More Comedy for Testing Times: An Extract from ‘Ravensdale’ (Now Free on Amazon ): Morpeth the Thief Taker, on the Trail of Reynaud Ravensdale, Calls in to Question the Landlord of the ‘The Huntsman’.

Ravensdale-300x200(1)

“If this ain’t a Bow Street Runner or some other thief taker, then I’m a Dutchwoman,” Kate told Suki, as they watched the short, stocky, dapper man came up to the Inn door. “Good morning, Sir. What will you have?”

They knew he was staying with their rivals in The King’s Justice up the road. The landlord there prided himself on running a respectable house. The tenants of The Huntsman knew he was jealous, because he didn’t have such open-handed customers. The man was even applying for a licence to have his premises made into a gaol, possible future lodgings for some of the regulars at The Huntsman.

The customer glanced about with hard pale grey eyes, fixing them on the baby, who let out a wail.

Kate picked him up. “Serve the gentleman, Suki.”

“A tankard of porter. A fine infant; is he your only one?”

“Seeing as I was only married fifteen months come Saturday, yes, Sir.” The man wetted his moustache. “Has Reynaud Ravensdale been in lately?”

“Ravensdale?” Kate laughed. “You can’t mean that Lord? The gentleman has high notions of our patrons, Suki. Yes, Sir, him and the Prince of Wales, they came in together.”

The man’s eyes hardened still more. “Exercise your wit, Mistress, if you will, but Lord or no, now he’s an outlaw, and lower than the merest farm hand, a wanted murderer with a price on his head for highway robbery. I hear tell he’s been seen hereabouts.”

“By who?” Kate looked outraged. “That old harridan over the way, I’ll be bound. There’s so many sightings of that Ravensdale in different places, he must have a better horse than Turpin’s Black Bess to get about the way he does, is all I can say. What did they say he looked like?”

The man took some swallows of his drink before he pulled out a printed bill. “Here’s the official description, and not so helpful, with him having medium colouring, and no distinguishing features, save it does say, ‘noticeable eyes’ whatever that means. Tall, it says, and spare though strongly made, and he has a fair trick in disguise. When he stayed with you, I think his hair was dyed and unpowdered and it was described as brown.”

“Could be anyone,” Kate gazed at him with her jaw slightly dropped. “Does he have the trick of adding pock marks to his face, makes him look fair ugly? Remember, Suki? There was a man stayed who looked like that, brown hair and so on, said he was going Reading way.”

“Or maybe,” Suki looked struck, “It could’ve been that stout man that would never take off his coat? He could have stuffed in pillows underneath his waistcoat. I remember thinking his thinnish face went ill with his body. I mind he rode a dun coloured horse and went up north.”

The man snorted: “Do you take me for a fool? Have a care, mistress; the magistrates don’t like to renew licences for those who harbour known highway robbers. Where’s the master of the house?”

“This is a respectable house, and I’ll give my mind to anyone who says different,” Kate said angrily, while Suki tossed the bright blue ribbons Flashy Jack had given her in defiance. “The master’s away on business; he ain’t due back till tomorrow at the earliest.” Kate looked squarely into those judgmental eyes, which seemed to know the purpose of that trip.

The baby let out a furious wail.

“Now see what you’ve done! They understand more than you think, and he don’t like you coming in here making out we ain’t fit to run a decent establishment.”

Suki clicked her tongue.

The man actually looked abashed, before draining his porter with a business-like slurp. “I play my part in keeping the world safe from marauding thieves and murderers like His Lordship Reynaud Ravensdale, and if you’ve nought to hide you won’t mind my questions, nor your baby neither.”

They all turned about at a crash. The one time librarian at Wisteria House tottered into the yard to collapse on the bench.

The thief taker nodded to the women. “I may call in again.”

“Do, Sir, and we promise to keep a sharp look out for His Lordship.”

The man paused in the door, saying to Suki, “Look out for his fellow robber John Gilroy too: tall, fair hair, quite the swell and a ladies’ man. He’d have an eye for a pretty wench like you, miss; you and half the girls in London if I hear right.”

He must have been disappointed at her indifferent shrug. Kate snorted: “Be serious, Sir! As if we don’t get young men in here all the time, making up to her, and half of them called Jack or John.”

