Richiumu is my ‘pandemic project’. It is a novella instead of my usual >300 page novels, because of the lack of spare time on my own over the course of 2020 and into 2021. I also felt that while I enjoyed writing the story, it didn’t have the legs to go beyond about 150 pages. I am a great believer in ‘all killer, no filler’ and, desperate as I was to avoid covering already well-trodden paths, I felt my take on a vampire story didn’t need hundreds of pages.
I really wanted to explore the novella format having relatively recently read a couple of absolute corkers from China Mieville. I also wanted to tell a story non-linearly and in some ways try to emulate the fractured and uncertain nature of Gene Wolfe’s Peace, and unlike the masterful Wolfe I felt I could only try the reader’s patience so far. Last but certainly not least, ever since writing The Magpie Diaries, I have wanted to write a vampire story. Richiumu is the result of this combination of ambitions.
Richiumu is available now in paperback or e-book format from my author page on Amazon.
From the misfiring synapses of Keiko, a deathless narrator woken from a centuries-long sleep, comes a jigsaw of memories.
They tell a globe-trotting tale through the ages as she witnesses humankind make its way unerringly toward an apocalypse of its own making.
Now only Keiko remains to piece together her past and reflect upon all she has seen.
Where she is, she’s not quite sure. Who she is telling her story to is unclear. But she has a lot to get off her chest and time, as ever, is on her side.
Richiumu is told from the point of view of Keiko, a withered vampire recovering from over three centuries of hibernation, trapped in a post-apocalyptic world in a room with one porthole which looks out on a scene of devastation, where strange alien structures tower over the remains of human civilisation. Or at least, that’s we are led to believe.
The story starts with a murder. A mutilated body is found in pre-pandemic Nashville and identified as corrosion expert and convention participant Bill Irwin. Problem is, Bill is very much alive and kicking. Meanwhile Keiko introduces herself to the reader and begins to debunk some myths surrounding her kind.
The story takes us to and from fifteenth century Japan to 21st century Europe, via Jack the Ripper’s London, civil war and revolution in America and France, Switzerland ravaged by Spanish Flu, WWII and renaissance Portugal. Keiko is a lover, nurse, artist’s muse, fortune-teller and collector of ghosts, vinyl and violins.
With influences stretching from K-Pax, The Usual Suspects, Stephen King and Gene Wolfe, this is my most experimental of books and certainly something to get your teeth into if you like the vampire genre. Of course there’s a twist. But I’ll let you discover it for yourself.
Here’s a Bernard Cornwell inspired snippet in which Keiko describes a memory she has inherited from the blood of another vampire predating her existence –
I feel my wrists resting on the upper edge of a car’s steering wheel and then it is the edge of a shield. My name is Gunnar Haraldssen and I am a Danish warrior oath-sworn to Cnut, son of King Svein Forkbeard. I touch the hammer amulet I wear beneath my mail coat and pray that I survive the battle today.
I came over to England to fight alongside Cnut in the summer of 1015 with thousands of other warriors aboard a fleet of two-hundred ships and thoughts of plunder, women and land fill my mind. The memory of the Dane predates anything else and he would have died centuries before I was born but now he lives on inside me, a memory I have picked up from another vampire like an ancient coin taken from one numismatist’s collection and now held in mine.
All images on this page (c) Matthew Haynes.