Dark Comedy: Extracts from ‘Where Worlds Meet’ – A Sequel to ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’.

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I wrote earlier of how dark comedy can be just the thing in hard times, and recommended some works by current Indie authors.
Here is some dark comedy of my own in the form of two extracts from the sequel to ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois‘. In this, the vampire Kenrick makes an attemtped return to this world, along with his handsome confidential manservant Arthur Williams and a troop of monster men trained to follow his bidding.

Naturally, there is a violent clash with Émile, who joins forces with his cousin and fellow ex-highwayman Reynaud Ravensdale and his now wife the former highwaywoman Isabella. But Émile’s own wife Sophie has her own ideas about how to combat the menace…

A stooped, brawny, leathery looking creature with hair like string had appeared by the side of the lane. It stood glowering from eyes which might have been a pair of marbles pushed into its lumpy face. It wore tattered breeches and shirt, and addressed them in a grating drone: “Filthy robbers’ lackeys.”

Longface was lost for words. How had talk of Lord Ravensdale and Émile Dubois’ villainies reached the ears this outcast? He spoke with lordly disdain. “What, you poor lubbard?”

The man – if this was human –seemed eager to explain: “Your masters were smugglers and highwaymen. The Great Kenrick says they belong on Tyburn, and you lackeys as well.” It moved to the middle of the road, slightly crouched.

Longface raged. “You lubbard: Judge Jenkins cleared His Lordship and me. Mind what you say of your betters.”

“Master Kenrick says it was corruption.” The being was contemptuous.

“Kenrick’s dead, fellow; don’t you know that?” Longface spoke pityingly, but he suddenly he felt a chill, as if a cloud had passed over the sun.

“He’s too clever for that, though I like Arthur best, when he smiles.” Suddenly, it clapped a hand to its lipless mouth, its voice rising to an anxious gibber. “Arthur will be angry I talked. If I drive you away, maybe he won’t.” It moved forward in a threatening crouch.
Longface brandished his whip, while Guto roused from astonishment to bunch his fists: “Get away with you!”

The being blundered into the bushes at the side of the lane to force its way through. Longface saw a thorny bush catch and tear one of the exposed arms, and green droplets appear on the leathery skin.

Guto shook his head as if to clear it of the grotesque image, and then stared down the lane, to where the donkey was tethered. “Diawl: There’s the donkey cart down there, by the Kenrick place!” …

…Longface settled with dignity at the desk in the library. He saw that it was his duty to warn Lord Ravensdale (his former robber chief) about these dangerous goings-on, particularly as his cousin Monsieur had mixed with this mad inventor before. That, of course, would have the young hotheads rushing up looking for trouble, but there was nothing he could do about that, except give them the benefit of his wisdom.
He was proud of his lucid and diplomatic letter.
‘My Lord Ravensdale and Your Honour Monsieur Dubois, It is with regret that I set pen to paper as has no wish to be worrying of Your Honours, but things is come to a pretty pass here, with a green simpleton walking about the mountain as bold as brass as can’t be human as with my own eyes I’ve seen green blood coming from it.

It is fair insulting in free talk of Your Honours as belonging on Tyburn when Judge Jenkins un-outlawed us all after that time when, though loath to blow my own trumpet, I did save your life.

The green simpleton do maintain that Kenrick ain’t dead, and him a bitter enemy of Monsieur, who has been most obliging in appointing me here.

It’s a fact that insolent ex-sailor ain’t dead neither as I’ve seen him, and after the flighty French wench we call Ellie who we had to take from that place and won’t let us see her neck, so I must ask her aunt to deal with her to maintain propriety as they say. So I must pick up my pen and trust to Your Honours’ discretion as one who has ever been willing to give you the benefit of my wisdom.

Yours Respectfully

James Higgins.’

Unluckily for him, this note, along with a handful of others, fell from the postboy’s sack into the mud when he took up another’s challenge to a game of pitch and toss at the roadside against an outbuilding wall.

It was only one that he missed seeing. Days later, the farmer spotted it and took it to the post office, and it arrived torn and illegible ten days late at Dubois Court. 

Blissfully ignorant of this, Longface began to make up an envelope. “Them females. When I saw them shameless hen robins at it as a lad, I learnt all I needed about their flighty ways.”

