It’s July, and this month the series of background articles for The Scarab Heart comes to an end with 19th Century Egypt: The Birth of Egyptology. It traces Egypt’s history from the invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte, in 1798, through to 1885 when The Scarab Heart is set. For Egypt this was a time of enormous change. Although the article manages to give a flavour of the events, the truth is that it barely scratches the surface of what actually happened.
I’ll be launching an exciting (or, from my perspective, terrifying) new project this summer. I recently read Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone for my Crime & Thrillers reading group, which Collins originally wrote as a serial for Charles Dickens’s weekly magazine All the Year Round. I was particularly struck by one of the minor characters who pops up towards the end of the book, Mr Bruff the lawyer’s office boy, Octavius Guy, better known as Gooseberry. Collins gives Gooseberry a small but extremely important role, and highlights his character by having the retired Sergeant Cuff (formerly of Scotland Yard) lavish praise on him:
“‘One of these days,’ said the Sergeant, pointing through the front window of the cab, ‘that boy will do great things in my late profession. He is the brightest and cleverest little chap I have met with, for many a long year past…’”
As I read I began to realise that Gooseberry would make a perfect protagonist for a novel (in fact, it’s my belief that Collins was preparing the ground for exactly this), so over the summer I’m going to try writing and publishing one chapter a week involving the amazing Gooseberry, as Collins did himself with The Moonstone a hundred and fifty years ago. Reprising many of the original characters, Gooseberry can be found serialized on my author blog at Goodreads, starting July 4th. Learn how the office boy came to be employed by Mr Bruff, how the lad once earned himself a very different nickname, and why he has no objection to being referred to as Gooseberry—a reference to his bulging, protruberant eyes. There’s even a prototype cover, with an image courtesy of my old favourite, John Thomson. I’ve also set up a blog, Writing Gooseberry, to record my thoughts and feelings throughout the entire process. Wish me luck. I’ll need it, I honestly will!
As always, my ever-popular non-fiction title, Why the Victorians Saw Ghosts – An Illustrated Guide to 19th Century Spiritualism, which retails for US$2.99 in most online stores, can be downloaded for free from Smashwords.com. You set the price, so make sure you set it at zero. [Sorry, this offer is no longer available.]
Remember, you can always message me on the Contact Me form or you can send me an email. Both Malane, who designs this website for me, and I really look forward to hearing from you, and I will always try to respond.