WIP Blog Seven: Towards the Last Reel

Towards the Last Reel

(And a Christmas competition)

I’m heading towards the last reel of ‘Agents of the Truth’, with the word count now at 72,000 words (draft one). Because of one thing or another, I’ve not been able to set aside as many hours per day for writing as I would like. As you might know, I also freelance for a living, and recently, a job I’d been working for several years suddenly came to an end. Not only has this left a gaping hole in the income stream, but it’s also left me looking around for a replacement job. I’ve been working up some proposals for Fiverr and PeoplePerHour, offering creative writing developmental services, and have a couple of other feelers out, but until things are back on track, I have to concentrate on finding work, while balancing the novel-writing with promotions.

So, instead of writing up to five or six thousand words per day, recently I have only been able to manage two thousand. What this has done, strangely, is make me write more slowly. I am correcting as I go. Rather than correcting a sea of red underlines at the end of a three-hour sprint, I am writing a paragraph, rereading it and making corrections and changes, and then moving on. Odd, I’ve not worked this way before.

It may be because I have the story planned in my head. I am already a few scenes in advance of myself, and, mentally, putting in the details. These often change when the fingers get to work on the keyboard, but at least I have the structure, hurdles, complications and ‘hit points’ ready for when I need them.

On which note, it’s five in the morning and I’m up early so I can do my job-hunting before I settle down to grapple with a guest appearance by a character from the Clearwater Mysteries. After that, my agent of the truth, Dalston Blaze, has another hurdle to overcome before he can move on emotionally and within what’s turning out to be a slowly building climax to a double mystery.

Talking of Dalston…

Christmas Competition with Giveaway

I’m planning to feature Dalston Blaze on the cover of a future book, but what does he look like? We already have Joe Tanner on the ‘Guardians’ cover, but how do you imagine Dalston? We know he’s six-foot, and there are a few other descriptions of him in ‘Guardians’ and ‘Keepers’, but who do you see when you read about him?

Tomorrow I will be the featured author on the fabulous M/M Euro Book Banter Facebook Page. Come over and join me and have your chance to share your image of anyone you’ve seen online who you thinks looks like Dalston.*

Do that, and you’ll be in the draw for a free eBook giveaway of ‘Agents of the Truth’ when it’s published. (Kindle or ePub version.)

Check my FaceBook page for more details.

* This may not be the person I use. I will have to license a photo/model for the cover, but it will be a bit of fun and give me a good idea of the kind of guy you’d like to see on the cover.

Goodreads MM Romance Awards: 10 Nominations.

Goodreads MM Romance Awards: 10 Nominations.

The news this week has been about the ten nominations my novels have received at the Goodreads MM Romance awards. All ten are from the Clearwater and Larkspur series of books, where we have a mix of MM romance, mystery, history and bromance. I thought, today, I might give you the list of nominations and a few words about each. If you follow the links, you will see a list of nominated titles/authors in that category. Find the one you want to vote for, and click. You might need to be signed up to Goodreads to do this; I already am, so I could go straight to the pages. If you’re not, then it’s free and doesn’t take long, and you’ll discover a world of reading once you’re a member.

Here are the nominations.

Best Sex Industry Banyak & Fecks 

This is pleasing to see because I consider this one of my best novels. After writing eight Clearwater Mysteries in a row, I wanted to take a step back. I knew that Silas and Andrej were the best of friends when we meet them at the start of the series, in chapter one of book one, actually. What I didn’t know, was how they came to meet, other than what I described in ‘Deviant Desire.’ So, the purpose of ‘Banyak & Fecks’ was to put their two stories together. I also wanted to write something more personal to them, rather than a typical all-out Clearwater adventure.

This involved not only researching travel from Ukraine to England in the mid-1880s but also involved looking in-depth at the male prostitution scene of the same period. Not a lot has been written about that, and it’s hard to find references in the newspapers of the time. However, what I did find was invaluable, and much of what you read in ‘Banyak & Fecks’ is based on truth, including the fairground scene, the workhouse scene, and the rent boy rackets. As always, I incorporated localised cant (slang) and street language, Silas’ ‘Irishisms’ and Andrej’s Ukrainian heritage.

Guardians of The Poor nominated in 5 categories

There are incidents and characters in ‘Banyak & Fecks’ that have a knock-on effect years later when we get to book nine of the Clearwater series, ‘Negative Exposure’. That’s why I recommend reading the series prequel after book eight and before book nine. Book ten, ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’ leads on from book nine and was intended to be the finale of the series.

However, I wasn’t able to let the characters and their world go, and neither were my readers, so I developed ideas for the follow-on series during books nine and ten, and that’s how we come to the Larkspur Mysteries.

Larkspur is Clearwater’s country house in Cornwall. The series aims to bring in new characters while keeping the Clearwater crew in the background, sometimes in the foreground. Doing this enabled me to continue the popular Clearwater world, and have existing characters play parts big and small while giving us something new.

I always like to have an historic ‘theme’ in my novels, hence male sex workers in ‘Banyak & Fecks’, the theatre in ‘Unspeakable Acts’, Bram Stoker in ‘Bitter Bloodline’ and now, the workhouse in ‘Guardians of the Poor.’

‘Guardians’ kicks off the new Larkspur series with a new character, introduced at the beginning of it all, Dalston Blaze. (The name is explained in the story.) It was intended as a linking story between the two worlds, Clearwater and Larkspur, and it achieves that aim. What it also does, is start a three-part adventure for Dalston and his deaf lover, Joe Tanner (my favourite character, but don’t tell the others), which I am now finishing in book three, ‘Agents of the Truth’ due out early next year.

‘Guardians of the Poor’ has been nominated for five out of my ten nominations, which is stunning, and here’s a note about each one.

Best Historical 

The history behind Guardians is accurate. Some of the story takes place in the Hackney workhouse, I took some of the character names from newspaper reports of the time, and particularly, a scandal involving staff and inmates and illegal MM sex at the Chelsea workhouse. Even the law Creswell states in court in the early chapters is real, although I twisted it slightly, but the conditions of workhouse life, the terminology and some of the minor characters are all from real life. At least, they are from reports and experiences of first-hand witnesses written around the time the story is set.

The title, Guardians of the Poor comes from a description of the role of workhouse guardians (committee members) from the 18th century. It is what the philanthropists and staff of the Poor Law Unions were called, but in my case, it also refers to Dalston, Joe, and the Clearwater crew.

