Non-strangers on a Train

Last week, I came up with the idea of producing a collection of short stories as a freebie for my readers. I asked for suggestions via my FB page, my group, and my blog, and I’ve now had several replies. I’ve also worked out the premise, and have gathered my five characters together on the 11.45 train from London to Cornwall, on Christmas Eve 1892.

I chose that date to fit in with the current Delamere series (which is so far set in 1892) and to follow on from the Larkspur series, which finished on Christmas Eve, 1891. We will get an update on what’s happening at Larkspur Hall, because that is where the five characters are heading, and they are heading there for the famous Larkspur Christmas Ball. This event was featured in ‘Fallen Splendour’ and then again at the end of ‘The Larkspur Legacy,’ and it’s the occasion when Lord Clearwater treats all his staff, tenants and their families to a lavish party in the great hall at Larkspur.

Here’s a rather obvious clue to one of the characters.

On the journey, each of the five characters will tell a story from their past, and so far, I have decided on one of these stories, but I still need to invent the other four. However, there will be another, a sixth in total, because although my characters are travelling in a private carriage, they are not alone. Someone else has gained a seat, but as he is sitting quietly at the back and is asleep, they decide to let him stay. Being Clearwater characters, they also suggest he might like to share in the supplies they have brought with them for the eight-hour journey if he wakes up.

Who this character is, and what he is doing there will be explained at the end of the book, which I intend to be reasonably short. I am guessing at around 50,000 words, but knowing me…

So far, I have an outline for the various chapters, and I’ve put it here so you can see who is on this journey. You’ll also see that I’ve modelled the index at least on Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, but the text will definitely not be made up of long poems in Olde English!

May 1892

Here’s who will be appearing in the index, and I’ll keep you posted on the progress of this project and ‘Follow the Van’ (Delamere part three) as the weeks roll on towards Christmas, when anyone subscribed to my newsletter and any members of my group Jackson’s Deviant Desires will get a Pdf copy for free. The book will later be on sale via the usual channels. (Anyone can subscribe to my occasional newsletters, and to my group, just follow the links.)

The Christmas Journey (not the eventual title)

The Prologue – In which five characters meet and a stranger takes note.
The Detective’s Tale*
The Baron’s Tale
The Housekeeper’s Tale
The Antiquarian’s Tale
The Professor’s Tale
The Stranger’s Tale – In which all is revealed and yet nothing is completely ended.
The Epilogue

As you can see, each chapter will also have a sub-heading in the style of Victorian serialisations. I’ve always wanted to do this, ‘In which we discover…’ kind of chapter heading, but it’s so outdated, that it’s never yet fit with anything I’ve written. Now’s my chance!

* Btw, although James Wright was a popular suggestion, he is not the detective in this case. I have gone for Will Merrit so that we have two Clearwater characters, two Larkspur characters, and one from the new series. You can probably guess who the others are.

There were many suggestions and my aim is to include some or all of the other suggestions within the stories, though they are not the ones telling them. So, you should get a Christmas dose of your favourite characters one way or the other.

As for the stranger… You will have to wait and see.

Win a Clearwater Calendar 2024

I’ve had this mad idea and I need your input, and I need it ASAP. Like any good story, it begins with a What if?

What if I asked you to list up to five of your favourite Clearwater/Larkspur/Delamere characters? Who would you list?

What if I then chose the five most popular and wrote a novella?

What if that novella was a collection of five short stories as told by the characters who have gathered together? (It might be they are stuck in a railway carriage, or by the fireplace on Christmas Eve… I’ll work that out later; it’s not important.)

And what if I put together the novella together in time for Christmas and you got a PDF/Kindle of it for free?


List your five favourite characters via my Facebook page (the thread is there, or just leave a random comment), via email or private message, and I will send out a Clearwater calendar to one contributor chosen at random at the end of next week (27th October).

FAST. I’d like to get started soon, so can I have your suggestions like… now? At least a couple to get me started.

