In the aftermath of the Haitian earthquake a boy is trapped beneath the rubble of a ruined hospital: thirsty, terrified and alone. 'Shorty' is a child of the slums, a teenage boy who has seen enough violence to last a lifetime, and who has been inexorably drawn into the world of the gangsters who rule Site Soleil: men who dole out money with one hand and death with the other. But Shorty has a secret: a flame of revenge that blazes inside him and a burning wish to find the twin sister he lost five years ago. And he is marked. Marked in a way that links him with Toussaint L'Ouverture, the Haitian rebel who two-hundred years ago led the slave revolt and faced down Napoleon to force the French out of Haiti. As he grows weaker, Shorty relives the journey that took him to the hospital, a bullet wound in his arm. In his visions and memories he hopes to find the strength to survive, and perhaps then Toussaint can find a way to be free ...
I've talked in other places about the inspiration for the overall storyline of In Darkness, and this blog post has links that will take you to some of those places. But Amy asked me to write something bespoke here, and I am so incredibly grateful to Amy for coming to my second ever bookstore signing and being so lovely and encouraging, that I wanted to help out. She was also the only person there, which only increases my gratitude.
I don't think I've spoken anywhere about Shorty's relationship with his sister Marguerite, which is a key sub-plot in the book - maybe the key sub-plot. Without giving too much away for those who haven't read In Darkness, Marguerite is younger than Shorty and he worships her, and when he's still a boy, she is stolen from him by gangsters who also kill his father.
This is a pivotal plot thing: it's losing Marguerite that is the catalyst for every major decision, and every terrible action, that Shorty takes from that point in. It's the drive to save her, to rescue her from the rival gang he believes kidnapped her, that sets him on a road of bloody vengeance. So she is in a sense the motivating factor for almost all of the action and violence.
But I also wanted, with their relationship, to write a kind of unconventional love story. (This would seem to be something of a preoccupation, since my upcoming book Hostage Three is at least in part about a girl who may or may not be in love with one of the Somali pirates who has kidnapped her.) We only see Marguerite through Shorty's eyes, but to him, she was a person who glowed from the inside, who was surrounded by an aura. He associates her with the mural advertising the funeral home at the end of his alley in the slums: a child being embraced and carried up to heaven by an angel. In a sense, for him, she is an angel, or at least a sort of celestial presence in his life - not just a lost sister, but an idea, of purity and goodness existing in hard conditions. And now, crucially, taken away from him.
She's many things, then: she's the thing he wants to find again, she's the possibility of redemption, but she's also something greater than a person: she's a symbol - not that he's consciously aware of this - of some innocence that he has lost. She isn't just a love story: in a certain sense, she is love.
I won't say whether Shorty does find Marguerite, because that would be somewhat of a spoiler. But to some extent I'm not sure that it matters. There's an old fairy tale concept where a witch hides their heart in some object, like a piece of jewelry so that she can't be killed. You could say that Marguerite is Shorty's heart; that she had to go missing, for him to do the bad things he's done; that he put his soul into an idea of her to keep it safe and far away from him. Which is to say that it makes no difference whether he actually recovers her or not: the only thing that can save him is if he decides to take back that loving part into himself, and be weak again.
I don't know if any of that made any sense - it might make more if you read the book first and go back to it. But I do know that, in a book that is very, very close to my heart, the relationship between Shorty and Marguerite is the closest thing to my heart of all. I have a younger sister, but I don't think it's particularly because of that: it's more because I felt like there was something real about Shorty's love for Marguerite. It made it seem even more like he was speaking to me - which is something I felt throughout writing the book, something I have never experienced before or since, when writing anything else. It didn't feel like my story; it felt like his. I think that's why it meant so much to me: it wasn't like making something up. It was like I was a reader too, discovering this messed up, incredible person, and through him, this beautiful girl.
-From the Authors Note:
"Route 9 and Boston and the war between them - are real, as is nearly every detail of life in Site Soleil. It is one of the poorest, most violent slums in existence, even more so now in the wake of the 2010 earthquake. It has frequently been named as the most dangerous place on earth. People really did, and do, eat pies made of mud, such as their desperation. Babies really were, and are, left to die on piles of trash. For years, the slum was virtually cut off by roadblocks and especially during the bloody period in the first decade of the new century, police and attaches were accused many times of shooting unarmed civilians during demonstrations and home invasions. Many residents simply disappeared, never to be seen again."
My name's Nick and I write books for younger readers. My latest, BLOOD NINJA, is about ninjas who are also vampires - because the only thing more awesome than a ninja is a vampire ninja.
I like all the things you like, and I hate all the things you hate. I swear.
I live in a picture-postcard village in Oxfordshire, protected by trip-wires, boobytraps and a fat, lazy tomcat. Life in a picture-postcard village is very nice, but it's a bit two-dimensional.
Nick lives with his wife and daughter in England.
Find Author Nick Lake on the following websites:
Find IN DARKNESS on the following websites:
For Q&A with the Author and a note from Nick to the Readers visit his Website here. You will also find the playlist for IN DARKNESS and information/facts on Haiti and the devastation that was caused from the Haitian Earthquake as well as the history on Toussaint L'Ouverture.
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