Best Cover Art 

This award is one of the most gratifying because it is not for me, it is for Andjela Kovacevic. I found Andjela through a freelancer for hire website when I began writing as Jackson Marsh, and she has been with me ever since. She has designed all 22 Jackson covers now, and I couldn’t ask for anyone better. It’s got to the stage where I’ll send her an email telling her vaguely what the story is about, when it’s set, and what I thought of for the cover. She will send back something perfect that I’d never have thought of. We tweak it sometimes, and there we go. Great design, great price, eye-catching cover and meaningful. It’s like she reads my mind. One day, we may even meet.

The cover art for Guardians shows my deaf character Joe Tanner signing the BSL word for deaf while thinking, and in the background is a moody depiction of life in a Victorian workhouse. Simple, to the point, and gorgeous—as is Joe.

Best Friends to Lovers 

When ‘Guardians’ starts, Joe and Dalston are already lovers, and I always knew they would be. What I didn’t know was how that was going to be possible in a workhouse at a time when homosexuality was punishable by two years in prison with hard labour. (Hanging as a punishment had not long been abolished.) Their backstory grew organically as Dalston told Clearwater his history. It was as if I let him tell the story, and I just transcribed it, and after a little adjusting for authenticity, I was rather pleased at how he told it. Writing the flashback sequence was gratifying because the character did the work for me.

Dalston and Joe start out as strangers when they are 12, with Dalston fascinated by the deaf mute, and Joe in need of understanding. Thanks to Dalston’s surrogate mother, the workhouse matron, Joe is allowed to live in the general population rather than the ‘imbeciles’ ward’ where deaf children would have been put. As was standard, he and Dalston share a bed. That’s all fine and innocent until they get to seventeen/eighteen when their best friendship becomes something more intimate. Maybe just for comfort to start with, but quickly it turns to love, and it’s that which keeps them surviving through their ordeals of ‘Guardians of the Poor’, ‘Keepers of the Past’ (though it’s a rocky road) and into ‘Agents of the Truth.’

Best Virgins 

Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner. Virgins? Don’t make me laugh… Seriously, they were, once, and I think they deserve an award for losing their virginity to each other while living in the Hackney Workhouse. After all, it must have happened. The only question is how? Although there are no intimate sex scenes in the Clearwater and Larkspur series (apart from in the early books and Banyak & Fecks), there are ‘fade to black’ and suggested sex moments; the rest being left to the reader’s imagination. However, there is no doubt that when Dalston and Joe meet, they are virgins, but when we meet them in Guardians, they know each other intimately and lovingly.

Best Main Character 

Take a bow, Dalston Blaze. Read the series to discover why he deserves this nomination.

All Time Favourite M/M Series The Clearwater Mysteries

Romance features throughout the series. It’s a bit clunky in Deviant Desire as if I was fishing around trying to make a story about Jack the Ripper into a classic MM romance, and then deciding that, actually, it’s a mystery during which two unlikely people fall in love. It is, though, the start of a very romantic series where all the main characters are gay. Apart from Andrej/Fecker, who’s only ‘gay for pay.’

We have some lovely couples through the series: Rich Vs poor, Clearwater and Silas. Delicate Vs masculine with Thomas and James. Not allowed and can’t happen, between Clearwater and Thomas. Male-flirty between Silas and James. Bromance between Silas and Andrej. First-love with Jasper and Billy which has resulted in Best Coming of Age Home From Nowhere . Love under pressure, and between hearing and deaf with Dalston and Joe. Even straight love (in the background) with Andrej and Lucy.

All said and done, the series relies on bromantic male friendship for the emotional through lines and a darn good and historically accurate mystery for the action, and judging by popularity, award nominations and sales, it’s a winning mixture.

Best Book of The Year The Clearwater Inheritance

I’d always wanted to write Dracula. Well, not the story, of course, but to write something in a similar, epistolary style. ‘Inheritance’ is not 100% epistolary, as Dracula is (it’s not all written in diary form), but I use newspaper articles, telegrams and letters as a good 50% of the storytelling. There is also a classic journey involved, in this case, across Europe by train during the 1889 Russian flu pandemic, and part of that journey involves the Orient Express. This is the longest Clearwater novel, at 150,000 words, and was probably the most satisfying and fun to write.

All Time Favourite Author Jackson Marsh

Well, what can I say? I am my all-time favourite author too.

Seriously, thank you again for the nomination and thank you to anyone who takes the trouble to vote.

That’s a lot to take in, I know, and I shall say no more about these awards except for… How thrilling it is to have been nominated by the committee, how grateful I am to my readers for reading these novels, and how honoured I am even to be nominated. This kind of thing makes you realise that the hours you put into creating a novel are worth it, that others enjoy what you do, and that your creations bring pleasure to so many people. After all, that’s what it’s all about.

Click the links to vote, but for me, being nominated is the prize.

WIP Blog Six: Newgate Prison

WIP Blog Six: Newgate Prison

Before we get to today’s WIP update, here’s some great news. I have been nominated in ten categories in this year’s GoodReads Awards.

If you head to my FaceBook page, you will find all the nominations listed, plus links to where you can cast your votes. there are also links at the bottom of this post. I think you have to sign in to GoodReads (free) to vote, but it won’t take you long, and you can vote for as many titles as you want. It’s also great to see Andjela nominated for the best cover for ‘Guardians of the Poor.’ This has been possible thanks to my readers and members of GoodReads, and it’s got my day off to the perfect start.

Now, though, I must take you back in time and to another prison…

Yesterday, I was researching Newgate Prison. This was for a scene in ‘Agents of the Truth’, the third Larkspur Mystery, currently in its first draft (just over halfway through). I found a very useful website (link below) that shows a collection of the very few available photos of Newgate from the late 18th century. With the rain blustering in, and the temperature here dropping, and with true horror stories to read on websites and in the National Newspaper Archives, it was something of a dismal, yet fascinating day.

In the story, two characters are tracking down a third who was in Newgate Prison before and after a trial at the Old Bailey in 1889. You might remember that a week ago I was researching Millbank Prison, also in London, and that venue has yet to play its part, but it will soon. Victorian prisons were not pleasant places, as you might imagine. Prison reform took a long time to come about, and Newgate didn’t close until 1902. During the Clearwater period, it was mainly used for those awaiting trial at the Old Bailey, so I wasn’t able to keep my character there for long after sentencing; hence, Milbank comes into play in the next chapter.

For those who like the character of the barrister, Creswell, you’ll be pleased to note that he makes a cameo appearance in ‘Agents of the Truth.’ It’s only a short appearance, but it was as exhausting to write as it would have been to live through. The man simply does not stand still. He is as physically active as his mind, but still as brilliant and quick as before, and his appearance gives us a little light relief from the slowly building tension while remaining pertinent to the plot.

