The Imagination Thief
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"The Imagination Thief" 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. A Distinguished Favorite in the NYC Big Book Award 2021, 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 power 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 mainstream literary fiction, with elements of magical realism and a dusting of horror. It explores the universal human predicaments of power, beauty, happiness, hopelessness, good and evil.


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 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 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 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 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, which you can expand into." - 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. 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." - 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"


Table of Contents of "The Imagination Thief" by Rohan Quine

PART I Ghost town arrival: spotlight with Alaia
1 A funny turn at the office
2 The hunt for what my eyes can do
3 So now I’m on a mission
4 Sneak peek into a mogul’s mind
5 How to slap a mogul around
6 My absent default personality
7 Telling Alaia what’s hard to believe
8 The statue of black sugar
9 Alaia gets excited
10 Angles of glamour
11 Lunch with a shark
12 Relentless wakefulness in the belfry
13 The silver van to the ghost town
14 The smashed violin
15 Evelyn’s tour of the ghost town
16 Ready for our close-up
17 "Sound & Vision"

PART II Sunday late: afterglow with Alaia
18 The warm dome of smile
19 Flames, Lucan, Kev
20 Paranoia by the wire-netting fence
21 Angel’s wings in the dive-bar
22 No enchantment without ordeal
23 A declaration of war against Lucan
24 On the sky, that face
25 The figure in the crowd in the mirror
26 Shigem and I on the dance-floor
27 A devoted fan of Alaia and me
28 Wet green eyes of Pippa in the take-away
29 Flight from Arverne
30 The small black toothbrush

PART III Monday: Alaia learns my subterfuge
31 We’ll all adore you
32 Evelyn picks imaginations to thieve
33 Theft one, and how to be ignored
34 "Big Bang": song of death
35 Cheap champagne at Evelyn’s
36 Kim’s dead suburbia
37 Flash of weasel eyes through the keyhole
38 Kim’s amber days
39 Your painted face alive and smiling
40 Alaia gives me a grilling
41 It’s only a shell
42 The last music Kim heard before Shigem
43 Malaysian chilli peppers
44 The five times I hypnotised someone
45 A declaration of war against Kev
46 Another furtive escape
47 Pippa goes to greet a gentleman caller
48 Does Lucan hate Shigem?
49 Theft two, and nattering about bikinis
50 Unnerving things in Pippa’s bedroom

PART IV Tuesday: Alaia acts too hastily
51 Evelyn’s fling with Flames
52 Morning picnic with vodka and burning tyres
53 The meaning of a spotlight
54 "Big Bang": return of the giant ship
55 A sighting of the weasel
56 Lucan’s and Angel’s sumptuous fight
57 How Kim met Shigem
58 How Shigem met Kim
59 Theft three, and Alaia lands Angel in the shit
60 Rik’s and Evelyn’s genius at hang-outs

PART V Wednesday: I learn Alaia’s subterfuge
61 Alaia bites the bullet and calls Lucan
62 Pleasure to be you
63 I puzzle out Alaia’s subterfuge
64 "Big Bang": run to the sun
65 Home in a nowhere town
66 Rain on corrugated iron
67 Overheard through the corn-chips
68 Movements through the wall

PART VI Thursday: second spotlight with Alaia
69 Alaia fakes for two audiences at once
70 Coldness on the beach
71 Alaia swirls in decreasing circles
72 The weasel at the window
73 A naked Angel on the front path
74 Golden on the beach for the last time
75 Attitude on the phone
76 The pussy-cats lost in translation
77 Snatching the divine on the corner of the street
78 Theft four, and Alaia extricates herself
79 High voltage for Angel
80 Who could ask for more?
81 A farcical audition for Rik
82 The Supreme Ruler and her space-cat
83 Low-budget snarls in the nightclub

PART VII Friday: Alaia receding
84 Angel tries to use me
85 Lucan spreads poison in the morning
86 Stared at on an empty beach
87 Fixing the weasel hunt
88 An interrupted drama and a dubious portent
89 Hunting the weasel
90 Pippa on the brink of no return
91 My lies about the Mint Man
92 Alaia slithers out of Lucan’s grip
93 Angel’s Baby Doll
94 Theft five, with suicide and soup-of-the-day

PART VIII Saturday: Alaia in hiding
95 Spanish baboons and tiny creatures
96 An inferior decapitation gesture
97 Lucan and Angel on the big screen
98 Porch-geese and Vietnam
99 Pippa a zombie through internal damage
100 Evelyn’s dance, with minimal effect
101 Desire as disease in Angel Deon
102 Shigem’s unimprovable situation
103 Theft six, with ambiguous bowing and curtseying

PART IX Sunday: the angel on the carcass-building
104 Violence in the air
105 The trolls in the warehouse
106 A gunfight and a snippety exchange
107 Flicker of murder in Angel
108 I’ll never see your eyes again
109 A screech of tyres
110 What it’s like to die by gunshot
111 What it’s like to die by shriek
112 Stealing evidence from the crime scene
113 How to bungle an assault
114 Alaia and I are kidnapped
115 Shrieking eyes in the ghost town

PART X Ghost town departure: love and pain
116 Revelation in the breakfast room
117 That narrow door
118 The feet beneath the sheet
119 Savagery, mystery, death and confinement
120 A ring, two spires and a wedding gift


Dan Holloway, author, poet and Guardian blogger, on The Imagination Thief:

Review of The Imagination Thief in The Guardian:

Extended Interview at eight cuts:

“Rohan Quine is one of the most brilliant and original writers around. His The Imagination Thief blended written and spoken word and visuals to create one of the most haunting and complex explorations of the dark corners of the soul you will ever read. Never one to do something simple when something more complex can build up the layers more beautifully […] suffice to say he is the consummate master of sentencecraft. His prose is a warming sea on which to float and luxuriate. But that is only half of the picture. He has a remarkable insight into the human psyche, and he demonstrates it by lacquering layer on layer of subtle observation and nuance. Allow yourself to slip from the slick surface of the water and you will soon find yourself tangled in a very deep and disturbing world, but the dangers that lurk beneath the surface are so enticing, so intoxicating it is impossible to resist their call.”

