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This article is taken from PN Review 51, Volume 13 Number 1, September - October 1986.

A Note on 'Imaginary Women' John Thompson
Imaginary Women, the work-in-progress from which this section is taken, is Mike Westlake's third novel. His first, One Zero and the Night Controller, was published by Routledge & Kegan Paul in 1980. His second, The Utopian, remains as yet unpublished.

One Zero and the Night Controller interweaves two 'voices', that of a male London minicab driver (No. 10) and that of the woman dispatcher who is in radio contact with all the cabs. (One needs to put 'voices' in scare-quotes because of the anti-naturalistic relationship maintained between the characters and their speech.) For One Zero, the Night Controller Angelica, ex-prostitute, now Mistress of the Grid, is an Imaginary Woman of unique importance: 'Without her I do not know where I should be.' One Zero gets involved in a vaguely Chandleresque plot involving a search for a missing girl (Imaginary Woman 2) which explodes in the end in a most unChandleresque way (Chandler rewritten by Rabelais? by Lautréament?). But he is more preoccupied with speculations of a philosophical, semiotic and psychoanalytic nature; faced with a photograph which he ought to be treating as a clue, One Zero's uncontrollable impulse is to launch into a comparative disquisition on the Image versus the Word, and it is with some irritation that he reports at one point, 'As the exigencies of the Quest heighten, or deepen, I discover that the theoretical is lagging behind the practical ...' Angelica meditates on her present position and her past life, culminating in the birth of her ...


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