Plan of Newgate Prison 1880

So, that’s where I am at right now, 61,000 words and over the halfway hurdle, heading towards the last few days of the timeline, with things happening the reader knows about, but the characters don’t. That’s a fine old storytelling technique and used to make the story more compelling. I’m pleased to say, I am compelled to write more, so I will leave you with the link to Peter Berthoud’s handy blog, Discovering London, which is now bookmarked in my research folder because of his collection of old photos and his knowledge. Take a look, and if you’re in London, perhaps even take one of his guided tours. The page about Newgate Prison is here.


If you would like to vote for me and my books then please hurry over to the polls and cast your vote! You do need to be a Goodreads M/M Romance member but it is easy to sign up and then you will have access to the polls. I will post more details on Saturday. I hope to see you then.

The Perfect Day to go to Prison

The Perfect Day to go to Prison

It’s raining here in Symi, Greece today, making it the perfect day to go to prison. I’m not referring to being stuck indoors, because that’s me most days, positioned at my PC happily writing another chapter. I’m talking about research, and, in particular, research into Victorian prisons.

Part three of the new Larkspur Mystery series, ‘Agents of the Truth’, involves a prison. At least, part of the story does. To create authenticity in my imagined Clearwater world of late 1800s Britain, I make sure I do my research, so my world is as authentic as I can make it. At the moment, I am looking into Victorian prisons, and so far, have found two invaluable recourses I want to share with you.

Dictionary of Victorian London

I have a couple of sites permanently bookmarked on my toolbar. One of them is the Dictionary of Victorian London, a gem of a site created by Lee Jackson. There is an entire section there on Prisons, and, as with the rest of the site, this contains authentic reports and first-hand accounts of the subjects written at the time. Sometimes these are earlier than my period, but still in the Victorian era, and it is easy to imagine that not much changed between, say, 1840 and 1890.

Millbank Prison

I still double-check facts, though, in case changes had been made, and that’s a useful tip for anyone starting out on historical research. Always cross-reference. Yesterday, for example, I thought I’d found the prison in which to base my scenes. Coldbath Prison sounded perfect. I loved the name apart from anything else and decided to use that one. Reading further, though, revealed that although the prison in Clerkenwell was extended in 1850, it closed in 1885, and was transferred to the Post Office in 1889. Today, it is the site occupied by the Mount Pleasant sorting office, and I’ve passed it many times over the years without realising it was once a notorious prison.

So, I had to throw Coldbath out with the bathwater and find somewhere else. The Dictionary of Victorian London came in handy again, and there, I found The Wilds of London, by James Greenwood, 1874 – Three Years of Penal Servitude. I’d read some of James Greenwood’s writing before, ‘A Night in a Workhouse’, which was published in the 1860s, was his account of spending a night on the casual word of Lambeth workhouse. That article informed a couple of chapters in ‘Banyak & Fecks’, where Silas, at his lowest, spends a night in the casual ward of the Hackney workhouse. (It’s interesting for me to note that while Silas was doing that, in November 1884, two characters from the new Larkspur series, Dalston Blaze and Joe Tanner, were living in the general population in the same workhouse. They would have been 12 and 13 then and would have only just met, but that’s another story.)

Location of Millbank prison

The James Greenwood piece takes the reader from the court to Newgate, where the author was held, and then later, to Millbank prison and on, later still, to Pentonville and Portland prisons. They are very detailed accounts, and those details have been invaluable when writing a chapter from a prisoner’s point of view. I decided to use Millbank prison for my setting. Millbank used to stand where the Tate Gallery is now positioned, in London, and again, I have been to the site many times without realising there was once a prison there.

Prison History Org

The second site I found was Prison History, a resource for anyone interested in the history of the British prison system. There’s a page about 19th-century prisons, and linked to that, lists of prisons, their details and even their records. The site includes ‘your stories’, which are first-hand accounts from prisoners and visitors both historic and modern. While surfing the site, I found the mention of a book that sounded exactly what I was looking for. A ‘Guide to the Criminal Prisons of Nineteenth-Century England’, by Rosalind Crone, Lesley Hoskins and Rebecca Preston. You can find this for sale online, in hardback, and it’s not cheap. However, if you take the survey at Prison History, you can then email for a free PDF download. This is exactly what I did, mainly because I wanted to thank the site for their resource, but also because I wanted the book. I had it downloaded within the hour and shall delve into it as soon as I have posted this.

Agents of the Truth

There are, of course, many other resources available if you’re researching life in the Victorian Prison. I only highlight these two because they are the ones I am currently working with. But why, you may ask? How does a prison feature in ‘Agents of the truth’?

Well, I can’t tell you too much, but what I can say is, the villain of the piece has spent time in prison, and I wanted to get inside his mind. I wanted to know what suffering he would have endured, and how he might have been treated. As I read through some of the above-mentioned articles and accounts, it occurred to me how similar prison life was to workhouse life. Except, at the workhouse, a person could choose to leave, and was not there as a punishment, even though many workhouses treated their inmates as criminals. The picking apart of oakum, the limited diet, the regimes, all were very similar, depending on what workhouse you were in.

Reading the first-hand accounts of life in a Victorian prison, it’s not difficult to imaging the hardships, the loneliness and the despair, and those are the things that are driving my evil character to do what he does. I’ve done it this way so that the reader might find some sympathy with him because even the evilest villains should spark some sympathy to make them a more rounded and believable character. Not too much sympathy, though, not considering what he is about to do.

On which note, I must get back to Millbank prison in October 1890, and let my villain loose in London…

Remember to catch up with the latest book on my Wednesday WIP blog.

Photos from wikiwand.com/Milbank Prison

WIP: Week Five. Halfway Mark

WIP: Week Five. Halfway Mark

This week’s update on my work in progress, ‘Agents of the Truth’ sees me at 47,800 words, which is nearly at the halfway mark of the planned timeline of the first draft. To be honest, I’m surprised I have made it this far in what seems a very short time. I have been managing between 2,000 and 4,000 words per day, depending on what other (paid) work has come in. There seem to be so many other little things to do, and together, they add up to a fair chunk of my writing time. I’m talking about things like replying to emails, filling out a census, looking for Christmas presents, and playing Scrabble.

Actually, the Scrabble thing is work, because I use the tiles and the board to help me with anagrams. I’ve tried online anagram makers/solvers, but they are never as satisfying as doing it yourself, and using pen and paper is trickier than having lettered tiles to move around. Also, using tiles (or cards if you don’t have enough Scrabble letters) is safer too. You find the word(s) you want to make into an anagram and select only those letters, put all others aside so you don’t get mixed up, and then you can’t go wrong.

