‘A satire on the art scene, the darker reaches of dating and a compelling love story. Devilishly good fun.’ Julia Bell. author of The Dark Light.
‘Art and death, cocaine and meth, from Shoreditch to Soho and back again. Graves documents the artistic world of London – it’s drug-fuelled highs and overdosing lows with extraordinary detail.’ Clayton Littlewood, author of Goodbye to Soho
‘Mostly irreverent and occasionally shocking, Pharmakeia is a romp of a read. Graves’ use of vastly colourful characters and communities cements him as a strong gay novelist to take notice of.’ Attitude Magazine
When Mahvand Amirzadeh, a young gay comics artist, encounters Belial (aka Jean-Baptiste Lebeau-Chevalier) at a literary soiree in the East End, his artistic journey takes an unexpected turn. Mahvand is lured into the dark underbelly of London’s conceptual art scene and enters into a Faustian- like pact with Jean-Baptiste. But what is Jean-Baptiste’s true nature? And how far will Mahvand go in his quest to become a celebrity- artist?
Pharmakeia is a darkly disturbing tale interwoven with humour and light – from Candy Darling, the Geordie transsexual who works below Mahvand in the basement sex shop, to Gracie, Mahvand’s cockney-rhyming, Tarot-reading Gran.
Jean-Baptiste stretched his arms above his head. Mahvand marvelled at the slow-motion sequence of movement, the bird-like bend at the elbow and wrist, the final outstretch of each finger. One. After. The. Other. As if Jean-Baptiste was destined for flight. As if he saw all human endeavour, and the accompanying historical cataclysms, from some great vantage point. Those fingers – surely the envy of world-class pianists – seemed to bend backwards before assuming the sign of heavy metal fans and devil worshippers worldwide – that of the ‘Horned One’. The ethereal whisperings in Mahvand’s ear became indistinguishable from Jean-Baptiste’s epic poem and political posturing: Standing at the precipice, my fallen angel. Make the jump. Never rose up against their royals in revolution. An arrow was aimed straight at Mahvand’s heart, its tip dipped in the fire of dark secrets, anointed in the black shining of Jean-Baptiste’s mind. Precipice? Jump. Revolution? How part of him yearned to be taken under his wing; how he longed to relinquish his own earthbound existence, and, in some metaphysical leap of faith, join HIM.
‘Ahh,’ sighed Jean-Baptiste, almost, thought Mahvand, in recognition of his new-found age-old longing.
‘I’m with you,’ Mahvand heard a voice say, just as the whispering gathered momentum. It was only then that he realised – that voice was his. Only then that he fully understood; the whispering itself was a form of worship. At this recognition, the voices rose in defiant jubilation, and Mahvand got the distinct impression that he was encased, not by the bulk of black metal now parked on double yellow lines outside Holborn tube station, but by the inner sanctum of some glistening, coal-blackened cocoon. And it was this cocoon that provided the brief gestation period for an idea so abhorrent, an insight so contrary to Mahvand’s true nature, that he reached out yet again for that door handle. For he knew. And what he knew chilled him to the core. The voices in his head were whipering salutations to the Great Whisperer himself. The Lord of Lies: His Infernal Majesty.
There was a moment’s hesitation. A dawning of white light on the horizon of Mahvand’s being. A sudden battle cry for his soul. But it was too late. An electrical current from his left forefinger was shooting up the inner aspect of his arm, obliterating any residual selfhood, and filling him, from the toe to the crown, full of dark, fathomless desire. He glanced up at his hand. The tip of Jean-Baptiste’s forefinger was touching his.
This simple gesture triggered a memory from late adolescence. And for a brief moment, he saw his NHS-bespectacled seventeen-year-old self inside the Sistine Chapel, staring up at Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam.
‘I’m with you,’ said Mahvand.
Jean-Baptiste was smiling, his eyes brimming with tears. ‘Mon enfant.‘
‘I’m making that jump.’
This is an excerpt from one of the earlier chapters in Pharmakeia.
You can purchase a copy of Pharmakeia direct from the publisher at: Paradise Press or from the following bookshops and stores: Foyles , Gay’s The Word Bookshop , Prowler, Soho (direct from store) and The Big Green Bookshop
You can also purchase the book from Amazon, although of course it’s always great to support independent bookshops!