Highbury author Jonny Hollis releases debut novel, A Rational Man, set in a near-future Islington

Author Jonny Hollis first considered the idea of a society without privacy while making a documentar

Author Jonny Hollis first considered the idea of a society without privacy while making a documentary about a Velvet Underground song - Credit: Archant

A Highbury author has written a thriller based in a near-future Islington where people have no right to privacy

A Rational Man by JS Hollis is available to buy from Friday September 28

A Rational Man by JS Hollis is available to buy from Friday September 28 - Credit: Archant

Ten years ago, Jonny Hollis was making a short film about Velvet Underground’s song The Gift when he had an idea: How would society function if people had no right to privacy, and everything that people said and did was thrust into the public eye?

At a time when people were first starting to share a great deal of their personal information on social networks, this idea was to be the starting point for Hollis’ debut book – A Rational Man – which is available to buy from Friday September 28.

“The book is set in Islington in the near future, thinking about a world where nothing is private and everything can be seen, heard and recorded,” he says.

“It’s like a democratised 1984, where information is available to all, as everyone can watch everything through the omnipresent ‘W’.

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In A Rational Man, the high-profile politician Cecil Stanhope has killed his wife in an act totally out of his character. As a result of the all-seeing, all-hearing nature of this future society, Stanhope’s son Sebastian is left to piece his life back together under the watchful – and judgemental – public eye.

Hollis continues: “The book is about Sebastian worrying about how he is reacting. He becomes a personality and a well-known figure, but at the same time he is trying to deal with this traumatic event with no support.

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“A Rational Man is an interplay between Sebastian’s true feelings and what people expect to see from him.”

Hollis, who lives in Highbury, has based his story very close to home. Sebastian grows up above the current site of Pentonville Prison, in an Islington which has become a place of windowless buildings where petrol stations are revered as beautiful relics of the past.

“I had quite a strong incentive to base it here, as the book has links to the idea of a panopticon, whereby prison inmates can be seen at all times, but they are never sure exactly when they are being watched. It was argued that this would be the perfect way to control a criminal community.

“Pentonville Prison itself was influenced by a panopticon, and (I based the story here) because of this link to the history of the area.”

In focusing on topics like the influence of social media on our well-being, data misuse and the enormous scrutiny placed on politicians’ actions, Hollis’ first novel weaves together plenty of contentious issues.

“There’s a fake news aspect to it. It’s about the abundance of information available to us – we can know everything about things that can be seen and heard, but we can’t get into people’s heads.

A Rational Man by JS Hollis is available via ebook and paperback from Friday September 28.

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