So, nearly halfway and the story has, as I intended, split into two mysteries. In one, we have two of our new Larkspur characters now in London, and in the other, we have some of our existing Clearwater characters down at Larkspur, both working on mysteries that may or may not be related. The research is going well—everything from the British Museum and Flinders Petrie, and from the Bible to Edgar Allan Poe… Those who like a twisting mystery filled with unusual characters and led by gay men in Victorian times are in for a real treat with ‘Agents of the Past.’

I am still aiming for early next year as a release date, though probably not until the end of February at the earliest. We shall see. And now, back to writing.

I hope to see you on Saturday for my other regular weekly blog.

A Writer Writes (but not always)

A Writer Writes (but not always)

I have just read a blog post by author KJ Charles in which she warns against the guilt authors feel when they are not writing.

But hurling yourself into a book before you’re ready can be at best a waste of time, probably disheartening, and sometimes a project killer,

she writes at KJ Charles, When Not to Write. She also warns against writing when you’re not interested in writing, because then the reader won’t be interested either; and not forcing an idea, because forcing an idea can kill it. Knowing when not to write is important, she says, and I agree.

Here’s my take about not writing.

A Writer Writes

Remember ‘Throw Momma From The Train?’ that film about a frustrated author teaching creative writing? Well, Larry, played by Billy Crystal, tells his class just that; a writer writes.

But Not Always.

You know how it is when you meet someone new and they ask, ‘So, what do you do?’ and you want to say, ‘None of your business,’ but you don’t because you were well brought up. These days, I reply, ‘I’m a writer,’ because I am. I am also an author because I write novels, but a writer because I also hire myself out to write copy for websites and others when I need income. Which is all the time. I write just about every day, even if it’s only in my head, but there are some days when I simply don’t bother. Why?

I’ll explain.

Flowing

Sometimes a novel flows. I start with an idea for an opening and a climax, a theme and a device which, in the mysteries, is the key to unlocking the mystery, or the shroud that wraps the mystery and must be solved. (* Examples below.) With those in my head, or occasionally on paper, I set off on the adventure. From then on, the characters lead me down a path I have vaguely outlined in my head, and before I know it, six weeks have passed, and I am at the end of the first draft. Several of the Clearwater Mysteries happened like this because, after books one and two, I had a cast of formed characters, so I didn’t have to think about creating them, only developing them.

When I am flowing like this, I can write upwards of 6,000 words a day. Editing them later, of course, is another matter.

Slowing

On some occasions, I progress slowly, and accepting when that is necessary is a question of experience. ‘The Clearwater Inheritance’, for example, was always going to be an end of series book. Therefore, I had loose ends to tie up, events from ‘Banyak & Fecks’ which took place several years before had to come back into play, I had to revisit characters from the past and plot where they were now, put it all in the context of a legal complication and the influenza pandemic of 1889/90, and have it progress through a timeline. However, it was also a novel that started something else, the Larkspur Academy, and the follow-on series of books, the Larkspur Mysteries. That thread had to be plotted in, and those foundations laid. (They actually began in book nine, ‘Negative Exposure.’)

Thus, if a novel needs technical plotting rather than running free, I tend to write more slowly. I will imagine a scene while on a walk or watching a dull TV show, and will write it up the next day once it has fermented.

Writing like this, I can write up to 3,000 words a day, but they are more thought out and will take less editing later.

Knowing

When not to write is another matter again. Some day I know that whatever I write will be crap, yet I still make myself write something. There’s nothing more inspiring than a blank piece of paper, and each empty Word doc is a challenge. Even if the words are no good, at least you got some practise, right?

Yes, well, not always. Sometimes, as KJ Charles says, forcing an idea can kill it. So, leave it alone and go and do something else. In my case, on days like this, I go and research. I find that is not only useful for my general knowledge and world-building, but it can set off creative ideas I’d not thought of.

Knowing when not to write is as important as ‘A writer writes’, and again, comes with experience. If you’re new to writing and have the feeling of ‘Now’s not the time to write’ because you are scared to, or worse, couldn’t be bothered, be careful not to make that an excuse for not working. Sometimes writing when you’re not in the mood can work, just don’t push it, or let the poor results put you off. I know when I am writing poorly, but I also know when I am page-filling (**see below), and I know when I am writing well.

So…

Flowing, Slowing and Knowing (when to hold back and fill your time with something more positive) are my three aspects of knowing when not to write.

A writer writes, Mr Crystal, just not all the time.

* The mystery device.

An example of a device, a key that unlocks the mystery, would be the painting in Clearwater six, ‘Artful Deception.’ This is different to the ‘smoking gun’, which, to my mind, is the ‘ah-ha!’ moment of cracking the case; when a character says, ‘Oh my God! Why didn’t I think of that?’ Or finds that vital clue which has evaded him all this time.

An example of a shroud that wraps the mystery would be the poem by Tennyson in Clearwater four, ‘Fallen Splendour.’

** Page filling

I was doing it yesterday, describing the interior of the British Museum Reading Room in 1890 in great detail. What I was actually doing was familiarising myself with a location and developing an idea. A lot of what I wrote won’t make it to the book, and I’ve done that many times before. In fact, as a treat, I will let you see a chapter which never made it to a book. This was going to be ‘Men of a Similar Heart’, a Clearwater Mystery about a death at a public school when Clearwater was young. I wrote the first five chapters, and had a thoroughly fun time doing so, and had the entire plot worked out. But then… it didn’t feel right, went so slowly I knew I didn’t want to be there. I knew something wasn’t right, so I put it aside for later. I still have the draft chapters though, and I’ll put part of one up now.

Remember, this is draft one, unedited, not proofed, and may come into use later.


Men of a Similar Heart, A Clearwater Mystery, Chapter Two in part, first draft. Copyrighted.

02

Witheringly thin and pale, the man clung to the back of his chair for support. His eyes hung in his face as two dark circles above prominent cheekbones, themselves overhangs of hollow cheeks. Silas didn’t know the man, but he was immediately concerned. Falconbridge was Archer’s age, but looked twenty years older, his eyes were tinted yellow, and his lips nearly non-existent. The only thing that suggested his thirty years was his hair, cut in a younger man’s fashion and thick, the temples, however, showing streaks of grey against black. Silas assumed he needed help discovering who was behind his poisoning; it was the only reason he could think of for an ill man to consider a private investigator.

He was soon to be proved wrong.

‘Clearwater,’ Falconbridge said, a smile on his skeletal face. ‘How the devil are you?’