WHO? Any characters. It doesn’t have to be the ‘canonical’ five (Archer, Silas, Tom, James, Fecks), and it doesn’t have to be a main player. It can be anyone from Mrs Killhaddock from ‘Agents of the Truth’ to Professor Fleet (Larkspur) or Jack Merrit (Delamere). It could even be one of the real names of history who have appeared; Bram Stoker, Henry Irving, Tennyson… Or someone that stands out in your memory for another reason… one of the villains, servants, East End renters…


(For a while.) My intention is to publish the collection/novella free to all my newsletter subscribers around Christmastime, and to put it in the ‘Jackson’s Deviant Desires’ private group for members. Sometime after Christmas, I may release it via the usual Amazon channels and put it for sale.

I’m going to put this post on my blog tomorrow for all those who follow my website but don’t use Facebook, so the details will be there if you lose this post/thread.

Get thinking, and put your suggestions in the comments, via my jack@ email, or my private message, and let’s have some fun!

A Fall from Grace: This Week

The guys at Other World’s Ink have come up trumps again, and I now have all the files for ‘A Fall from Grace’ on my PC and ready to upload. I just need to do one final check. As long as I don’t notice anything that needs tweaking, I will upload the files later today, and you should be able to find the book within the next couple of days.

So, today, I can put up the front cover and the blurb, and perhaps entice you towards ‘A Fall from Grace’, which picks up a couple of weeks after ‘Finding a Way’ finished; or half-finished, because there was one particular matter unresolved.

As for the next instalment, I’ve changed my working title from ‘Silence & Limelight’ to ‘Follow the Van’, and I’ll update you on its progress soon. Meanwhile, here’s the blurb for The Delamere Files book two:

A Fall from Grace

Hired by the esteemed Clearwater Detective Agency, and determined to prove themselves worthy, Jack and Will Merrit face their first case: They have eight days to unravel past events at an English public school, find a missing man and prevent his suicide.

A new life brings intriguing potentials as Jack grapples with his attraction towards men. As the assistant to the manly and assured, Jimmy Wright, he must put aside his longing for Larkin Chase and the temptations of a new stable lad, and face the weight of his new responsibility. The Merrit brothers’ future depends on it.

But when circumstances pull Jimmy away, Jack and Will are left alone to navigate a map of deceit, solve the case, and save a man’s life, even if it means risking their own.

‘A Fall from Grace’ is the second book in the Delamere Files series of romantic, Victorian gay mysteries, and follows on from ‘Finding a Way.’ The books should be read in order.

A Fall from Grace: Cover Reveal

Today, I shall be finishing my last edits on ‘A Fall from Garce’, the second in the new Delamere Files mystery series set in 1892.

To celebrate this, I have the full cover to show you, and it’s another stunner from Andjela V, who is currently completing the full wrap-around cover ready for uploading when the MS is set out into book format. That should be happening in the next few days, and the book should be ready for release later next week.

I am aware that ‘Finding a Way’ left one of the story threads hanging, and I did this on purpose. I made sure I was well into writing book two before I let book one loose, and that’s why you haven’t had to wait long between them. Don’t worry, in a few days, you will be able to continue Jack and Will Merrit’s journey into the world of private investigation and, in Jack’s case, coming to terms with being attracted to men, finding the right one, being tempted by many others, and, maybe, falling in love. Who knows? Jack is new to everything that’s not part of his old life of long workdays, living in near poverty, the docks at Limehouse, and family expectations.

I’ve already started on book three, which is going to be another mystery moving the characters and underlying stories forward, but you will have to wait until the New Year for that one. Meanwhile, here is the blurb and the cover for book two, ‘A Fall from Grace.’

A Fall from Grace

The Delamere Files Book Two

Hired by the esteemed Clearwater Detective Agency, and determined to prove themselves worthy, Jack and Will Merrit face their first case: They have eight days to unravel past events at an English public school, find a missing man and prevent his suicide.

A new life brings intriguing potentials as Jack grapples with his attraction towards men. As the assistant to the manly and assured, Jimmy Wright, he must put aside his longing for Larkin Chase and the temptations of a new stable lad, and face the weight of his new responsibility. The Merrit brothers’ future depends on it.

But when circumstances pull Jimmy away, Jack and Will are left alone to navigate a map of deceit, solve the case, and save a man’s life, even if it means risking their own.

Cover Reveal

Click the image to open the cover.