‘Ravensdale’ is free on Amazon.com  here

and on Amazon.co.uk here

and on Kobo here

Where Worlds Meet Out on Amazon

Where-Worlds-Meet-1877x3000-Amazon-300dpi
Sophie looks alarmed; and with good reason; Emile has just led her into his own world outside time – and he doesn’t seem quite himself…

At last, ‘Where Worlds Meet’ is out on Amazon.com

here

And on Amazon.co.uk on

here

the prequel, ‘That Scoundrel Émile Dubois’ is here free  on Amazon  and on Smashwords here

You can also get ‘Ravensdale’, which also belongs to the same series, free on Smashwords here   and if you care to point out to Amazon that they should price match, they may make that free too:

On this cover, Sophie does look alarmed, in contrast to Émile’s swaggering and savage demeanour, and she has good reason, as he has just introduced her to his own sphere outside time, and doesn’t seem quite himself…

I did love writing this.

Well, I always love most of the writing part, but I particularly enjoyed  drawing back from the dead the half undead Kenrick and Arthur and describing the grotesque absurdities of his monster men. Also, I loved  writing about Émile Dubois and his cousin Reynaud Ravensdale working together as a team, and Reynaud’s Amazonian true love, his ex-comrade-in-arms Isabella,  as a foil to the spiritual Sophie.

When writing ‘Ravensdale’, about the adventures of Reynaud and his meeting with Isabella as a highwayman (that career seems a popular one in that family)  I was tempted to bring in Émile for them to live as outlaws together, but complications to do with Émile’s needing to be over in France at that time made it impossible.

One of the things I really enjoyed about writing this latest, was that one of the main driving points of the plot is a love affair between two characters from the servant class – Kenrick’s man Arthur, and the sultry Éloise, maid to Sophie (and once her rival for Émile’s attentions). In contradistinction to the traditions of so much historical gothic, it was interesting making the actions of a servant have strong consequences for good or evil.

There is a wicked siren in this – would it be  spoof Gothic without – the late Ceridwen Kenrick’s  own cousin (cousin’s abound in this), whose humanity has been compromised by both Ceridwen and Kenrick. She has her secret reasons for joining in Kenrick’s schemes; for Kenrick has still failed to find reunion with his beloved first wife, and as before, will stop at nothing to achieve his aims.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the practical but Tarot consulting Agnes – one of my favourite characters – back at their now home at Dubois Court in Buckinghamshire for this. I didn’t want to overwhelm the reader with competing assertive characters, and for that same reason, I had to give only a walk-on role to Mr Kit in this, and to keep Mrs Kit and Émile and Sophie’s adopted waif  Katarina offstage.

I suppose I am fairly typical in being very fond of my own characters, even such specimens as Kenrick.

What made me reflect on this was reading an excellent Indie novella, ‘The Carrot Man’ by Theo A Gerken which is unusual in having as its theme a sordid, petty struggle between two wholly inadmirable characters that has no serious consequences for anyone.

That is, of course, just about the opposite for the blurb for most books.

Perhaps that was what the author had in mind.  Certainly,  it works brilliantly: here  is the link to my review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2219824577

The author thought I was a bit too hard on the protagonist, and I could have been more charitable about him  (I expect he was fond of him in the same way that I am fond of Kenrick).

Anyway, it makes a great read. Like all of the darkest comedy, it’s somehow cathartic.

It can be very hard to carry out that excellent bit of advice by James N Frey and to ‘follow through’ and deliver that bloody end, that unhappy ending, when it comes to writing an unhappy fate of a character to whom you have become attached (in a good way,  I mean, not as in ‘Alex Sager’s Demon’).

And that brings me to another book I relished recently, Mari Biella’s ‘Pietra and Other Horrors’.  This series of dark tales, like ‘Lord of the Flies’ is an exploration of the uneasy coexistence of the savage and amoral and the civilized, both in the external environment, and in the human heart and psyche.

Besides her elegance of style and vivid writing, I have always admired the way that this author never draws back from wreaking havoc to the lives of her characters when the plot requires it.  This is never easy to do.

The author brings a new approach to a series of classical themes of terror, the vampire, the zombie, the werewolf, the sea folk, and the traditional and malevolent spectre.

Here’s my review:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2219833247

Reverting to Arthur Conan Doyle, whom I mentioned in my last post, he seemingly could do it quite happily. He admitted to being utterly callous about the supposed death of Sherlock Holmes in  1893 in that fight to the death with Professor Moriarty by the Reichenbach Falls. Still, perhaps he resented his character for taking up so much of his time and attention.  He had to be offered – for those times – great sums of money to back his creation and write more Holmes’ stories.

He was equally callous about poor Watson’s wife, the Mary Morstan whom he meets in ‘The Sign of the Four’. As he wished to have Watson share the rooms at Baker Street with Holmes again, Mary Morstan had to be killed off with a pen stroke.

