York, 1919. A young pilot returns from war, scarred physically and mentally. David Young, a gifted concert violinist, drifts into a humble job accompanying silent movies at The Electric, a fleapit cinema in provincial York. There he joins a diverse cast of misfits, each with secrets and tragedies of their own. Little does he realise these strangers, and a chance meeting, hold the key to regaining his lost hopes. As glamorous romance flickers and dances on the silver screen, can he win the redemption and love he needs for broken dreams to fly?
In The Electric, the fascinating world of silent cinema meets the glamour of the Downton era in Britain’s most popular tourist city; a satisfying blend of poignant romance, strong characters, period charm, tragedy and offbeat comedy – with a moving twist at the end.
‘It’s not often I say so, but this novel is ripe for television. There is a mixture of emotions: humour, poignancy, heartache and remorse – all part of life’s rich tapestry which deserves to be given some glorious technicolour.’
The York Press
‘The magic of silent cinema…is brought vividly to life: and the gallery of characters, some of them almost Dickensian in the richness of their eccentricities, make for engaging company. It is beautifully written, as you’d expect from an author who is a poet as well as a novelist.’
Better known as Tom Harper, best selling Thriller writer and collaborator with Wilbur Smith on Tiger’s Prey and Storm Tide
‘Like a restored film print, Tim Murgatroyd brings York cinema’s golden age vividly back to life. A beautiful story that reminds us that movies were never silent, nor is the human heart.’
Broadcaster and bestselling author of the Railway Detective series.
‘A highly enjoyable novel, cunningly plotted and often moving – a sort of Cinema Paradiso of York’
Bestselling literary novelist who has had a novel featured on TV.
‘I really enjoyed all the fascinating detail of life in a provincial movie theatre, but the research was lightly worn and didn’t get in the way of the story of the rivalries and relationships of the staff, which was the thing that kept the pages turning. The descriptions of York were wonderfully melancholy and the ending was a lovely surprise – romantic but in a completely unexpected way.
I must add that I think the cover is really beautiful – one of the most distinctive and original I’ve seen in ages.’
Bestselling YA and thriller writer who has had a very successful novel, The Dark, recently.
‘The Electric is an evocative, almost poetic, love letter to 1920’s York and the silent movie era. Poignant, charming, and wryly funny, with a cast of beautifully drawn and unforgettable characters. Not to be missed.’
One of the world’s leading silent cinema accompanists.
‘I’ve just finished The Electric and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it – it helped that it contained many of my pet themes (silent cinema, Zeppelins, post-WW1, flying, mystery etc) but I found it throughout evocative, compulsive and beautifully researched, albeit that research wasn’t over-egged at any point. Fascinating characters, detail and good twisty narrative. Bravo.’
Influential local (York and Yorkshire) journalist
‘YORK, 1919. A young man, scarred – physically and mentally – by the Great War, hitches a ride into the city on a barge carrying cocoa beans to the Rowntree chocolate factory.
David Young is a man cut adrift in the aftermath of war; a former RAF officer, his face horribly disfigured by fire following a crash-landing, with no family of his own and no place to call home. A musician by training, he’s heard of a ‘vacancy’ for a violinist in the orchestra at a down-at-heels York cinema, The Electric. It seems as good a place as any.
And so he joins the cinema’s staff – becoming part of a small group of misfits who, together, forge a family of sorts in a world that’s rapidly changing.
There’s Louisa Mountjoy, the prim, ladylike young pianist with thick glasses and hair piled up in tresses; Gladys, the working class girl who works as usherette; Horatio Lavarelli, the large-than-life cinema owner who sports an Italian name and a broad West Yorkshire accent; and a gallery of supporting characters.
What follows is a gentle meditation on the meaning of life as David is gradually drawn out of his war-induced shock and the taciturnity forced upon him by his burned face, and learns to form human connections again.
There’s some timely social commentary – the slightly snobbish David discovers that decency and kindness aren’t the exclusive preserve of a well-mannered middle class – and the period detail is beautifully recreated. David arrives in the middle of a ‘cinema war’, in which The Electric is competing fiercely with a newer, brasher rival for post-war audiences hungry for a bit of escapism. For those who know York, The Electric is very clearly based on the former Scala cinema in Fossgate – which was once, in its very early days, indeed called The Electric.
The magic of silent cinema performed to a live musical accompaniment is brought vividly to life: and the gallery of characters, some of them almost Dickensian in the richness of their eccentricities, make for engaging company.
It is beautifully written, as you’d expect from an author who is a poet as well as a novelist. There’s a satisfying twist at the end – and then a coda filled with a sense of yearning and the feelings of loss engendered by the passing of time, which neatly undercuts and yet simultaneously heightens all that has gone before.’