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The Imagination Thief

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"The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine is about a web of secrets, triggered by the stealing and copying of people's imaginations and memories. It's about the magic that can be conjured up by images of people, in imagination or on film; the split between beauty and happiness in the world; and the allure of various kinds of power. It celebrates some of the most extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and language, exploring the darkest and brightest flavours of beauty living in our minds.

Alone in his skyscraper office one night, Jaymi undergoes a transformation that will change his life: he acquires the power to see into others' minds, and then to control and project their thoughts.

Realising the potential of this gift, he hypnotises a media mogul into agreeing to broadcast an electrifying extravaganza of sound and vision emanating from Jaymi, the like of which has never been witnessed before, that will captivate millions. However, one of the mogul's underlings has more subversive plans for milking Jaymi's talent, involving the theft of others' imaginations and intimate memories for commercial gain.

The broadcasting of his visions plunges Jaymi and his best friend Alaia on a journey into the underbelly of Asbury Park - a seaside town once full of life but now half-forgotten. The town's entire oceanfront is now almost a ghost town: ruled by gangsters and drug dealers, headed by Lucan, it is populated by lost souls and the beautiful who have fallen on hard times. Blackmailed into thieving the most private and primal memories and experiences from these people's imaginations, Jaymi discovers a web of secrets and provocations simmering beneath the surface of the town, about to explode.

When a waxwork of Lucan's decapitated head is anonymously planted in his own bar, fear bubbles up, as everyone becomes a suspect in this unforgivable challenge to Lucan's dominance. Then when another provocative waxwork appears - a naked full-body modelling of Lucan's beautiful but tortured lover, Angel - Jaymi knows he must use his own gift to discover the perpetrator before Lucan does.

Delving into and celebrating the most beautiful and extreme possibilities of human imagination, personality and love, "The Imagination Thief" is literary fiction, with a touch of magical realism and a dusting of horror. It explores the universal human predicaments of power, beauty, happiness, hopelessness, good and evil.

Keywords: literary fiction, magical realism, dark fantasy, horror, gay, Asbury Park, psychic, New York, broadcast, imagination, transgender, contemporary


First published November 20, 2012

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About the author

Rohan Quine

8 books8 followers
Rohan Quine is an author of literary fiction with a touch of magical realism and a dusting of horror. He grew up in South London, spent a couple of years in L.A. and then a decade in New York, where he ran around excitably, saying a few well-chosen words in various feature films and TV shows, such as Zoolander, Election, Oz, Third Watch, 100 Centre Street, The Last Days of Disco, The Basketball Diaries, Spin City and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (see www.rohanquine.com/those-new-york-nin...). He’s now living back in East London, with his boyfriend and two happy free-roaming house rabbits - a white down-ears and a black up-ears.

His novel THE BEASTS OF ELECTRA DRIVE (Winner in the NYC Big Book Award 2021, and a Finalist in the IAN Book of the Year Awards 2018) is a prequel to his other five tales, and a good place to start. See www.rohanquine.com/press-media/the-be... for reviews by Kirkus, Bookmuse, Bending the Bookshelf and others. From Hollywood mansions to South Central motels, havoc and love are wrought across a mythic L.A., through the creations of games designer Jaymi, in a unique explosion of glamour and beauty, horror and enchantment, celebrating the magic of creativity itself.

In addition to its paperback format, his novel THE IMAGINATION THIEF (a Distinguished Favorite in the NYC Big Book Award 2021) is available as an ebook that contains links to film and audio and photographic content in conjunction with the text. See www.rohanquine.com/press-media/the-im... for some nice reviews in The Guardian, Bookmuse, indieBerlin and elsewhere. It’s about a web of secrets triggered by the stealing and copying of people’s imaginations and memories, the magic that can be conjured by images of people, the split between beauty and happiness, and the allure of power.

Four novellas - THE PLATINUM RAVEN , THE HOST IN THE ATTIC , APRICOT EYES and HALLUCINATION IN HONG KONG - are published as separate ebooks, and also as a single paperback THE PLATINUM RAVEN AND OTHER NOVELLAS (a Distinguished Favorite in the NYC Big Book Award 2021). See www.rohanquine.com/press-media/the-no... for reviews of these novellas, including by Iris Murdoch, James Purdy, Lambda Book Report and New York Press. Hunting as a pack, all four delve deep into the beauty, darkness and mirth of this predicament called life, where we seem to have been dropped without sufficient consultation ahead of time.

All titles are also available in audiobook and video-book format, performed by the author.


