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Our Lady of the Streets: Tom Pollock on “Getting By With a Little Help…”

Howdy! We are super pleased to welcome Tom Pollock back to the blog today to talk about his new release Our Lady of the Streets, the third book in the excellent Skyscraper Throne trilogy and the central friendship in the story.

Tom Pollock Our Lady of the Streets

Please give it up for Tom!


The Skyscraper Throne is the story of a friendship.

(Okay, so it’s also the story of runaway train ghosts, and glass-skinned street lamp spirits, and giant wolves made out of scaffolding and a demolition god with cranes for fingers, but mostly, it’s the story of a friendship.)

That friendship exists between two seventeen year-old girls who, like a lot of pairs of best friends, couldn’t seem less alike: graffiti-artist Beth Bradley – impetuous, adventurous, occasionally vicious but with a generous heart; and Parva ‘Pen’ Khan: bookish, religious, shyly funny and unbelievably tough. Sure they fight, and they lie to each other in big and small ways, and sometimes they hurt each other, but they need each other too. They’re each other’s first phone call.

To say that ‘stories are about people’ is to state something so obvious it’s absurd. What’s perhaps a little less obvious is that they’re about the relationships between people. Every great tale has at least one relationship at its heart, whether it’s a rivalry, a romance (even if the romance is between the main character and himself – yes Mr Bond I’m looking at you), an enmity (even if the enmity is between the main character and himself, yes Mr Wayne, I’m looking at you), or a friendship.

Only, sometimes I feel like friendships are a little neglected. Not that there aren’t examples of great fictional friendships, and famous ones too: Frodo and Sam, Harry and Hermione, but even so it can be hard to not get the feeling that, as a culture, we’re just a little more into the romances. Elizabeth and Darcy, Hazel and Augustus, these are the relationships that get the biggest fanfares. Whenever we talk about great love stories that’s always the kind of love we mean, and more often than not the ‘happily ever after’ of a fairy tale is marked by a wedding.

You can even see it in our idiom when we talk about two people becoming ‘more than friends’, but I’m not convinced it is more, or at least, it doesn’t have to be.

There’s a line in Elizabeth Wein’s brilliant Code Name Verity:

‘It’s like falling in love, discovering your best friend.’

There’s a good reason that line resonated with so many people: it’s true. Discovering your best friend is very much like falling in love, because it is falling in love, just a different kind of love to the one we usually talk about.

Beth and Pen each have the kind of courage the other needs to get them through the day, which when the days are full of scaffolding wolves and fever streets and barbed wire parasites, is a pretty big job. The events of the trilogy twist them and tear them and force them to grow, but they refuse to grow apart. When things get really tough, they each armour themselves in aspects of the other – the model they look to for strength. They’re the guardians of each other’s secrets, the family they chose rather than merely the one they were born with. For each other, they’re what makes home, home.

To put it another way, they love each other.

As for whether they live happily ever after, well… That would be kind of a spoiler, wouldn’t it?

P.S. *swings back in like a re-eccing ball* Some of my favourite stories structured around fictional friendships include Fly By Night by Frances Hardinge, The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater and The Gone-Away World by Nick Harkaway. What are yours? Let me know in comments. *Swings back out*


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  • Mawa Mahima
    August 7, 2014 at 7:59 am

    I NEED Our Lady of the Streets! It sounds brilliant!
    And in answer to your question, the friendship between Todd and Manchee in The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness is a friendship I really, REALLY loved!

  • Ana Grilo (The Book Smugglers)
    August 7, 2014 at 11:01 am

    For me, it will have to be Code Name Verity. And more recently i really like the frienship between the two main characters in The Story of Owen.

  • Clarissa
    August 7, 2014 at 11:52 am

    Officially intrigued by this book!

    As for friendships, I think that’s something that a lot of Japanese manga, anime, and light novels do well. A favorite is Shimotsuma Monogatari, available in English as Kamikaze Girls. I can’t summarize it in any useful way, but it’s a favorite. The novel is good fun and the movie is ridiculous but great.

  • Hebe
    August 7, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    I really like the way Stephen King’s Dark Tower novels, especially the later ones, have a deep core of friendship at their heart, a friendship that is like family. That’s awesome, and, as Tom points out, not something we see enough of in fantasy novels.

  • Sister Raven
    August 8, 2014 at 1:07 am

    For my favorite friendships, I’d have to start with one of the best-known literary duos: Sherlock Holmes & John Watson. Then there’s Porthos, Athos, and Aramis. But in a more modern vein, Jack Fleming & Charles Escott in P.N. World’s The Vampire Files series is a favorite.

  • Nona
    August 13, 2014 at 1:29 am

    I have to agree with Maddie and Julie’s friendship in Code Name Verity (one of my favorite books of the last several years).

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