For those interested in buying the whole novel, it is on offer at Amazon  Here

 

Interview of Emile Dubois (The Eponymous ‘That Scoundrel Emile Dubois’) By Laura Lee

 

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I am very pleased with my new cover done by Ebook Launch.The eponymous scoundrel – and he really is one, no half measures here – and the virtuous Sophie are about to be drawn into the time warp…

Here’s an interview with one Émile Dubios…

Laura Lee: Come in. Sit down. Would you like something to drink?
Émile Dubois: Thank you, Madame. The red wine for a certainty. Georges – my right hand man, you know, though some might spread the rumour that he was my companion in crime – organized this interview. You do things very differently to how we went on in the late eighteenth century – and I speak not only of your strange inventions.
Laura Lee: Which is the first region your eyes would wander to if you were to ever see (gf/bf/wife/husband) naked?
Émile Dubois: I confess myself astonished, Madame, by the familiarity of that question, and from a lady, too. Bien sûr,  the secrets of the bedchamber –
Georges (springing out from behind a curtain). Hoighty Toighty, Monsieur, as my Agnes would say. I can answer that one; he has ever been enslaved by his wife’s derrière and for sure, it is ample enough to attract attention.
Émile Dubois: (leaping up) Tais toi, you insolent lout, how dare you speak so of my angel?
Georges: I am fond indeed of Madame Dubois too, but facts is facts.
Laura Lee: Have you ever been caught naked by someone?
Émile Dubois: I do not clearly remember, Madame –
Georges: Of course he has. Biggest rake in all London society at one time.
Laura Lee: What is the one word in your vocabulary that you use excessively?
Émile Dubois: You will not be surprised to learn that I use three most often: ‘Tais toi Georges’.
Laura Lee: Personally, do you think size matters in reality?
Georges (sniggers vulgarly): Size of what?
Émile Dubois: If you refer to height and width of the whole body, Madame – and I can scarce credit you refer to anything else, liberal as your age is – then for a man in a mill – that is the term for a fist fight of our age, for sure size does matter. If you speak of the ladies, then our age appreciated female curves as you will see from the paintings. As for a man’s most intimate proportions – I am silent on that point, however nature has endowed me.
Laura Lee: Who is the biggest jerk/bitch you’ve ever come across in your life and why?
Émile Dubois: As a gentleman, Madame, I would not refer to a member of your sex by such a term, whatever the provocation, even That Jade Mistress Ceridwen Kenrick.
Georges: You can answer about old Kenrick, though.
Émile Dubois: For sure Goronwy Kenrick qualified as this ‘Jerk’ of whom you speak. A most rebarbative man. He set his siren wife upon me with her hypnotic powers so as to draw me into his schemes for time travel. He tried to sink his disgusting fangs into ma chere Sophie and forced me into co-operating with him by threatening to attack the human members of my household. Besides that, he tortured me by showing me visions of the tragedy that had overtaken my younger siblings. I have never wanted to kill anyone so much.
Georges: Tais toi, Monsieur! Madame will believe the rumours about our violent past to be true.
Émile Dubois: Impossible – the blather about our being Gentlemen of the Road was mere idle chatter.
Laura Lee: Have you ever accidentally and yet intentionally kissed someone or tried kissing someone?
Émile Dubois: Under a trance, yes. Ceridwen Kenrick made me do so. Her beauty was possibly an excuse, but ma pauvre Sophie took a dim view of the business.
Laura Lee: What is your favorite color of socks to wear?
Émile Dubois: Madame, in my age we do not wear these how you say, socks. Stockings, yes.
Laura Lee: Women/Men or Cars?
Émile Dubois: Ah, those horseless carriages that create such disruption? Horses are by far a better mode of transport and a good form of exercise, enfin. As for which of the three I find most interesting, as a young man about town, I was fascinated by your sex for a certainty.
Laura Lee: If you try to fail, and succeed, which have you done?
Émile Dubois: You have stabbed yourself in the foot, perhaps? Your pardon, Madame; in our age we do not go in for what you call introspection. Life is much more comfortable so, especially for a scoundrel such as myself.
Laura Lee: When was the last time you felt possessive?
Émile Dubois: You saw it in me, minutes since, when Georges had the audacity to speak of my wife’s wonderful derrière.l
Laura Lee:  What is the most embarrassing moment you’ve experienced in your lifetime?
Georges: (guffaws) I will respond to that on Monsieur’s behalf – it was when, against all advice, he would go to Kenrick’s evil household in search of diversion with Madame Kenrick from his obsession with Sophie. Of course, he was bitten – and in the Most Compromising Circumstances, what we call en flagrant délit, at that. He had to fight his way out of the house besides, and came back in a fever to spew upon the most magnificent pair of boots that ever I owned.
Émile Dubois: (wearily) Georges, would it cause you great anguish firstly, never again to mention those boots and secondly, not to reveal any more of my most humiliating secrets to Madame?
Laura Lee: Thanks for your time today!
Émile Dubois: (rising and bending over her hand to kiss it). Your servant, Madame.
Georges: Had he ever truly been a servant, he would not say he was yours with such a flourish.

A Little Escapism for the Good of the Morale…

 

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Sometimes, when life is stark, the only thing for me is one of Shakespeare’s plays: I suppose it is those ‘universal themes’ that bring things back into perspective.

But sometimes, conversely, I feel like reading some escapist nonsense.  Intentional comedy or often, ridiculous melodramatic stories which can make for wonderful unintentional comedic scenes, and that is nearly as good.  Then there is good dark comedy. Also, I do enjoy a well written fantasy.

So, these being times when even those given least to worrying could do with some light relief, here are some amusing pieces of escapism.

