There is an urban myth I heard as a child that has always fascinated me. It goes along the lines of: Only two people know the recipe to the world’s most popular fizzy drink, and they are not permitted to travel together in case they have an accident and the recipe is lost for ever. I have no idea to this day whether it’s true or not, but it’s the kind of factoid that raises far more questions than it supposedly answers.
But my main question, then, as now, has always been: What if those two people travelled separately, but their vehicles somehow collided? What would happen then?
This is how Pop! begins, with two private jets crashing in mid-air over the Pacific Ocean. The sole passengers are executives of the Mac-Tonic Corporation, and the trillion-dollar recipe in their keeping goes down with the wreckage. Within weeks, the most ubiquitous of products has disappeared from shelves and refrigerators, and its thirsty consumers – deprived of their sugar-loaded soda – are beginning to crack. Civilization itself appears to be coming apart at the seams…
But then, miraculously, the recipe washes up in a plastic bottle on the Californian coast, at the feet of a girl called Queenie de la Cruz. It isn’t long before the news gets out, and soon Queenie finds herself being chased across America by bounty hunters, black-ops helicopters, and bloodthirsty mobs. As her journey progresses, Queenie witnesses the destruction and pollution caused by the Mac-Tonic Corporation, and she resolves to put the recipe out of their reach for ever. But can she evade capture long enough to make a difference?
I wrote Pop! shortly after the birth of my firstborn, over the course of six frantic, sleep-deprived weeks, and I really think my frazzled state of mind helped me to imagine a world of paranoia and crisis. (This was pre-pandemic, when these things needed a bit of imagination.) The result is a white-knuckle ride told with a wicked sense of humour, and Pop!’s message of defiance – of individuals taking a stand against the greed of big business – is one I think we all need to hear as we look to rebuild and rewild our world.
Pop! may have been inspired by an urban myth, but in a story driven by the topsy-turvy logic of capitalism the weird, the wicked, and the downright worrying often turn out to be true.
After graduating from the University of East Anglia with an award-winning degree in English Literature with Creative Writing, Mitch completed Kick, his debut novel for middle grade readers. Endorsed by Amnesty International UK for its portrayal of children’s rights, Kick also received the 2018 Branford Boase Award. Mitchnow works as a Waterstones bookseller in Norwich where he lives with his wife and baby daughter.