‘A Fall from Grace’ is About to Land

The second in the new Delamere Files series of Victorian mysteries with gay characters, MM romance, and adventure is almost ready to go live. It only remains for me to finish reading the final proof of ‘A Fall from Grace’ (another five days, perhaps), for the layout guys to work their magic (a further couple of days, depending on their availability), and for me to upload the files and hit the release button—another day as it doesn’t take long.

I will reveal the full cover to you on Saturday, and also give you the blurb, so that, I hope, is something to look forward to, with a release date within the next two weeks, fingers crossed.

Coming soon…

Without giving anything away, I can tell you that part of the story harks back to a British public school in the 1870s through to the 1880s, and a section of the book is written by someone else. I mean, a character has written his story for our detectives to read (and there are some other diaries, but not too many). To give you an idea of how this character writes, here is a short section from his memoirs. They only form about three chapters of a 28-chapter novel, the rest is (more or less) from Jack Merrit’s point of view.

Here, the character tells us his dark thoughts on the public school system (1880)

The seniors above us left Grace Tower to make their way into the world as men forged by the callous pounding of the Sinford’s hammer on the anvil of tradition that flattened any crease of individuality or creativity. Men were smelted from base material in the crucible of the public school system, and once tempered, poured into moulds vacated by their fathers and theirs before them. Those who opposed were caught in the clamps and chiselled, worked, and drawn out until, free of all impurities, they became Old Sinfordians, free to set foot upon the green and pleasant land of Blake’s imagination. There, they forged their own progeny in their own image among the dark satanic mills of adulthood.

I have created a few new characters for this story, and some may reappear later in the series. Among them are the protagonist and antagonist, two old boys, now men, from Sinford’s School for Boys. You’ll also meet some eccentrics. There’s a new stable lad at Delamare House, Mrs Norwood makes a brief appearance, as does our old favourite, Doctor Markland who first appeared in ‘Deviant Desire’ back at the start of the Clearwater Mysteries. If you’ve read that series’ prequel, ‘Banyak & Fecks’, you might have noticed he appears in that too, though Fecker, who meets him, can’t remember his name.

Anyway… That’s where I am today. After work, I shall continue to read the proofs, hopefully making the final tweaks to ensure the rather complicated story is easy enough to follow, and I’ll be back on Saturday to show you the full cover, another stunner from Andjela V.

If you’ve not started on the Delamere Files yet, then you can find book one here: Finding a Way.

On sale now. Click the image.

A Fall from Grace: Cover Reveal


This weekend, I wanted to whet your appetite for the second book in the new ‘Delamere Files’ series, ‘A Fall from Grace.’

I am going to reveal the cover… but not quite yet. I have one more read of the MS to do before I send it off to be formatted, so it is snow only a couple of weeks away. Meanwhile, later this week, I will reveal the new and fantastic cover from Andjela V.

A Fall from Grace sees Jack Merrit’s first case with the Clearwater Detective Agency at Delamere House, and the first time he has lived anywhere but in Limehouse. There’s a lot for Jack to adjust to new surroundings, new luck, a new job, and men. First, there’s what to do about Larkin Chase, the man he met in book one, then, there’s the dashing detective, Jimmy Wright, and before long, along comes a stable hand, Ben Baxter… Temptation all around, but also, a case to work on, a mystery to unravel and a life to save.

The mystery began 12 years earlier in a British public school (a private, fee-paying school), where friendships endured into later life. In 1892, one of a small group of very close friends is now missing and in danger, and it’s up to Jack and Will to work out where and by when this man can be found.

That’s all I am going to say right now. You’ll have to wait a couple more weeks to get to the full story, and in the meantime, you’ll get to see the cover and blurb later this week.

As for me, I am working on book three, currently called ‘Silence and Limelight’, while I wait for the final ‘Grace’ MS to come in, so I can give it its last read-through.

Where ‘A Fall from Grace’ has a public school as its background, ‘Silence and Limelight’ has the Victorian Music Hall, and I’m happily beavering away on research and reading to better inform my writing. The characters of Jack and Will Merrit are evolving as the stories continue, I am still referring to my 1888 maps of London for accuracy, and I am putting together a mystery which will take Jack into the story of his family’s past. But all that is for later.

