knickhotel.jpgUnfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to transcribe more of the conversation between Berman and Freeland today, so instead I thought I’d offer you a moment from the book that I’m currently reading — or, rather, re-reading — The Dark River by John Twelve Hawks, a moment that seems appropriate given what both Berman and Freeland were starting to talk about when we left them.

The story with Twelve Hawks is that he lives completely off the grid: not even his agent knows who he is? (Which leads to rumors: could it be Thomas Pynchon slumming? Nah, we know what that looks like: it looks like Inherent Vice, which looks nothing like Twelve Hawks’s books.) The Dark River is the second book in the Fourth Realm trilogy and like its predecessor, The Traveler, its a wonderful pop-culture confection, a mash-up of (in no particular order) Star Wars, paranoid thrillers like the Bourne series, Kill Bill, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and any number of technophobic thrillers. I’m pretty sure that the writers behind the television series Heroes have read The Traveler, because the relationship between Nathan and Peter Petrelli is uncannily like that between the Corrigan brothers in the novel.

The idea is that our universe is only one realm — the fourth — of six. Most human beings are confined to the fourth realm, but certain visionaries, called Travelers, have the ability to cross over among the realms, leaving their bodies behind and sending their “Light” across the dimensional barriers. And when they come back, they come back with revolutionary ideas. Think Buddha, Jesus, Joan of Arc, and many many revolutionaries, famous and nameless, most of them persecuted over time. You see, there is a group called the Tabula that prizes order and control above all else and sees the Travelers as the greatest threat to order and control. Protecting the Travelers are Harlequins, warriors who fight with all kinds of weapons (but prefer swords above all). The first book is set mostly in Los Angeles and Arizona, but the second opens in New York. And as the ninth chapter opens, Gabriel, a Traveller, and Maya, a Harlequin, are on the run …

Naz had guided Maya and the rest of the group through a warren of stairs and passageways to the Times Square shuttle. The platform was a brightly lit area where a shuttle train departed from one of three parallel tracks. The gray. concrete floor was dotted with blackened pieces of chewing gum that formed a random mosaic. A few hundred feet away, a group of West Indian men with steel drums pounded out a calypso tune.

So far, they had avoided the mercenaries, but Maya was sure they were being watched by the underground surveillance system. Now that their presence in New York had been discovered, she knew that the full resources of the Tabula would be used to find them. According to Naz, all they had to do was walk down the subway tunnel and take a staircase to the lower level of Grand Central Terminal. Unfortunately, a transit policeman was patrolling the area and, even if he disappeared, someone might tell the authorities that a group of people had jumped onto the tracks.

The only safe route into the tunnel was through a locked door labeled with the tarnished gold lettering KNICKERBOCKER. In a more convivial era, a passageway once led directly from the subway platform to the bar of the old Knickerbocker Hotel. Although the hotel was now an apartment building, the door remained unnoticed by the tens of thousands of commuters who walked past it every day.

knick_door.jpgMaya stood on the platform feeling very conspicuous as commuters hurried to board the shuttle. When the train clattered out of the station, Hollis approached her and spoke in a quiet voice.

“You still want to get on the train going to Ten Mile River?”

“We’ll evaluate the situation when we reach the platform. Naz says there aren’t any cameras there.”

Hollis nodded. “The Tabula scanners probably detected us when we left the loft and walked through Chinatown. Then somebody figured out we were using the old subway station and hacked into the transit computer.”

“There’s another explanation.” Maya glanced over at Naz.

“Yeah, I thought about that, too. But I watched his face in the subway car. He really looked scared.”

“Stay close to him, Hollis. If he starts running, stop him.”

A new shuttle train arrived, took on a new crowd of passengers, and then rattled west toward Seventh Avenue. It felt like they would be standing there forever. Finally the transit policeman got a call on his radio and hurried away. Naz ran over to the Knickerbocker door and fumbled through the keys on his ring. When the lock clicked, he smiled and pulled the door open.

Why am I rereading The Dark River? Because the third book of the trilogy, The Golden City, just came out.

And, yes, the door that Twelve Hawks describes is real. If you want to know more, take a look at this post from, which is the source of the pictures above.