"Rohan Quine is one of the most original voices in the literary world today – and one of the most brilliant." - Guardian Books blogger Dan Holloway, who included Quine’s The Imagination Thief on his list of the six "best self-published books of the decade"

"A sensual ballet of rich characterisation, alluring subtlety and originality. The Beasts of Electra Drive is a novel that I didn't want to put down while I was reading it. [...] I found myself underlining things on the page, throughout it, because of the allure of Quine's language. I was fascinated with the marriage of his vocabulary and his punctuation. [...] This book creates a luscious and sensuous effect." - Suzi Rapport

"The swooping eloquence of this book ['The Imagination Thief'] had me hypnotised. Quine leaps into pools of imagery, delighting in what words can do." - JJ Marsh in "Bookmuse"

"Quine is renowned for his rich, inventive and original prose, and he is skilled at blending contemporary and ancient icons and themes." - Debbie Young in "Vine Leaves Literary Journal"

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Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews
Profile Image for Kiran Bhat.
Author 11 books187 followers
May 10, 2022
The Imagination Thief by Rohan Quine is a good book of great rapidity, and even exhilaration. The novel follows Quine's alter-ego/ever titular protagonist Jaymee across various cities, interpersonal dynamics, and contexts. The novel is one giant metamorphosis, one giant exhale of an adventure. The language is non-stop and full of energy. I read it almost being unable to catch my breath.

I also loved the snaps and links into the Vimeo readings Quine does. They help three-dimensional not only the novel, but Quine's process, and how he came to put all of this together.

Quine is a unique artist, and the Imagination Thief encapsulates everything that is singular about his work. Read if you just want to get into a rush of a book, and to sojourn into the depths of a unique mind and his work.
Profile Image for Debbie Young.
Author 34 books204 followers
November 26, 2013
An intriguing book that addresses many big issues (love, sex, death, power, the nature and reliability of human memory, history, culture, human potential, the constraints of 21st century society, and more) within an unusual structure of mini-chapters punctuated by audio and video clips.

The contrasting settings of busy, businesslike Manhattan and the ghost town of a nearby decaying seaside resort are only the backdrop to huge flights of fancy into the minds of the characters, explored by the newly psychic hero Jaymi. As he delves into their memories, sights and sounds from all over the world - real and imagined - spill forth, from war-torn Vietnam to idyllic classical gardens, beneath the oceans and into outer space. All of these experiences are described with a larger-than-life intensity that put me strangely in mind of Coleridge's Kublai Khan - and occasionally its drug-induced origins too!

It's not an easy or comfortable read, particularly when closely examining mental and physical cruelty and violence between some of the characters. I read with a constant sense of foreboding. However even the most shocking passages are underpinned by the compassion, pity and tenderness of the narrator for all but the most brutal characters. There's also some very welcome, very British understated humour to offset some of the horror. The brevity of the "mini-chapters" was well-judged - I felt I needed to come up for air after some of the short episodes, and to assimilate the latest action before moving on.

The immediacy of the story is more keenly felt because it is written in the present tense - always more demanding on the reader, I find, and even more so in this case because although most is in the first person, there are also many second-person narratives, where Jaymi is reading the minds of other characters and addressing them: "You move closer..." That the author is able to keep the reader not only engaged but tantalised by this difficult mode of storytelling indicates the power of his prose.

Though it's very much a modern book, with the constraints of modern life as one of its themes, there are touches of the classic about it too, reminding this reader of Johnson's Rasselas (at risk of sounding pretentious and also doubting my own memory, as it's about 30 years since I read that book!) Jaymi is really in many ways an innocent abroad, though he thinks he is so knowing. He may be able to read people's minds in details, but some of the simplest conclusions pass him by.

As I turned the pages, I found myself puzzling how on earth this intense tale would end. Without spoiling the plot, I can say I found the conclusion surprising, redemptive and satisfying.

My Kindle wasn't able to cope with the audio and video files, and the prose was compelling enough to make me want to skip those and get on with the story, but it was an interesting idea to include them - more evidence of the author's prodigious creativity. So, here we have not so much an imagination thief, but, to the reader, an imagination expander. Great stuff - thank you, Rohan Quine.
Profile Image for Dan Holloway.
Author 31 books34 followers
July 11, 2013
The Imagination Thief is one of those books that has originality stamped across it with a pair of size 12 DMs. An incredibly dark yet full and balanced with shafts of light picaresque through the recesses of the human psyche, it is an uncomfortable, troubling immersive experience that mixes text, audio and video taking us into places we would rather not go. It could be described as a cubist novel, taking each aspect of the torn mind and laying them out on separate planes through the different media.
Profile Image for Andrew Wallace.
Author 6 books7 followers
January 12, 2016
On the eve of a major career development, securities executive Jaymi Peek has an epiphany in his New York skyscraper that grants him a kind of multi-functional second sight. Able to read people’s minds, influence their desires and read their histories, his first act is to overwhelm a media mogul in order to use the man’s network to broadcast a message that will liberate the imaginations of everyone who views it. Jaymi’s noble ambition is to inspire people around the world to move beyond the narrow existential confines they have imposed upon themselves and then… Well, he isn’t sure what will happen next; a dynamic that renders him thrillingly amoral and makes this ambitious and unusual novel wholly unpredictable.
Holed up in a secret recording studio in a run-down seaside town outside New York, Jaymi and his best friend Alaia, a singer whose voice will counterpoint Jaymi’s world-changing broadcast, become embroiled in the relationships, politics and power play of the extraordinary locals. Jaymi’s new power is balanced by an increasing emotional distance from everyone around him, which is perhaps what prevents him abusing it. Instead, he finds he can explore not only the real memories of his new friends but their fantasies as well.
These sequences are incredibly powerful, richly poetic and unique. Rohan Quine is a very insightful writer, with an understanding and empathy that anchor these hyper-eroticised, often surreal flights in a comprehensible reality. There is, if anything, an embarrassment of riches here but that’s a minor consideration. As a reader, you wonder what Jaymi would make of you, whether he would find you as interesting as the terrifying but beguiling gangster Lucan or his demented lover, Angel.
Angel, out of his mind on drugs, female hormones and desire that seems to claw out of the page at you, is the exact opposite of the coolly aloof Jaymi, which is possibly why Angel is my favourite character. Too alien to be the protagonist, he nonetheless seems to drive a lot of the narrative as he seeks relief from an abusive but scarily compelling relationship whose depiction captures a rare sense of obsessive lust.
The freewheeling structure allows the author to dip in and out of different narratives and styles, worlds and fantasies. It also enables him to explore multiple genres, often within the same sequence. For example, Jaymi’s ‘gift’, if that’s what it is, may either be from a magic flame in China or it may be of extra-terrestrial origin. That neither is categorically confirmed in no way detracts from the sense that anything can and does happen.
Despite the original structure, however, events do build to a tragic climax whose only predictability is that it is fittingly strange. I often like to mention other similar books as a ‘way in’ for review readers but there is nothing else like this novel and that is my best recommendation.