For now, here’s the image to tempt you – it gives little away – and if you haven’t yet started on the new series, book one, ‘Finding a Way’ is up there and waiting.

I am releasing book two quite soon after book one because book one leaves a major storyline unfinished (on purpose), but book two continues it.

Check my Wednesday blog for more information about ‘Silence and Limelight’, and news of the next new release, coming soon.

Available now. Click the cover.

The Clearwater Calendar

Today, I want to tell you about the Clearwater Calendar. This isn’t a book release schedule, but a wall calendar for next year. I have put together a collection of images, made a calendar, and put it for sale on We’ve been doing this for our Symi Dream website every year for the past I can’t remember how many years, but now, I have decided to do the same for the Clearwater series.

Each month, you have one of Andjela’s stunning book covers and the blurb about that book, and the first 11 months of the year take you through the series in chronological order. So, for January 2024, you have the cover for Banyak & Fecks and its blurb, and for February, you have Deviant Desire. So it goes on until November and The Clearwater Inheritance.

What of December? Well, to see the image for that month, you can either browse the calendar preview on its sales page, wait until you have a calendar to take a look, or even wait until December 2024 and turn the final page.

I ordered myself one to check all was looking good, and it is, and now, the calendar is on sale for anyone who wants one. I kept the price as low as I could. Also, at Lulu. You can order from anywhere in the world, and they print the calendar and dispatch it from their nearest printer to you. This means you should be able to buy it in your currency (certainly in US dollars, sterling, and Euros, and, I believe in Australian dollars), and you shouldn’t have to wait too long for it to arrive.

There you go, just an idea for Christmas presents or for something to adorn your office or home wall throughout next year.

A Fall From Grace

Meanwhile… I now have the illustration for ‘A Fall from Grace’, I should be seeing some ideas for the book cover any day now, and the MS is with Anne for proofreading. I noticed Amazon sent me a message today to say I can now set the release date for future books (rather than have to understand the pre-order system which I’ve never got to grips with), but for now, I think I will stick with my haphazard way of releasing new titles when they are ready, rather than planning ahead. A Fall from Grace should be with you sometime during October, and I will let you know when.

Silence & Limelight

I’ve now written one and a half chapters of the Delamere Files book three, and have undertaken a fair amount of research into the world of the Music Hall in the early 1890s. Keep an eye on the Saturday and Wednesday blogs for more information about this next book.

Here are links to the calendar and to the new series:

Let’s all go Down the Strand

Let’s all go Down the Strand

“Let’s All Go Down the Strand” is a popular British music hall song of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, written by Harry Castling and C. W. Murphy. It was first performed by Castling and was published in 1909. It was inspired by the Strand, a street in Westminster, Central London, that in the late 19th century became a centre for theatres, hotels and music halls. [Wikipedia]

It’s also the song that has the famous interjection, ‘Have a banana!’ Or, as I say here in Greece, ‘Have a moussaka.’ The interjection, however, was a later addition and apparently came from the audience, not the writer’s. The point of bringing this up is to introduce you to the setting for book three of my new Delamere Files series of Victorian, MM romantic mysteries. What happened to books one and two, you may ask?

Delamere Series

Book one, ‘Finding a Way’ is already out on Amazon, and is doing very well. Book two, ‘A Fall from Grace’ should be available before the end of October. While that is being proofed, and while I wait for the illustration and cover, I have begun research and plotting for book three, currently titled, ‘Silence and Limelight.’

Silence and Limelight

Silence and Limelight was the title of a musical I wrote for an amateur theatre company donkey’s years ago, but this story is completely different. I always liked the title for its paradox (I think that’s what it is), and it fitted well with the story I have in mind for Delamere three. The story takes as its background the London Music Hall, a form of entertainment which rose during the 19th century and lasted into the 20th century when it became more commonly known as Variety (Vaudeville in America). From there, it can be said, we saw the rise of the stage musical which has now, tragically, become a vaguely creative retelling of Disney stories or biographies of musicians with the core stitched together using unoriginal songs. Don’t get me started on that! Instead, let me start with a few words by a chap called F. Anstey, written in 1891, the year before ‘Silence and Limelight’ is set. The piece I am quoting from is titled ‘London Musci Halls’ and it is his experience of viewing such theatrical establishments, not all of which he approved or enjoyed.

