, of course, Simon Walpole's stunning illustrations.
If you have anywhere near as much enjoyment reading Final Diagnosis as I have had writing it, then I will have succeeded."
FINAL DIAGNOSIS will be out on the 30/11/17 and is NOW IN PRE-ORDER!
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