Profile Image for Bookmuseuk.
477 reviews13 followers
June 17, 2015
Another difficult to classify book, but that’s precisely why it works so well. Part literary fiction, part fantasy, it is a surreal experience which makes the most of its equally offbeat location. With a cast of unforgettable characters and a central premise both intriguing and epic, this is what indie fiction does so very well – breaks boundaries and takes risks. In this case, it pays off.

From something as mundane as a drink from vending-machine, Jaymi unlocks an extraordinary ability: he can mine human imaginations. He wants to use this for the general good, enabling people to unlock and enjoy that inner universe. He has a plan. With his knowledge of the business and the unearthly vocal talents of his friend Alaia, he plans a broadcast like no other.

In Asbury Park, New Jersey, an abandoned holiday resort, preparations for the strangest and biggest show on earth continue. They encounter an eclectic bunch of characters; lovers, enemies, slaves and masters, all of whom provide Jaymi with a wealth of material. But information is power, and more than one person wants access.

The swooping eloquence of this book had me hypnotised. Quine leaps into pools of imagery, delighting in what words can do. The fact that the reader is lured into joining this kaleidoscopic, elemental ballet marks this out as something fresh and unusual. In addition to the language, two other elements make their mark. The seaside ghost town with echoes of the past and the absorbing, varied and rich cast of characters.

It’s a story with a concept, place and people you’ll find hard to leave.
September 14, 2013
A ferocious and sensual dose of imaginative intensity and inventiveness

This book packs many powerful items of weaponry behind the smooth flow of its surface, few of which are suitable for unsupervised children and many of which are downright dangerous even for adults. Whether exulting in the human imagination’s most ecstatic heights, scraping its terrifying cellars, lightly conjuring its gentlest loneliness or rattling out its most raucous joys, The Imagination Thief’s language is fiercely vivid and polished, always fluid and precise, and very often quite explosively rich and rhythmic. Despite including lots of very natural and colloquial dialogue, the novel as a whole demands your focus; but it repays that focus ten-fold, with a ferocious and sensual dose of imaginative intensity and inventiveness that would be quite sufficient to fill at least two or three more normal/responsible/house-trained novels. Genuinely unlike anything else you’ll have read, The Imagination Thief will take you places you have never been, it will slap you around with a dark and mirthful love that you’re not expecting, and it will leave you richer.
Profile Image for Erin.
219 reviews22 followers
May 16, 2013
This is an exciting book that contains a lot of action. Jaymi gains the ability to see into other's minds. He can see their private memories and hidden secrets. He can also make them see things. He and his friend Alaia agree to do a simulcast, of sorts, called "Sound & Vision". Between recordings, Jaymi begins "spying" on people he has met in the area with this ability. This eventually gets him and Alaia in trouble and many unexpected things happen!

This book was exciting! The author is very creative and the plot was unique. I love how Jaymi was not only able to see past memories and experiences that people went through, but he was bale to also track down other people to "check in" on them and see what they are currently doing. The book has an exciting and unexpected ending which takes the reader through many twists and turns.

I received a copy of this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
July 17, 2015
Quite brilliantly written. I have now read it twice and think it is full of amazing descriptions — especially those detailing the backgrounds of the various characters as divined by Jaymi in his magic insights. I am not on the whole a fan of magic realism, if one is to call it that, but your prose is so lyrical and beautiful that I felt quite seduced by it. The same applies to your dialogue which is richly colloquial. I am sure that the writing alone will arouse the admiration of the discriminating reading public.
Displaying 1 - 9 of 9 reviews

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