Welcome to Overland! Where the California sun shines down on synthetic grass and plastic oranges bedeck the trees all year round. Steam billows gently from the chimney tops and the blue tarpaulin lake is open for fishing…
Hollywood set-designer George Godfrey has been called on to do his patriotic duty and he doesn’t believe in half-measures. If he is going to hide an American aircraft plant from the threat of Japanese aerial spies he has an almighty job on his hands. He will need an army of props and actors to make the Lockheed factory vanish beneath the semblance of a suburban town. Every day, his “Residents” climb through a trapdoor in the factory roof to shift model cars, shop for imaginary groceries and rotate fake sheep in felt-green meadows.
Overland is a beacon for the young women labouring below it: Queenie, dreaming of movie stardom while welding sheet metal; Kay, who must seek refuge from the order to intern “All Persons of Japanese Ancestry”. Meanwhile, George’s right-hand Resident, Jimmy, knows that High Command aren’t at all happy with the camouflage project...
With George so bewitched by his own illusion, might it risk confusing everybody – not just the enemy?
OVERLAND is a novel set in Burbank, California in 1942 based on the true story of how the US Army commissioned Hollywood set designers and builders to fabricate an entire town on top of the Lockheed Aircraft plant, blending it into the surrounding area as a way to camouflage it from potential Japanese aerial attack. The story looks at the correlation between techniques used in US Army industrial camouflage and 1940s Hollywood set design. In it, Art Director George Godfrey sets about creating a perfect suburban town of increasingly surreal and magical splendour, a haven for its Residents. The book also explores subjects pertinent to the period, such as Japanese-American civilian internment camps and the role of women working in munitions factories.
The themes of heaven and hell are reflected in the layout and design, where the book is read horizontally and parallel narratives run above and below the gutter, switching from the utopian world of Overland to the dark underworld of industry and war.
Published 21 March 2018, Chatto & Windus (Penguin Random House)
"This is a beautiful book, not just in terms of its design, but in its moral integrity. A lesser writer would have made it all satire, and yet here there is much humanity and empathy. It takes Graham Rawle several years to compose his books; they are wholly worth the wait."
(Stuart Kelly Times Literary Supplement)
"Rawle cut his teeth as an artist and designer and this sparky, inventive novel betrays his pedigree ... So appealing. Having arranged his stage-flats and his harum-scarum performers, Rawle manages to make them all feel of value."
(Xan Brooks The Guardian)
"One of the most innovative artist-writers we have"
(Stuart Kelly Scotland on Sunday)
"Rawle has a vivid visual imagination"
(Dominic Maxwell The Times)
"...This novel is innovative, thought-provoking – and fun...Rawle is a masterful storyteller, and I found myself genuinely caring about the four main characters as their lives slowly begin to unravel. The author cleverly, and at times playfully, intertwines the ‘over’ and ‘under’ narratives...Overland is amusing, surreal and whimsical, yet it is also unsettling and moving, particularly in its depictions of Hollywood’s sordid ‘casting couch’; the indignities of US internment camps for Japanese-Americans, and the psychological impact of war. Highly recommended."
(Historical Novel Society)
"Graham Rawle, the talented writer-artist, is back with another innovative work that fearlessly experiments with form and style. Written in a landscape format, the book takes place in two worlds―the Over and the Under. This surreal and fantastical world hovers above California in 1942. Overland is intricate, playful and vigorous―an experience to relish."
(Rabeea Saleem BookRiot)
"Overland is marvellous, and in common with all of Rawle’s work, you may put it down, but it’ll never let you go ... Highly recommended reading―and re-reading!"
LINKS TO FULL REVIEWS
Times Literary Supplement Stuart Kelly
Guardian - Xan Brooks
Daily Express - Peter Sheridan
The Bookseller - Danny Arter
© Graham Rawle 2018. All Rights Reserved.