The Man Upstairs is an author and you can trust Mark Fowler to come at a story from a completely different angle and wrongfoot the reader.
If you write a story, you have the power of life and death over your characters. You decide what they'll do and what will happen to them, In effect, you're 'god'. What if something went wrong with your mental processes? Intriguing thought, eh? One which Mark Fowler has already had!
Frank Miller, hero of the best-selling mystery novels written by The Man Upstairs, works the weird streets of Chapeltown as a private detective. During the legendary case of the Black Widow everything changed when Frank became aware of his fictional existence. Proclaimed at the time as a work of genius, Frank wonders if it was the first sign that The Man Upstairs was sick.
This latest case, involving the death of a care worker, and coinciding with the appointment of Chapeltown’s first elected mayor, has Frank baffled. The Man Upstairs appears to be losing the plot, giving the womanising Frank a steady girlfriend, Marge, who warns him that to survive he must change from the tired cliché that he has become.
As the case darkens Frank recognises the depth of his creator’s sickness. His days are numbered as clearly as the pages in the books in which he features. The looming battle with the Mayor of Chapeltown is nothing less than the battle to save himself, Marge, the series - and the mind of The Man Upstairs.
The Man Upstairs is plotting to kill Frank Miller and take Chapeltown to hell.
And here's my review -
Frank Miller is a private investigator and hero of a successful series of crime novels set in the small town of Chapeltown. He's currently looking into the death of a girl working for Chapeltown Angels, apparently a group of carers. The Angels are not what they seem, and the mayor of Chapeltown is up to his fat neck in monkey business. Part way through this successful series, Frank becomes aware that he and his whole world are the product of the imagination of The Man Upstairs, the author of the books. He realises that his creator is sick - and this could result in Frank's death.
This is a really unusual premise for a novel. The style is reminiscent of the wise-cracking detective of American literature of the last century. It's a spoof and it's fun but if you let yourself be drawn into the story you share with Frank the worry, at times panic, that the series may suddenly end with his death. He needs to persuade his author that he can change, that the stories aren't stale. To do that, he comes up against the thug of a mayor. This story really makes you think about the meaning of existence, personality, character development and what it means to create. Don’t let that make it sound very serious, though. It’s great fun and a hugely refreshing change from what you might call the standard detective story. I really enjoyed it.