‘The Fourth Universe’ by Robert Wingfield (2015).

In my opinion, the funniest of all the books in the saga of ‘Dan Chronicles’, and a wonderful spoof of all sorts of genres. Here is one of my favourite paragraphs: –

‘The Magus stood in a small odorous group of soaked doku in the rain outside the spaceport. “Where do I go now?” he wondered as he tried to shoo them away. To his surprise, no helpful taxi drivers arrived to take him to solve his mission, no mysterious snipers attempted to end his life, in a fact, nobody even attempted to shine his shoes. At least he took comfort in the fact that it was raining, so it must be in the right place. It was always raining in films when you were close to mission end.’

There follows in due course a ridiculous and decisive confrontation between the Magus and his unfeeling nemisis.

You can buy the print version of this book at a distount from INCA here

Or the Kindle version from Amazon here

A long time favourite of mine is the second of the Bertie Wooster and Jeeves series, the 1934 novel, ‘Right Ho, Jeeves’, which I have always thought the funniest.

For dark comedy, I don’t think one can do better than the currently unfashionable writer Patrick Hamilton, who was at the height of his fame between the 1930’s and the 1950’s. His 1947 novel ‘The Slaves of Solitude’ generally considered to be his masteriece, is set in Henley-on-Thames (renamed Thames Ditton) in a genteel boarding house ridiculously called The Rosamund Tea Rooms: –

‘…One’s responsibility in regard to the black out had been the occasion of one of Mrs Payne’s famous notes. ‘N.B. Visitors will be held personally responsible for completing their own black outs in their bedrooms.” – This being pinned, sensibly enough (Mrs Payne was nothing if not sensible), under the light switch. Mrs. Payne left or pinned up notes everywhere, austerely, endlessly – making one feel, at times, that a sort of paper-chase had been taking place in the Rosamund Tea Rooms – but a nasty, admonitory sort of paper chase. All innovaatins were heralded by notes, and all withdrawals and adjustments thus proclaimed. Experienced guests were well aware that to take the smallest step in an original or unusual direction would be to provoke a sharp note within twenty-four hours at the outside, and they therefore, for the post part, abandoned originality.’

Here, the quiet and fair-minded Miss Roach refuses to be intimidated by the boarding house tyrant, the idiotic Mr Thawaites. In the words of the blurb on my Oxford Paperback edition, ‘Disturbing the blighted resignation of (the guests’) lives come the vulgar and coquettish Vicki Kugelmann, and Lieutenant Pike, the American serviceman…’

A different sort of dark comedy is to be found in another classic story, the short ghost story ‘The Crown Derby Plate’ by Marjorie Bowen. In this, a collector of antique china named Martha Pym is staying over the Christmas period with some relatives in a remote part of Essex. A few years ago, she bought a Crown Derby set at a local auction held in one of the isolated local houses, only to find a plate missing. She goes to collect the missing one from the new owner of the house, and becomes involved in a grotesque adventure.

‘The house sprang up suddenly on a knoll ringed with rotting trees, encompassed by an old brick wall…It was a square built, substantial house with “Nothing wrong with it but the situation,” Miss Pym decided…She noticed at the far end of the garden, in the corner of the wall, a headstone showing above the colourless grass’.

The person who answers the door presents a startling appearance: ‘Her gross, flaccid figure was completely shapeless and she wore a badly cut, full dress of no colour at all, but stained with earth and damp from where Miss Pym supposed that she had been doing some futile gardening…another ridiculous touch about the poor old lady was her short hair(In that era, women were not expected to cut their hair at all).

An absurd conversation follows between Martha Pym and the owner:-

‘“…I generally sit in the garden.”

“In the garden? But surely not in this weather?”

“You get used to the weather. You have no idea how used one gets to the weather.”

“I suppose so,” conceded Miss Pym doubtfully…’

Later on, the person whom Martha Pym assumes to be the last owner Miss Lefain informs her visitor that she frightens people away from the house:

‘”Frighten them away!” replied Martha Pym. “However do you do that?”

“It doesn’t seem difficult; people are so easily frightened, aren’t they?”

‘Miss Pym suddenly remembered that Hartleys had the reputation of being haunted – perhaps the queer old thing played on that. “I suppose you’ve never seen a ghost?” she asked pleasantly. “I’d rather like to see one, you know –”.’

This story can be found on project Gutenbeburg and various other sites for classic stories.

Then again, fantasy stories, whether comic, tragic, or both, are often an enjoyable form of escape from everyday concerns.Rebecca Lochlann’s ‘Child of the Erinyes’ series is excellent for that. I have expressed my admiration for the series before, and here is the link on amazon here

Then again, there is nothing like a fairy story for a temporary escape from reality, and when it is funny, then it is perfect. Here is one of my all time favourites, ‘The Blackwood Crusade’ by Jo Danilo. here

And finally, how about vampires for a way of getting away from everyday troubles? Lauryn Apirl’s ‘Unearthed After Sunset’ is horrifying and funny at the same time.
here