It must have been convenient for him to be so oblivious to his characters happiness. While I do not, like Dickens or George Eliot, shed tears over my characters’ fates if they are sad, they do give me a pang.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Episode from A Spoof Gothic Regency Romance: The Proposal

 

Medieval-CastlesThe Dastardly Duke approaches the Spirited Heroine as she walks in the castle grounds with her charges.

SH: Ho Hum! He’s got no shirt on. This means a passionate scene. This is the cover.

DD: Run and play, youngsters.

SH: Well, at least he doesn’t call them brats any more.

First Charge: I hope you are not dismissing her, Papa? [Second charge
starts sobbing]

DD: Only as governess. I will offer her a position far worthier of her talents. No questions. Run along.

Charges:  Oh good!  We can go to being spoilt brats instead of neglected treasures. Georg_Friedrich_Kersting_005_detail[They run off.}

[Now sounds a burst of organ music ]

DD: Eh, what’s that? Oh, it’s my late wife making her presence known. [shouts] I hope that’s OK with you, dearest? Damn, anachronism, I know. Give me the electric shock and get it over with. [refuses to wince as he takes his punishment]

SH: Whatever can Your Grace mean?

DD: [attempts to smile, but is too used to giving bitter grimaces to pull it off]

SH: Heavens! I hope you are not taken ill, Sir?

DD: My dear one: you cannot be unaware of the reason why I have changed form a morose, monosyllabic misanthrope to a man who sees a purpose in life.

SH: [twinkling] At least in the Regency era, it won’t be because he has been reading Hay House tripe. I know, anachronism: ouch!

DD: This is very hard for me; it goes against my nature, to admit what I have come to feel…

SH: [encouragingly] Whatever can Your Grace mean? You spoke of promoting me?

[Merry_Joseph_Blondel_-_Felicite-Louise-Julie-Constance_de_DurfortCrash of lightning. Enter the footman]

Footman: [who is, of course, a demoted ex-hero] Stop! I won’t have it! She’s my heroine, not yours, you beetle browed brute!

DD: Go to the devil, you low born cur.

Footman: I cannot stand quietly by and see a delightful maiden duped. This man is a whatchacallit- you know, the name for people who murder their wives –

DD: [with a bitter smile] Murderer will do, fellow.

[Wraith of late wife, arriving with a flash of lightning] Oh no, he isn’t!

Footman:  Oh yes, he is!

DD: Please, my dearest, stop! You fellow, silence!  I refuse to have my Proposal Scene descend into vulgar pantomime.

Footman: [brandishes sword] I’ll kill you first!

[Wraith, gliding between them] Oh, no!

DD: You and whose army? I know, anachronism. [refuses to wince as he suffers the inevitable electric shock] Anyway, I didn’t kill my beloved Matilda, for all that we quarreled bitterly. She slipped on the stairs. And that sword’s an anachronism, how come you’re being let off?

Footman: I took it from one of the suits of armour.

SH: Oh, do go away, dear. I’ll marry you immediately you get promoted again. That’s probably only three books from now. Authors do like to use your type.

DD: There will always be a demand for the Mean and Moody emotionally challenged type as long as so many women readers have bad taste.

SH: Well, I don’t. So let’s make this a wrap. I know, anachronism! Ouch.

[Footman Ex hero goes off] Oh, very well.

DD: [shouts after him] Go and clean the closets, scrub! [Drops down on his knees] Ah, will you be mine, dearest? I count your connections with trade as a mere nothing to your charm and liveliness, my dearest, sweetest –

[Wraith of ex wife] I give you my blessing. [vanishes]

DD:  She releases me. Will you marry me?

SH: I will.

[DD jumps up and they kiss]

Author: The End.

DD: What? That’s it?

SH: That’s it. This is a ‘sweet’ romance. No naughtiness beyond a chaste kiss.

DD: Well, damn me! Getting my hands on you was the only thing that kept me going.

Author: Now, what for my next? I know! A Dastardly Duke who courts a Spirited Heroine! And I’ll set it in Regency England!

[DD seizes SH’s hand and they begin to run]

220px-IncubusDD: Not me! I’m booked to be an alluring demon in a futuristic fantasy!

SH: Not me either. I’m having a go at being a female detective for my next!

Horse [who is, of course, an ex hero of the 1970 Vintage Rapist variety, demoted as he deserves) How about me?

Author: [turning up her nose] In your dreams, Dobbin! [Footman approaches] Oh, all right, you then…