London Music Halls

Ansty starts with this:

LONDON music halls might be roughly grouped into four classes—first, the aristocratic variety theatre of the West End, chiefly found in the immediate neighbourhood of Leicester Square; then the smaller and less aristocratic West End halls; next, the large bourgeois music halls of the less fashionable parts and in the suburbs; last, the minor music halls of the poor and squalid districts. The audiences, as might be expected, correspond to the social scale of the particular place of entertainment, but the differences in the performances provided by the four classes of music halls are far less strongly marked.

You have to understand the Victorian zeitgeist and not be offended by words such as ‘poor and squalid.’ If you are offended by such historical descriptions, you shouldn’t be reading about history. Only, you should, because without all the triumphs and horrors of history, we would not learn how to emulate or prevent them in our future. But don’t get me started on attempts to erase history and make everything ‘woke’ either!

Ansty then tells us about a first-class music hall venue and it sounds terribly smart and very you, and he approves. He even approves of the clog dancer and the ‘serpent man’ (a contortionist) perhaps because squeezed between the two was a young lady reciting Tennyson and other poets.

However, then he comes to the next tier of music hall venues, the smaller and less aristocratic West End halls of which he says:

It is unnecessary to describe the second class of music halls, in which neither audience nor entertainment presents any characteristic features.

Right, so that’s that then! What’s interesting to note is that he is as interested in the audience as he is in the entertainment.

The third tier of London’s music halls, he introduces thus:

Both externally and internally the bourgeois and suburban music hall differs considerably from its more fashionable rival. For one thing, it is generally dingier and gaudier of appearance; the entrance is covered with huge posters and adorned with tea-garden plaster statues bearing coloured lamps; the walls are lined with tarnished looking-glass, gilded trellis-work, or virgin cork. Sometimes there is a skittle-alley or a shooting-gallery in the “Grand Lounge.”

The Roman Road music hall, preserved.

Then we come to the world of Jack Merrit’s father, that well-known (for all the wrong reasons) and not much lauded music hall entertainer, Samson Merrit, who famously died on stage in March 1891, and, according to the press, died while singing with Marie Lloyd.

As my first draft of my first paragraph of Silence and Limelight reads:

When, on the night of the thirteenth of March 1891, Samson Merrit dropped dead on stage, the only person in the Griffin Music Hall who knew it wasn’t part of his act was Mr Merrit himself.

As another aside, H. Chance Newton, writing in 1902, says of the Griffin, by then under a new name and management:

Round the corner in Shoreditch is the London Music-Hall, wherein the stranger who pays his first visit will undoubtedly fancy for the nonce that he has lost his way and has by accident strayed into one of the best West- End halls.

(In those days, for the nonce meant for the one purpose, and only meant what we now know it to mean in slang.)

Meanwhile, back to Mr Ansty. Having described various acts and venues of his first three tiers of the music hall, he comes to the lowest of the low (in his opinion), and the kind of music hall my character Samson Merrit appeared at. Mr Ansty says:

Music halls of the fourth and lowest class are perhaps the most characteristic, and certainly not the least entertaining, although a visit to one of them makes a stronger demand upon one’s powers of physical endurance.

He follows this with an often-amusing description of what he saw and heard while his nose was upturned, but also praises the place for its honesty and lack of pretention. Of the audience, he says:

They rock with laughter, the whole pit swaying like a field of wheat in a breeze. Those who assert that the London poor are a joyless class, incapable of merriment, should see this crowd when genuinely amused, and consider whether there is not some exaggeration in descriptions of their hopeless gloom.

Marie lloyd

This is all fodder for my research canon, and I am very much enjoying reading such articles. I am also reading a biography of Marie Lloyd, one of the most famous stars of the time, and awaiting an out-of-date copy of a book about the Gaiety Theatre in Aldwych, London, as more background reading.

Meanwhile, I have made a basic plot outline of ‘Silence and Limelight’, mapping not only the mystery but also the relationship between Jack Merrit and his attraction to men, Larkin Chase in particular. If you have read ‘Finding a Way’, you will be pleased to know that what was left hanging at the end is cut down and dissected in ‘A Fall from Grace.’