Barely contained by skin, his Adam’s apple rose and fell like the puck of Silas’ imagined high striker, and the hand he offered was more bone than flesh.

‘Better than you by my first examination,’ Archer replied. ‘Freddie, are you ill?’

‘No, Archer, I am quite healthy.’ Hands were shaken and withdrawn. ‘I am suffering no disease or disability, but I am gravely concerned. Sit. Dine. I shall explain all.’

‘My secretary and friend, Silas Hawkins.’ For obvious reasons, it was as close to a personal introduction as Archer ever made about Silas, and in this instance came with the added, ‘Hawkins is also one of our two lead investigators.’

Introductions made, and seats taken, Archer switched the conversation to a less dramatic topic than Falconbridge’s appearance, the menu.

On cue, a waiter appeared from a door hidden among the cartoon representations of London characters that ladened the panelled walls, and slithered to the table to serve water. As he did so, an unexpected beam of sunlight streamed through the tall windows, one of which was partially open allowing the sound of the street to invade, and the waiter asked if Their Lordships would rather have it closed. As Falconbridge was the host, Archer left the decision to him, and, to Silas’ horror, did the same with the meal. Falconbridge chose the most uninspiring of dishes accompanied by a German wine, and told the waiter to leave the window open but to stoke the fire.

‘An excellent choice,’ the waiter fawned, unconvinced, before putting logs in the grate and slipping from the room as greasily as he had entered.

‘Terribly sorry to have been so blunt,’ Archer said once they were alone. ‘I didn’t mean to be rude, Freddie, but you don’t look at all well.’

‘The matter is forgotten.’ Falconbridge waved away the faux pas with spindly fingers. ‘I have become accustomed to the reaction of late.’

‘What has gone wrong?’

‘Nothing is amiss with me,’ Falconbridge said, adjusting his napkin. ‘But I fear something has gone terribly wrong with a dear friend of mine.’

‘I would suggest he’s a very dear friend,’ Silas said, his mind already filtering information.

‘Why do you say that?’

To his credit, Falconbridge didn’t take umbrage at a mere secretary joining the conversation as if they were well acquainted, and his manner was civil. His tone suggested he had already accepted Silas as an investigator of worth, a sign, perhaps that he was desperate. Either that, or Archer had sold the agency’s talents to him in a private correspondence. Whatever the reason for the viscount’s acceptance, Silas needed to live up to the part, and thought like James would have done while applying Thomas’ impeccable manners.

Silas had spent enough time working with Dr Markland at the mission to have picked up a few technical words and some knowledge of illness, and employed his experience in the manner Markland used when at work.

‘A man,’ he began once he was sure of his words, ‘that orders a light lunch because he has no appetite. Excuse the forwardness, but I suggest you have not eaten well for two or three weeks at least. I am no doctor, Sir, but the description His Lordship gave of you bears little resemblance to what I see, and as the two of you last met six months ago, the change is dramatic.’

Falconbridge gawped from Silas to Archer, himself wide-eyed at the sudden change in his secretary.

‘Go on,’ Falconbridge said, more interested than affronted at the familiarity.

‘Again, forgive my boldness,’ Silas continued. ‘But as you say you are physically fit and well, I have to conclude that you are suffering from nervous exhaustion. You suggest a problem with a friend, but this person must mean more to you than the average chum, else why worry yourself to starvation?’

‘I agree,’ Archer said. ‘Either that, Freddie, or you have transformed through some curse, which, in this day and age, and for a man so well educated, I find unlikely.’ Leaning on his elbows with a wicked glint in his eye, he enthused, ‘Or you are lovesick. Who is she?’

Falconbridge also leant forward, but his eyes were neither wicked nor glinting. They were wide with wonder.

‘I knew I’d come to the right men,’ he said, cracking a smile of pale gums. ‘You’re right, of course, Clearwater, but the friend is not a lady.’

‘Oh?’

‘Before I say more…’

Falconbridge paused as the waiter slunk back to the table, presented the wine, opened it, had it approved, and poured. The moment the bottle was in the ice bucket, another waiter appeared, this one crookbacked with a face set in a permanent leer, and set down the first course; a depressing salad served with a suspicion of sardines.

Once the hidden door had thudded gently back into place, Falconbridge resumed his sentence.

‘I wanted to ask how your new venture is coming along.’

‘The electricity company, the Henwood stud farm or the detective agency?’ Archer enquired.

‘The agency. Are your men experienced?’

‘We are,’ Archer replied. ‘And I say we because I count myself among the number. Mr Hawkins has handled several successful cases. Our director, James Wright, you may have heard of as it was he who cracked The Case of the Poisonous Parakeet, as the more sensational press titled it. We also have among our number Doctor Philip Markland who devised the cure for the unfortunate victim, a Russian speaking man of action, another who specialises in firearms, and we have a range of experts on whom we can rely. Together, we have extensive knowledge of codes, mysteries, the law and other foul deeds.’

‘Most excellent,’ Falconbridge nodded. ‘But who are these men? Where did you find them?’

‘At home,’ Archer said, calmly investigating his salad.

Silas couldn’t start eating until the viscounts did, and Falconbridge showed no interest in his meal. Growing tired of the politeness and formality, he decided to move things along.

‘Aye,’ he said. ‘Jimmy was His Lordship’s valet, Andrej’s the coachman. The butler looks after the weapons in his cellar, and we’ve got an assistant housekeeper with a memory like a camera. Oh, and our man of all works knows a bit about mechanics. Our disguise man lives next door. You don’t need to worry about credentials, Your Lordship.’

‘I see that you come with the brevity of the Irish, Mr Hawkins,’ Falconbridge said, unfazed by what he had been told. ‘But I can’t quite place the accent.’

‘Dublin, My Lord, though raised in Westerpool.’

‘Ah, then that will be it. Please, do start.’

Silas did, but soon wished he hadn’t. Spoiled of late by Lucy’s overindulgence in the kitchen, a weak salad that smelt of Billingsgate leftovers was not exactly his cup of tea. A cup of tea would have gone down better than the insipid wine, and Archer’s barely concealed gasp of dismay when he took a sip, suggested he was of the same opinion.


And so it wittered on to the end of 3,700 words. I took from it the name Falconbridge (‘Negative Exposure’), and rather liked the descriptions of the waiters, but that was about it.

And so… To work. I hope to see you on Wednesday for the Work In Progress blog.

WIP: Week Four. ‘Agents of the Truth’

WIP: Week Four. ‘Agents of the Truth’

A Quick Update on ‘Agents of the Truth’

I’m sticking with the title. The more I get into the story, the more it makes sense. Some characters become agents for the Clearwater Detective Agency, and they are after the truth behind two mysteries. So, that’s that.

