Version Thirteen

By Martin Baker

A searing thriller that pitches the oil industry against the arms trade

Wednesday, 13 November 2013

A V13 Teaser: Dr Jekyll Loves Soho House; Mr Hyde, however...

I've been a member of Soho House for about five years, and I love it. I've had some of the best times ever at its clubhouses - notably in New York, the astonishingly successful Beach House in Miami, the amazing West Hollywood venue [playing pool looking over the electrified urban jewel box of LA is a wonderful experience], and occasionally having a really good breakfast at Little House in Mayfair. Nick Jones, the boss, started out as a caterer, so the food is always good - sometimes better than good.

But it's not all perfect. There's a clubhouse in Shoreditch, but, like all right-thinking people, I refuse to go to Shoreditch on principle. I edited a magazine in E-whatever-it-is for six months a few years ago, and began to see how serial killers' minds must work. The idea of mugging hipsters away from their bar football tables, marching them round the back of the neon-lit bar and quietly injecting them wth something lethal became compellingly attractive... Sometimes, in some of the houses, shouty self-important conversations of counterfeit business importance can remind me a little of [Delenda est] Shoreditch.

And my characters reflect this ambivalence. I've used Soho House in New York - one of my very favourite places to stay - as a setting for a scene towards the end of the book precisely because going to Soho Houses is always an exciting and vivid experience. This helped create a strong backdrop for the action that I'm setting up here. So, Samuel Spendlove, the hero of the piece, is a big fan. The man he's been working for, media mogul William Barton, less so... 


WILLIAM BARTON HATED the meatpacking district. He liked New York well enough, but he loathed and detested this area. It was full of people who regarded themselves as ‘cool’.


Still, he’d respected Spendlove’s choice of venue and had hired a room at Soho House. Barton looked out of the window to the street below. There was a melange of construction workers, performance artists and stream-of-consciousness poets amongst shoppers flocking to the hip boutiques. And in between those extremes, there were delivery boys, retail workers, restaurant employees, lawyers, accountants, Europeans, South Americans, Africans, the world’s people all going about their everyday business. 


And New York didn’t rank badly on nicotine consumption, either. It seemed that scores of people, mainly Hispanic immigrants, were enthusiastically smoking and talking on every street corner. Barton came away from the window and temptation, and sat down in the glass box he’d hired for the morning. He chewed a few times on a piece of lemon-grass-and-ginger nicotine gum, and spat it out in disgust.


He looked at his wristwatch. Not the Patek Philippe that Reiko had bought him for several thousand dollars last month, but the cheap, plastic digital thing he’d acquired in Shanghai seven years ago for the price of a beer. It still worked perfectly.


“Am I late?”


Samuel Spendlove let himself into the glass box.


Barton checked his wristwatch again. “No. Perfect timing. I was early. The best of the many bad habits I have.”  Barton’s face yawed into a wide smile, and then reverted to the hangdog norm. With all the folds and wrinkles working at once, it was like watching a sea anemone close in on a piece of protein.  He seemed genuinely pleased to see Samuel.


“Well, I understand you had a difficult decision to make, Samuel, but you did the right thing.”


“Well, faced with a choice of giving Yavlinsky’s secrets to the Americans or the Iranians, it wasn’t too difficult.”


Barton was staring at Samuel, who shifted in his seat.


“Normally, I hate people who walk around wearing their morality like some new fucking frock. But I have to say I like you, Spendlove. Your girlfriend is going to make billions and save the planet, while her mother takes most of the credit, and far too much of the cash for my liking. Business must run in the genes of that family. Still, it’s good to have a stake, even a modest one, in a deal like this.”


Samuel could decode that one pretty easily: Barton was making another fortune from Version Thirteen. So be it. But this was his second private interview with this fantastically busy and important man in a matter of days. What did he want?



The only way to find our before February, when the book hits the shops, is to buy before Christmas, folks!



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