One of my favourite scenes in Cairo actually takes place in London, as Harry walks through the city to his meeting at MI6. He’s drinking a cup of coffee, not tea. He passes by and around people lost inside clunky Walkman analogues, and takes note of the early model consumer electronic goods on display outside a couple of shops. He ponders the weather and the cricket and the news of the day, as anyone might, but it was imagining what might happen in consumer technologies that was so enjoyable in that brief section. I had to put away that speculation for the most part when the narrative engine spun up and we moved into the kinetic phase of the story.
One of the things I’m really looking forward to when I return to writing long form novels in this universe is having a chance to slow down and work these things out on the page. Slim Jim Davidson will reappear in the next book and he’s been doing a lot more than building boutique hotels in Cairo. Slim Jim has a street hustler’s eye for the main chance. He grabbed it in Weapons of Choice and never let go. That’s how he comes to feature as a player in Paris. Intrigued by the future career of Elon Musk, he was an early investor in the private space industry. He launches satellites for profit.
He tried to hire Professor Ernst Bremer once, but the German found him an odious character and judged him unlikely to be worthy of trust.
Slim Jim is just one of many in the corporate realm who has profited massively from the Transition. I’m still working out exactly what it is he’s into. It is easy to move Karen Halabi from a job with Hewlett-Packard’s Combat Optics division, into their satellite business. But someone like Slim Jim, he’d be into everything. He couldn’t help himself. This makes him a great character to explore both the technological and social changes wrought by the Transition after the end of hostilities.
I have a few ideas about what sort of investments his hydra headed omniglobal mega corporation might have got itself into. But I am open to suggestions. If he was into TVs, which would be a huge business in the 1950s, what sort of TVs would they be? He might start off with black-and-white, but by 1955 I imagine he’d be well into colour models, and looking to go flatscreen. Perhaps circuitry would not be miniaturised to the point where he could do that yet, but he’d know it was coming and he’d be hiring the best minds he could to make sure he got there first.
So, a Pepsi challenge for both Paris and the longer books which follow.
What would Slim Jim do?