Last Sunday, I finished chapter 10, a short chapter that rounds off the end of the first act. The pieces and players are in place, we know the deadline, we’ve hit some dead ends in an investigation, and a new relationship is forming. Now, at the end of the first quarter, I am at 30,000 words and very happy with them I am too. As a first draft.

Next, the action will move to London, with some sections flashing back to Larkspur Hall as Archer, Tom and Nancarrow prepare for the event of the season, the bal masque, the charity masked ball.

A blacksmith’s forge, 19th century

As usual, I have been researching as I go, and have been using a few valuable resources. Shakespeare, the Bible, and an Edgar Allan Poe story have all come into play so far. I have read about working in a blacksmith’s forge in the late 18th century, men’s clothing (again), and what costumes were popular at masked balls of the time (not an easy thing to find). Oh, and Fleet has invented a board game that is ahead of its time. That was easy to research, as I have the actual game in a cupboard.

And so, onwards and upwards, as they say, and into Act Two.

Here is an extract from the end of chapter two.

 

Larkspur Hall, Cornwall
Monday 14th October 1890

There was no letterhead, no date, and no letter. Just a piece of plain paper on which were glued a series of words in different fonts. At first, he assumed it was James or his friend the barrister, Creswell, replying to their invitation in a way designed to be a joke. The unconnected words, however, suggested something far more sinister.

Prick, Bleed, Poison, Die, Wrong…?

‘What is it?’ Thomas was at the door with a collection of mail. ‘Are you unwell?’

Archer slipped the note beneath a book and looked up, feigning ease. ‘Hm? Oh, no. All is well, thank you. Just, er… Just pondering Shakespeare.’

‘What on earth for?’ Thomas took three long strides into the room and placed the mail on the desk. ‘Never mind. Here are today’s acceptances. The genuine ones. Where are you going?’

Archer had collected his jacket and was making for the door. ‘To the library. I have an urgent meeting.’

‘With whom?’

‘The Merchant of Venice,’ Archer replied, and left the room with his pace and pulse quickening.


I will see you on Saturday for my regular blog.

Jackson

An Interview With Dalston Blaze

An Interview With Dalston Blaze

On this Saturday’s blog, I am interviewing Dalston Blaze, one of the characters from the new Larkspur Mystery series. Dalston appears in ‘Guardians of the Poor’, ‘Keepers of the Past’, and will be playing a major role in the third instalment, ‘Agents of the Truth.’


The year is 1890, the place, Larkspur Academy, Cornwall.

 Hello, Mr Blaze. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed. Maybe I can start with some basic questions. Could you tell me your full name and if you have a nickname?

Morning. Yeah, me full name’s Dalston Blaze, and that’s it.

That’s unusual.

It is. But it ain’t my real name. According to His Lordship, my real name is John Andrew Harmer. Least, that’s what I was registered as when I was born. When I was nine months old, me parents died in a fire. I was the only one rescued, but no-one knew who I was, ‘cos I was taken straight to the Hackney spike and left there as an unknown. They put me in the book as ‘The baby from the Dalston blaze’, and that stuck as my name. Dalston’s a place in Hackney, see? As for a nickname… I don’t really have one. Jimmy Wright sometimes calls me Blazey, ‘cos we went through a place with that name on a train once. Joe calls me [here, Dalston makes a sign] but that’s my sign name, so you don’t say it aloud.

What does it mean?

It’s rude.

I think we can handle a little rudeness. I assume it’s not meant in a bad way.

No, it ain’t. And if you must know, [the sign again] means a good f**k.

I see. Moving on… Maybe you can tell me more about your parents.

I never met them. Well, I suppose I did, but I don’t remember them, ‘cos I was only a few months old. Mr Wright and Mr Fairbairn are looking into my case, ‘cos my dad owned a business in Dalston. He brought things into the country from Greece and Italy, they told me. Stored it at the store under the house, and did his business from there, but I don’t know much about it. When it went up in smoke, it were all insured, and Mr Fairbairn’s trying to get me the insurance money, but it was nineteen years ago. That’s the only connection I have with my parents.

No other family?

Only Joe, and maybe some of the men I’ve met at the academy, but they ain’t real family. Just feel like it, if you know what I mean.

I do. Now, you said you were taken to the workhouse — the spike. I understand you grew up there. Did you ever feel like running away?

The Hackney Workhouse

Most days, yeah. Thing is, though, where d’you go, and how d’you live? People think the workhouse is a bad place, and it is. Least, it can be. I was lucky, ‘cos the matron, Mrs Lee, she couldn’t have kids see, so she treated me like her own until I was five or six, then I had to go and live in the general population on the infants’ ward. She still kept an eye on me from then on, until I was eighteen, really. She wouldn’t let me be homed out, or sent to the ships, ‘cos I reckon she still thought of me as her own. So, I didn’t try and run away, ‘cos she’d have got in trouble, and so would I. Boys got whipped for going over [the wall] and I didn’t need to. I had it easier than most.

So, what smells do you associate with your childhood?

Piss mainly. They have tubs in the wards, see. Wards are big bedrooms for twenty or more. Well, they’re rooms with beds in, and at my spike, we slept two in a bed, with one tub to piss in during the night. The rooms stank of that and farts, then when I went to the older infants’ ward, up to sixteen, it stank of tobacco smoke, piss and farts. The men’s ward, from sixteen, was the same but with sweat too. The rock shed smelt of dust, the oakum shed of tar and old, wet rope. I don’t remember no smells from the food, ‘cos it didn’t smell of nothing, but there was a funny smell in the chapel on Sundays.

Let’s move on to now. Where are you now, and who do you live with?

Merevale Hall. The inspiration for Academy House

Right now, I share a room with Joe at Academy House. That’s on Lord Clearwater’s estate in Cornwall and it’s dead posh. ‘Cos of that, and ‘cos of his kindness, we look after the place; all of us. We’re there with Clem, who’s a local lad with a genius for business, so Fleet says, and there’s Frank. He’s a Greek-born nutter from the East End what got done for fiddling tax when he was fifteen or something. He’s twenty now, mad about sex, loyal as fuck and fancies me. But he ain’t having me. Then there’s Fleet, the nutter-genius who… Well, no-one really knows what Fleet does. He knows everything, lets us be ourselves, and eats scrambled eggs and porridge in the same bowl.

