A piece of music starts a story which ranges across Soviet Russia, McCarthyite Hollywood and post 9/11 New York, as the mystery of the lives of two gay composers is uncovered. Who wrote that music? What event caused their lives to cross? What pressures caused their actions? What are the consequences for those around them?
In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, a man arrives in New York to claim that the theme tune of a popular tv series, written by Hollywood’s Sol Conrad, is the work of his grandfather Sergey, an eminent Russian composer who was sent to the gulag by Stalin, and from whom Sol stole the score. Conrad’s young PA Natalie is determined to defend her elderly employer, but as she digs deeper she discovers worlds of which she barely knew – Russian labour camps, McCarthyism, repressive governments, and the plight of homosexuals in the USA and USSR during the twentieth century.
Natalie, Sol and Serge each tell their stories, ranging across continents and decades. A Simple Scale moves forward through their narratives of love, death, deceit, the CIA, the NKVD, atomic bombs, classical music and Hollywood. In a dramatic conclusion their pasts and presents catch up with them, as the secrecy, manipulation and betrayal that were at the centre of Sol and Sergey’s lives inform a few weeks of 2001, when history is about to repeat itself.
Rich in detail and atmosphere, David Llewellyn explores the points at which the personal and the political meet. His depiction of 30s Leningrad, 50s California and post-9/11 New York is only too believable.
‘Beautifully told and beautifully written’ – Philip Reeve (author of Mortal Engines)
‘An impressive and compelling work, entirely original’ – New Welsh Review
‘Masterly interweaving of narratives, time periods and places, David Llewellyn’s A Simple Scale is a symphony of mysteries and passions.’ – Paul Smith
‘A Simple Scale is a work of self-assured persuasive power, and the resounding artistic statement of a writer who has truly arrived. It is bold, it is brave, and it is the real deal.’ – Wales Arts Review