That’s all I am saying about book two, except: Its background world is a British public school, and I will write more about it on my blog on Wednesday as I continue to work on book three.

Dictionary of Victorian London

The above quotes are taken from Dictionary of Victorian London, a massively researched collection of all things Victorian in print, created by Lee Jackson, and launched in 2001. It is one of my main resources for writing of the time.

Lee Jackson has published many books about Victorian London, and you can find them on his Amazon Page.

The online resource quoted here can be found in Dictionary of Victorian London.

On a Deadline for a Title

The work-in-progress news this week is that ‘A Fall from Grace’ is finally out of my system and complete. Almost. I will be sending it away to be proofread at the end of the week, the author’s notes are done, and so is the draft blurb. The cover is in process with Andjela, and all I am doing now is popping back to the full MS to correct anything that pops into my mind at three in the morning. As the days pass, these alterations become less frequent.

One thing remains outstanding, however, and that is the very last line, after where it says, The story continues in book three…’

The title? I have lots of ideas and yet no idea, and I want it there before I publish. I know in what part of Victorian London the story will be set, what the start of the mystery is, the emotional complications that will ensue, and roughly where we will end up, but what I don’t have is a title I can put at the end of book two to draw readers towards book three.

Something to do with Musical Halls, and work in the theatres, missing links of a family history chain, temptations, drama, love…

Hey ho! I have a few titles that might inspire future Delamere stories, titles including Where There’s a Will, and I have a preliminary title for book three, You Can’t Trust These Specials because it’s a quote from a music hall song (Don’t Dilly Dally on the Way), but the story I have I mind doesn’t concern policemen or the ‘old time specials’ of the lyrics.

Leave it with me, set your alarm clocks for mid-October and prepare to look out for the Delamere Files book two, ‘A Fall from Grace’ in a few weeks’ time.

Background inspiration for ‘A Fall from Grace.’

Looking for a Great Historical Mystery?

If you’ve come here looking for a great historical mystery to read, I’ve again got the perfect thing for you. Not only my own books, which you can find on my Clearwater Mysteries page, and not only The Larkspur Mysteries which continue in the Clearwater world with new characters taking centre stage and established characters supporting, but also Finding a Way, the first in the new Delamere Files series.

Plus, all the books currently available in Kindle Unlimited in this excellent Book Funnel promotion:

K. C. Sivils, A. H. Wang, Y. G. Knight, and authors without initials, such as Rose Donovan and Nadya Frank, all have titles on offer here, along with my series starters, Deviant Desire (Clearwater), Guardians of the Poor (Larkspur), and Finding a Way (Delamere).

Astute readers might notice that my series titles are the names of three of Lord Clearwater’s homes; Clearwater House, London, Larkspur Hall, Cornwall, and Delamere House, the next-door, sister property to Clearwater House in Knightsbridge. Why? I don’t know, it just seemed like the sensible thing to do. When I first came up with the property names, I never thought I would be creating three series around them, but that’s what happened, and I’m glad it did. When writing the Larkspur Mysteries, and bringing in Lady Marshall’s country home, I thought carefully about the name of the place, having in mind the idea I may set another series there in the future. That’s why I came up with Stoneridge Castle. I was thinking of something spookier, still mysterious, maybe steampunk-ish, and based around Hope & Hyde from the Larkspur Academy. If I ever do, you will be the first to know. Meanwhile, back to this Book Funnel promo and all the delights that go with it: Self-pub mysteries with an historical background, all available in KU, so you can easily add them to your library, also available in other formats if you aren’t in KU and want to buy and all at discounted or very reasonable prices.

There. That should set you up for a few weeks. Meanwhile, I am currently editing and rewriting the final chapters of ‘A Fall from Grace’, the Delamere Files book two, and have it booked in with Anne Atwood, my long-suffering and rather excellent proofreader for the first days of October. This weekend, I must start thinking about the cover so that, in a couple of weeks, I can let you know when this next book will be ready for you.

Have a good weekend, check in on Wednesday for the regular work-in-progress update, and above all, keep reading!