When I was a kid, a visit to my gran’s at Christmas meant a visit to Jenners. A stately, rambling old department store, Jenners was – and is – an Edinburgh institution. There was an Aladdin’s Cave of toys in the basement, a Food Hall with a bewildering variety of tea, cakes and biscuits at the top, and practically everything else imaginable stacked in-between (including at least four restaurants at which my gran would meet other old ladies, the precise cafe and time arranged by mysterious unspoken convention…)
Two things about these visits have always stayed with me. The first is that the central hall of the store would be filled with a towering, startlingly huge, real fir tree, covered in lights. This tradition continues to this day, even if the method by which the tree arrives – does the top of the store flip up like a music box, and they drop it in by crane? Does it grow in a hidden basement for 10 months of the year, then get raised up by hidden lift? – remains a closely guarded secret.
The second is that, on one occasion, after a visit to the Record Department, I got separated and wandered – increasingly tearful – around a network of corridors until a nice lady in the make-up dept hoisted me on her shoulders and found my errant gran. (We both maintained afterwards it was the other who had wandered off…)
When I came to write my novel, The Daemon Parallel, I was contemplating locations I could re-imagine and reinvent… I started to think about the strange indoor/outdoor mix represented by that giant tree in the middle of a busy shop. And I started to think about big old department stores in general. Even grown-up, they seemed to me places it was surprisingly easy to get lost in… What if there was a magical explanation for their labyrinthian corridors? What might they look like when viewed from a daemonic parallel – and what strange creatures might’ve built their home there? And what dark wintery secret might lurk at their heart?
In the extract (linked to here), Cameron starts to investigate Aulder & Bartie (named for ‘Auld Bart’ – an Old Scots name for the devil, fact fans!) but his quest is hampered when he runs into an old friend, who knows nothing about the strange new life he’s fallen in to…
Happy Christmas, everyone!
[Image of the tree at Jenners courtesy of Emily Dodd. If you enjoy the novel extract, you may like to know you can now read the opening four chapters of The Daemon Parallel in a free ebook – here’s a link to the kindle edition – and the paper edition of the full novel is available at all good bookshops!
Disclaimer: the real Jenners is lovely, and is no way, location or form connected to the Daemon Parallel… ]