The academy ain’t a school, you understand. It’s a place where men who are… different and have something to offer but don’t have the chance… they get to come there if Lord Clearwater finds them and thinks they’ll do well. It’s not an easy place to describe, except we’re very lucky, and we appreciate the chance we’ve been given.

Did you always love to draw? Do you think there is a deeper reason that you have communicated through pictures?

Dalston’s drawing of Joe Tanner.

I don’t know where the drawing comes from, to be honest. I got in trouble for drawing on walls when I were little, so I suppose I always had it in me. Mrs Lee encouraged it, and I were grateful for that, ‘cos there’s nothing else to do in the spike except school, work and get bored. Me and Joe, when we met… We was eleven… twelve… We used pictures to talk to each other ‘cos he’s deaf. And ‘cos of that, I got better, and he ain’t bad, and we also had signs, which is how we talk now, mainly, ‘cos the drawings got us into trouble. I don’t know what you mean about a deeper reason, though. I just like it, I’m good at it, and Lord Clearwater says I can make money from it, so that’s alright by me.

Let’s get personal. When did you have your first kiss, and who was it with?

I was seventeen. It was Joe. Ain’t kissed no-one else.

What have been the most important events of your life?

Not dying in a fire. Meeting Joe. Getting pulled from prison by Mr Hawkins and His Lordship. Coming to the academy.

I think I know the answer to this, but who is the most important person in your life?

Joe Tanner

This annoying deaf bloke called Joe Tanner. [He gives me a cheeky wink; Joe is clearly more to him than just a ‘deaf bloke.’] You know, Joe can be difficult. He gets frustrated ‘cos people can’t communicate with him much, and he goes off in huffs and stuff, folds his arms when he refuses to talk, ‘cos without his hands, he can’t speak, but you have to understand what it’s like for him. He ain’t heard nothing since he was born, so he doesn’t even know what words sound like. He says a few, and Fleet’s been training him, but he talks with his hands and his face, and it’s a face that melts me heart each time I see it. He’s what Frank calls a handsome fucker, and he’s right. Dead sexy, kind, funny, he’s got a naughty sense of humour, and talks about people right in front of their faces, ‘cos they don’t know the sign language. We have to watch that a bit now, ‘cos Fleet and the lads have learnt some, and Mr Wright. So, Joe’s my man and he always will be. Some get all fancy and call it love; I just call it Joe.

Do you trust anyone to protect you? Who and why?

Joe, ‘cos he’s a hero. Jimmy Wright ‘cos he’s clever and strong. Lord Clearwater, ‘cos he’s like that. Fleet too, and Clem and Frank. We’ve become mates, see, and good ones. Already got into a couple of scrapes together, and all come out if it like… well, like brothers a bit, I suppose. Whatever. I feel safe and protected at the academy, but I always felt safe with Mrs Lee at the spike when she was there. So, her as well.

What makes you laugh?

Joe when he’s being naughty. Fleet and his different coloured suits and strange hats. Er… Jimmy, ‘cos he’s so dry at times. And Frank, because he’s such a malaka. That’s his word for wanker. He gets his signs wrong when he’s trying to talk to Joe, bless, and that can be funny. We laugh a lot at the House, but we also fight a bit sometimes, ‘cos you do when you’re in a family, don’t you? Least, that’s what they tell me, ‘cos I’ve never had one ’til now.

I should let you go. I know Fleet has a rule about not being late for meals.

Yeah. It’s the only thing he insists on, ‘cos it’s a time we’re all together and can talk about stuff.

But before you go. One thing I like to ask everyone is what do you have in your pockets right now?

Blimey. Er… Handkerchief, couple of pencil stubs… What’s that? Fuck, I thought I’d lost that. In me jacket I got this sketch of Joe. I always carry that. Me wallet, ‘cos I got some money now… Three quid, six shillings and thruppence ha’penny. A watch Fleet gave me. Think that’s it.

Excellent. Well, thank you Mr Blaze. I’ll let you get on with whatever you are doing these days.

Right now, I’m working on a case with Jimmy Wright, and me and Joe and him, we’re off to London soon. I can’t tell you nothing about that, except, we got to be back by the end of the month ‘cos Lord Clearwater’s giving a massive costume party. The Queen’s grandson’s going to be there, so we got to be posh, and they’re going to show everyone the drawings I did of Larkspur Hall. I could make a lot of money from it, so it’s got to go without a hitch.


You can find out whether the masked ball goes according to plan when ‘Agents of the Truth’ is released in early 2022. Follow its progress through my Work In Progress blog every Wednesday. There will be no spoilers.

If you’ve not met Dalson Blaze, Joe and the others, then the place to start is Guardians of the Poor, the first Larkspur Mystery.

WIP: Week Three. Act One.

WIP: Week Three. Act One.

‘Agents of the Truth’ is coming along. I am now up to 20,000 words and am halfway through chapter eight. I had intended to reach 25,000 and the end of act one, but I may go over that target, which means we might be in for a longer novel. Either that, or there will be lots to edit. It’s zipping along, though, as per my usual style. Plenty of intrigues, some pressures building in the background for the characters to be challenged with later. I’ve also dropped clues for later (and noted them so I don’t forget to resolve them), and there has been some humour.

You might wonder what I mean by ‘Act One’, so let me explain. I’ve picked up the term from my screenplay writing, because films are all about structure, and are divided into acts. I have several books on the subject, and if you want to know more, I suggest two:

The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler Mythic Structure for Writers

The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

Here they are on my shelf beside my Jackson Marsh collection. Ann Zouroudi, who writes the Greek Detective Mysteries published by Bloomsbury, gave me the Vogler book, so it has a special place on my shelf. It’s a great book for understanding the journey of a hero through a classic story, which he breaks down into acts. The Aronson one is more filmmaking centred, and discusses other structures besides the four-act structure I favour. Both are invaluable for plotting, character arcs, and structure, whether for film or fiction.

Act One

I’ve read many discussions of the four-act structure of storytelling, and when you know what they are, you recognise them in films. A standard film script will be roughly 20 pages for each act, leading to an 80-page script, with each page being one minute of screen time. During that time, things happen that turn the plot and move things forward, and they always happen at the end of acts. I’m referring to the plot there, but along with the plot, a character will also develop, and that process goes through several stages of the four acts. (We’ll have a quick look at that in a moment.)

We often refer to act one to as ‘The normal world’, where everything is in its place and the hero/heroine is undisturbed. Then, a challenge comes along, he resists it, gets mentored, accepts it, and ‘steps over the threshold’ into the new and unexplored world of act two… and off we go. That’s known as the reluctant hero’s journey beginning. In my Clearwater world, the heroes are rarely reluctant, but I still use the same basic structure.

