Plot Outline:

The final, never-before-published volume in the noirish, gritty urban fantasy for adults from the bestselling Children's author. 'The Cardinal is dead -- long live The Cardinal'. For ten years Capac Raimi has ruled the City as The Cardinal. Created by the first Cardinal to rule after him and continue his legacy, Capac cannot be killed. But that doesn't stop his enemies trying. And he has a lot of enemies. In the past Capac's always been content to wait his adversaries out, safe in the knowledge that he can't lose playing a long game. But things are changing. Rival gangs are gaining power in the City. And figures from Capac's past are reappearing -- people only he remembers, the first Cardinal's other creations, who disappeared with him ten years ago. It can only mean one thing -- the mysterious Incan priests, the ancient powers behind the City, have never been happy about ceding control to Capac. Now they have a plan to take the City back.

Meanwhile, Al Jeery has spent the last decade meting out violence and death on the streets under the guise of Paucar Wami. His is a world of desperation and bloodshed. When he receives a call from Party Central, he is drawn back into the riddles and mysteries which destroyed his life first time round -- the Incan priests plan to manipulate Al the same way they are manipulating Capac. But Al is older and wiser now, and he finds unlikely allies as he progresses. Raising the dead is a dangerous game, and this time the priests' meddlings might just work in Al's favour. Retribution, power and love are all Al's for the taking. But he wants even more...

Author Notes:

I began work on City of the Snakes on the 7th of June 2000. I completed my final edit on the 22nd of November 2009, so the book took almost nine and a half years to complete. Which was pretty short for one of my City books!!! Although, having said that, the book DID “cannibalize” an earlier, unfinished book of mine, a book about a vigilantee in London which I had tried to write when I was a teenager. I only got a handful of chapters or so into the story before realizing I had bitten off more than I could chew and putting it aside. But I remembered it years later and worked in some of the themes, including a particularly juicy scene involving rape with a dildo, which I recycled and included in the new book!! So, in a way, you can go back about 20 years to its “true” start!!!!!

I originally planned to call it City of the Sun, but changed the title on the second day of prep work on the book, and never looked back. In my diary on the 8th June 2000 I wrote, “Wrote up the entire rough plot outline… It looks pretty good, though there are still plenty of blanks to fill in and [plot] points to resolve.” I spent the next few days fleshing out the plot and breaking it down into clearer chapters. Then, on Monday June 12th 2000, I started to write the first draft. It took just over two months to finish — I wrapped up work on the initial draft on August 17th 2000. In my diary I wrote, “Came up with a nice finale too. I think it will be the best of The City books once I go back over it and tidy it up. But will anybody publish or buy it…???” The reason I was worried about its prospects was that Hell’s Horizon had been released a few months earlier, to virtually complete indifference. I was pretty sure that Orion wouldn’t come in for the third book, though I was hopeful that if my books for younger readers were successful (Vampire’s Assistant had just been released in the UK) the perhaps some other publisher would take an interest in my adult books. I was right, but it took several years before I was proved so!!!!

City of the Snakes was the 30th book that I had written. I had been banging away at novels for about a dozen years by that point, and I’d come a hell of a long way. I was able to tell a far more involving story now, and also get to the heart of it much quicker than I could even just a few years earlier. Where Hell’s Horizon took four completely re-written drafts to pin down, the first draft of this book didn’t differ hugely to the published book more than 9 years later — it was just a case of fine-tuning what I’d created first time round, correcting a few flaws, polishing it up. Less than five years separated the first drafts of books 2 and 3 of this series, but I had made stellar leaps during that time.

Except, of course, book 3 was actually book 4!! As I explained in my notes for Hell’s Horizon, I wrote another book set in The City, in 1996, involving many of the characters from the first two books, set about twenty years before them. That book explored the relationship between young Bill Casey and the vicious Paucar Wami. It was a dark, disturbing story that detailed the ruination of a decent human being. I have never returned to that book, and while I might do one day, it seems unlikely at the moment. But even if it never sees print, the writing of it was crucial. Because while I was writing it, and afterwards, I learnt a lot more about the characters and nature of The City, and came to realize that I definitely wanted to write a fourth book, one set a decade after Ayuamarca and Hell’s Horizon, that took all of the story lines forward and wrapped them up.

In February 2001 I edited the first 40 or so pages of the book, the Capac sections. (The book is mostly narrated by Al Jeery, but begins with Capac as narrator.) This was in response to some suggestions from my agent, to set the scene a little more clearly for readers who might not have read the first two books. Then, having done that, I focused on my children’s books, which were doing very well — I had written the first 11 books of The Saga by this time, and had started the first draft of Lord Loss. It would be almost 7 years before I would do any more work on City of the Snakes.

Having been convinced by HarperCollins in 2007 to re-visit the series and prepare the books for republication, I went back and edited the first and second book, before turning my attention to the third and final book of the trilogy in January 2008. I wasn’t sure what to expect, given that I had never taken it much beyond its initial first draft stage. To my delight, the book was in very good shape, and didn’t require anywhere near as much work as I had feared it would. I polished, tightened up and tweaked over the coming two years, but radical surgery was never required.

My original feeling, that City of the Snakes was the strongest of The City books, proved to be correct, at least in my view. This book was always about taking the best elements of the first two books (along with what I had learnt from writing the original third book, the one about Al and Paucar Wami in the past) and combining them to create the perfect mix. I took the more fanstical features of the first bool, merged them with the more strongly plotted and paced style of the second, wove in some of the darkness and backstory of the third, and added plenty of dollops of new stuff too. Everything came together smoothly, neatly, diabolically. This is a book that never gives up and never slows down, a book where the characters are strongly drawn and the twists more surprising than ever before. Leftover questions from the earlier books are answered, showdowns are faced up to, destiny is decided. Of all the books in the series, this was the most enjoyable for me, and I hope it proves the most enjoyable for you guys too!!

Ladies and gentlemen, won’t you let me be your escort as you come with me one last time… to The City.

Global Cover Variations

  • Book Cover Image City of the Snakes (Ireland and UK Unused)
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