“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.”

“Rohan is one of the most original voices in the literary world today—and one of the most brilliant.”

The Imagination Thief on Dan Holloway’s list of six “best self-published books of the decade.”

JJ Marsh, author, on The Imagination Thief:

Interview in Words with Jam magazine:

“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 […].
[…] 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.”

Debbie Young, author and Amazon UK Top 1,000 Reviewer, on The Imagination Thief:

“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) […].
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 Kubla 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 […].
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.
[…] So, here we have not so much an imagination thief, but, to the reader, an imagination expander. Great stuff—thank you, Rohan Quine.”

Her inclusion of The Imagination Thief among the 11 books in her “My Independent Bookshop”:

“Novelist Rohan Quine not only has several books out. He also has a career in alternative modeling and film to look back on. Naturally, he has gone on to make a series of silent short films to go with an audio track of the author reading from his work. It’s flooded with city lights, drugs and darkness. One foot in the New York Nineties, and one foot in today’s London, it’s both hypnotic and gut-churning.”
—Polly Trope, author and literary editor of indieBerlin, on The Imagination Thief,

“To love some of these characters would be to doom yourself, you are simply asked to observe them; to see them as deeply, as thoroughly as you see yourself, such is the all-encompassing clarity of Quine’s descriptive abilities. These characters are not mere sketches; they are Rembrandts […].
[…] Rather than a violation, Jaymi’s reading of this motley crew of players is performed with a tenderness and an unending respect for the spectacle of another’s soul in its entirety laid bare to us. There is magic in the twisted minds as well as in the sublime.
[…] the decadently rich language of this novel makes it pure chocolate, wine and sex—you will need a cigarette as you turn the last page. This book reads like a musical. The words are liquid and melodic: always entrancing and encaptivating and rising to chorus-line lung-busting crescendos every time Jaymi unleashes his powers and the imaginations of his superbly diverse cast shine out of the page in an explosion of Sound and Vision. Given that he accomplishes this purveyance of the innermost soul with black words on a white page, what is indeed impressive is the sheer level of colour, smell, texture and heat that can be felt during these moments when we are invited to couple our minds with theirs.
As I have stated, this is a piece where the English language is flexed and stretched until it’s sweating on the floor in its yoga pants, and yet there are plenty of examples throughout to demonstrate Quine’s skill in summing up the state of a character in a few simple words. […]
[…] there are other characters too, such as Evelyn and Rik, who are able to find light and love in their lives in the same way that Shigem and Kim have, and the warmth and tenderness of these characters serves to further illustrate that in contrast Angel is unable to escape the darkness, and by the time we meet him he has already been consumed by it. If Shigem and Kim, Evelyn and Rik are our redemption stories, there can be no doubt that the cautionary tale of Angel Deon is one of utter damnation. […]
Jaymi is our guide through this world; he is the smoke that furls through the brains of our donor-imaginations, igniting each nerve centre as he rises. […] Despite Jaymi’s authority as our narrator, the English language is the true star of this trans-corporeal, trans-reality, trans-possibility, trans-mindf*$k, all-transcending diva of a debut.”
—Jen McFaul, The Imagination Thief, “A trans-corporeal, trans-reality, trans-mindf*$k, all-transcending diva of a debut…”,

“a dynamic that renders [narrator Jaymi] thrillingly amoral and makes this ambitious and unusual novel wholly unpredictable. […] 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 […]. 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. […] 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.”
—Andrew Wallace, author, on The Imagination Thief,

“It feels like something that will win major awards… I look forward to gritting my teeth and applauding loudly at next year's Booker.”
—Meg Davis, literary agent, Ki Agency, on The Imagination Thief

“Rohan is a dazzling writer […] 21st century Beat Generation dreamweaver!”
—Peter Godwin, musician,

“I finished The Imagination Thief late last night, and found it … many things, I suppose, but I know they add up to ‘deeply overwhelming’. It took my own imagination prisoner for a long while, and I cannot think of a better accolade for a true novel. I can’t recall the details of any earlier version (which is why I’ve been able to read this as from zero), nor can I find an earlier copy anywhere, but I don’t remember that the older version ended the same as this—has it changed? Because now, I read the last few pages—the van trip back to NY—as completely new to me, and I thought you have wonderfully created a quite unforgettably convincingly-constructed exit for the reader from this (again, overwhelming) experience.”
—Dr Michael Halls, on The Imagination Thief

“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.”
—Jeremy Trafford, author, on The Imagination Thief,

“fiery work. How rollickingly it proceeds down to its last bloodily beautiful drop.”
—Willie Coakley, poet, on The Imagination Thief

“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 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.”
—Cradeaux Alexander, artist, on The Imagination Thief,