Without giving away too much, ‘Agents of the Truth’ starts out in Archer’s normal world, a villain makes a subtle appearance, the men at the academy are existing in their normal world too, but then one or two are asked to assist with something outside of their usual day-to-day. They accept the challenge, and away we go. Simple?

You can rest assured it won’t be!

Four Acts

Think of any standard horror film and you’ll easily be able to identify your four acts. Crudely put, they run like this.

Act 1, There is no shit

Act 2, What is this shit?

Act 3, What do we do about this shit?

Act 4, Shit dealt with

Or to use Titanic a more gentille example, with the end of act turning points:

Act 1, People board the Titanic, and it sets off

Act 2, Rose and Jack get it together, ship hits iceberg

Act 3, Ship is sinking, panic, ship sinks

Act 4, Jack dies, stories resolve, Rose dies

20,000 words

Having written many books and screenplays in the four-act structure, I now find I don’t need to remind myself of turning points, character arcs and so on. They come naturally to me, although they are always at the back of my mind. So, having reached 20,000 words and approached my end of act one target, I find I will go beyond it. That’s fine, the novel can be longer, or it can be cut, because I have not yet reached the turning point that will take us into act two.

In terms of writing, I should have written 25 or 30,000 words by now, but in the last couple of days, a few home-life things got in the way. I.e. Needing a new washing machine, having to take some paid work to make money, cooking a chocolate mousse, etc.

So, I shall leave this here, and get back to ‘Agents of the Truth’ (I like the title more each day), and I’ll see you on Saturday when there will be an interview with one of my characters. Dalston Blaze will be along to talk about his life in the workhouse, his love for Joe Tanner, and his move to the Larkspur Academy. I hope to see you then.

Newsletters and Other Resources

Newsletters and Other Resources

Newsletters

Before I get started, I wanted to draw your attention to the QRI Newsletter. Queer Romance Ink is one of the resources I use for book promotion. They list ‘coming soon’ titles, have a blog, lists of authors and their books, and they review new books. They have favourably reviewed many of my titles over the years, and this month, are giving away one of my novels, ‘The Mentor of Barrenmoor Ridge.’ This mentor novel is currently my third most popular title (after Deviant Desire and Twisted Tracks), and you can get a free copy plus three others when you join their newsletter list. This offer runs for a month, and the sign-up form is here:

https://www.queeromanceink.com/join-our-email-list/

You can also sign up for my newsletter, not that I send one out very often, and the link for that is here: http://jacksonmarsh.com/newsletter/

Meanwhile…

Other Resources

I am currently writing ‘Agents of the Truth’ (working title), the third Larkspur Mystery, and the 14th novel set in the Clearwater world. While doing so, I found myself looking for a PDF of a book I wanted to refer to, and went scrambling through folders on my PC trying to find it. ‘I know it’s on here somewhere… What book did I use it for?’ I tend to do this. To download a book or reference material into the current WIP file and leave it there. What I should do, is have a central folder for all books, make sure I change the file name to the title, and put them in categories.

I’m pleased to say, I’ve started to do this with the aim of one day putting the list on a page on this site, so other authors and interested parties can easily find the resources. They are all online and mostly free anyway, so it’s a case of knowing where to go, and if I can help point people in the right direction, all well and good.

I just checked into my new ‘Research Books and Docs’ folder, and the list is quite a healthy one, but it needs further sorting and labelling. I have, for example, the rather vague, and yet very specific, ‘Arsenic poisoning’ pdf. I know I read that for ‘One of a Pair’, but couldn’t remember exactly what it was, so I had a look…

Arsenic Poisoning by Dr D.N. Guha Mazumder, Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research, Calcutta.

Well I never.

I have a copy of ‘Monumenta Historica Britannica’ (or ‘Materials for the History of Britain from the earliest period to the end of the reign of King Henry II.’) Published by command of Her Majesty in 1848. That was of use when writing ‘Keepers of the Past.’ Well, the parts that weren’t in Latin, Anglo Saxon and Greek were quite useful.

I have two copies of ‘The Uncommercial Traveller’ by Charles Dickens next to ‘Rent, Same-Sex Prostitution in modern Britain’, and nearby, a copy of The Vulgar Tongue. (Those last two titles are not related.)

Dictionaries

The list contains other gems, many from the past, such as Dickens Dictionary of London 1890. The dictionary was published every year, by Charles’ Dickens son, I believe, but as I am writing in 1890, this edition was perfect. It’s priceless for all authors working in the late 19th century, and I only wish I could afford/find a printed copy for my bookshelves. It’s the sort of thing I can sit and read all day. There are maps, advertisements, lists of historical and forthcoming events, and then a dictionary of all things London from the Bank of England to the Sanitary Assurance Association. Did you know that to subscribe to the Saville Club in Adelphi Terrace cost £5. 5s, and to become a member, ‘The committee elects; one black ball in five excludes.’ Or, you could join the (new) Salisbury Club in St James as a ‘town member’ for £10. 10s, assuming you are not black balled, and for £5. 5s if you are a country member. Foreign members only had to pay £2. 2s. Bargain.

The Vulgar Tongue is one of my favourites, and I have a hardback copy next to me on this desk. It’s a dictionary of cant (street language/slang) compiled in 1785. You can open it to any page and find a gem. Examples:

Page 165, India Wipe: a silk handkerchief.
Page 129, Fussock. A frowsy old woman.
Page 128, Frummagemmed. Choked, strangled or hanged. Cant.

If your darby consisted of a strike, your ready money was twenty shillings which you could have spent on ‘strip me naked’ (gin). Brothers were interesting things. A brother of the blade was a soldier, of the bung, a brewer, and of the gusset, a pimp. Yaffling was eating, to milk the pigeon was to attempt an impossible task, and a cock hoist was a cross buttock, something I have still to get to the bottom of.

I am straying. Sorry, that’s what happens when I open such a dictionary.

I shall return to the subject of resources in the future, as I have many more to tell you about, but I think my point, for now, is that I have collected an amount of useful or interesting recourses, free books in pdf format, newspaper articles from the National Archives Online (a subscription service), and other places of interest, and will set about cataloguing them, and sharing the most useful ones on a new page on my site. One day.

For now, the sun is coming up, and I want to take a walk while I plan chapter seven of ‘Agents of the Truth.’ So I will finish now, and leave you with a reminder to sign up to the QRI Newsletter and receive four free eBooks, one of which is mine.

Don’t forget to catch up with what’s happening with ‘Agents’ on my Wednesday Work In Progress blog.

View from my walk yesterday. Click to enlarge.