There’s a curiously coloured scheme afoot in Blighty. In an effort to tackle dispiriting, spiralling levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, the government has a new solution: to dye offenders purple. For once, even aspiring newsreader Eve Baxter is shocked - she’s spent ten years gathering the world’s weird, wild and wacky news at Big Apple-based agency, Say Fantastique!, but has never seen anything as loopy as this.
‘The good people of Great Britain have nothing to fear,’ announced Theo Fletcher, the young and zealous Prime Minister, before unveiling the improbable truth. Upon learning of this shamed tribe of ‘bruises on society’, the nation is agog, and surprisingly divided: there’s anger and agreement, protest and debate. Oh, green and pleasant and now purple land...
The newspapers are having a field day, chock full of colourful commentary and vox pops. Politicians of all shades are clamouring to declare themselves for or against. And the renationalised Police Force is hastily adapting to this unusual new approach to law and order. But most baffling is quite how the transformations in this extreme scheme occur - those who’ve experienced a change of shade are entirely flummoxed as to how it happened.
As the Purpleness starts, a brawl leaves Eve’s Dad in hospital. She returns to the UK to see him - albeit somewhat begrudgingly. In New York she has found an intoxicating sense of freedom from a hatful of laments. Most particularly her family, including her brother, Simon - a potential purple candidate if ever there was one. Eve also frets that she should have further chased her ambitions for a life in real news, her obsession since she was young. She becomes entirely transfixed by the purple developments and wonders - what if this could be her route back into that world?
Once in Blighty - despite technical advances, still a land of smoke-filled pubs and Roxy Music - Eve begins to investigate how the Turning has been occurring. Enlisting help from a beloved newsreader, a human rights campaigner (who happens to be an old flame), and a keen conspiracy theorist, Eve tries to unravel the riddle of the Purpleness. Which transpires to be more dangerous than she anticipated; potentially enlightening communication is intercepted before she receives it; she’s threatened in an alley by a man wearing double-bluffingly bland beige trousers, and she finds she’s on the brink of being Turned purple herself...
The Purpleness will have far-reaching consequences for Eve and those around her. Can she avoid the ‘skin of sin’ and crack this rum, plum story of a lifetime?
Eve considered herself un-shockable, but even she was surprised when people began turning purple. She was also green with envy, though would never have said so. What a scoop! It was the story of a lifetime.
The night before it started Eve had been drinking - not excessively, just three (four?) whiskies with Martin at the optimistically monikered bar, Happy Ending (other topics of discussion, on a sliding scale of frivolity: the recently resurrected homeland debate about capital punishment; just where in this city recently single Martin and almost perpetually single Eve might locate eligible men; and their favourite news story of the day, which involved a cat, a burglar and an egg whisk). So having clocked up only a few hours’ sleep when Womble called she was a little slow to react. Her response was also dulled by the years she’d spent working in the world of news reporting, which had equipped her with the perhaps obvious but certain knowledge that few things you read or saw were quite as they seemed.
‘Eve, it’s me,’ came a rattled sounding voice on the other side of the Atlantic.
‘Blimey, Womble,’ Eve mumbled, ‘It’s five a.m. Where’s the fire? Are you okay?’ She was hunched towards the phone, but wondered if the coiling cord would stretch enough to allow her to lie down again.
Womble sounded unusually unnerved. ‘Ah, yes, sorry to call so early, I did wait as long as I could. There’s something I think you should see.’
‘The mind boggles,’ said Eve, who couldn’t begin to imagine what the cause of such an early alert might be. ‘It better be good.’
‘It’s odd, really quite odd. No-one knows what to make of it.’
Eve winced, and wondered if moving very slowly might outwit an imminent hangover from waking. Climbing cautiously out of bed, she noticed the glass of water and pair of painkilling tablets she’d put out for herself the night before; even whilst somewhat drunk her sensible side could still get the better of her.
Eve stepped carefully through her dim, dawn-lit apartment towards the computer, and logged into the Portal, entering her CIV code.
‘Right,’ said Womble, ‘Type in purple and news.’
‘Purple news?’ Eve yawned, ‘You’ve not been mushroom picking again, have you?’
Womble muttered a weary no, and directed her to photos that were seemingly causing the Portal to pootle very slowly indeed. Eve yawned, appreciating the delay. As the screen came into focus, she peered towards it, squinting at the pictures of a couple of shaken looking men with a pale, purplish pallor. Only their heads and hands were showing - though in later shots they’d put up their hoods, and stuffed mottled hands in pockets - the sluggish tinge of their skin matching the desolate grey street, and flat, industrial buildings behind them. They appeared to be stepping off a kerb, at speed, and that they were caught hovering mid-step, mid-air, added to the surrealness of the snap - as though they were superheroes (or supervillains?) who had not only changed colour but acquired the ability to fly. Their eyes flashed with terror, which seemed particularly incongruous; these looked like the now-so-prevalent type of lads whom you’d cross the street to avoid - the bullies, the hunters - and yet here, at the side of a road, they looked like wide-eyed, petrified prey.
I hope this finds you all well and dandy. And firstly, a massive, neon-lit thank you for pledging. It really is hugely appreciated.
With this being the first official update (woo!), I thought I'd share a couple of brief tales with you as to how the book came about - and found a home with the ace folk at Unbound.
Some moons ago I lived in New York, where I'd keep up to date with the news back…
These people are helping to fund Purple People.