While reading Black City - almost voraciously enough to warrant watching over a webcam – I couldn’t shake from my mind a set of twinned Tom Waits songs: We’re All Mad Here and Everything You Can Think of is True. I was initially slow to the realization that, despite major musical differences, they are in fact the same song; the same sets of creepy,carnivorous and carnivalesque stories and images, just seen from two different sides of the mirror. Like those songs Black City is a book both familiar and strangely new; the same but so, so different. The most evident example of this has to be that it’s published by Gestalt, Australia’s self-proclaimed ‘premier graphic novel publishing house’ – a title to which I can only attest – but it’s a prose piece; as in without pictures, as in only words.
It’s made instantly apparent by all of those words that the book’s author, Christian Read, brings with him a radical new voice; his writing brisk and irreverent but ironclad in its intelligence and poetry. With those words, and in that voice he tells a horror story that is more often than not hilarious. It’s a tale that has been told many, many times before – tropic in its topics and more than half homage – but because of the temperament which which he tells it the resulting read is like nothing else you’ve experienced. Around that story the words build a world, one in which every kind of magic ever seen in a story exists, but its wielded in ways we havn’t seen before: the supernatural stuff seeping into street violence, through the arts ( literary, visual and … culinary) and even effecting economics. Black City then is both a book and a place wherein everything you can think of us true; even, fittingly, that mythological creature known as Tom Waits.