Octavius Guy and the Case of the Mendacious Medium (AKA “Big Bona Ogles, Boy!”—pronounced “bone-ah” “owe-gulls”, translation: Pretty Big Eyes You’ve Got There—a title that Malane, who designs this website for me, hates) is progressing a treat. I’ve finished a very rough draft of what I like to think of as “The First Act”, and am taking a few weeks’ break in order to plot the remainder. I have a victim, a motive, and a murderer; but more importantly I have a feel for the book—I know what the novel’s about. So what can I reveal without giving too much away?
Well, this time Gooseberry doesn’t go it alone. He’ll have his new, unofficial apprentice George to keep him company. It’s a snowy December in 1852, and together the pair attend a séance hosted by a certain Mrs Maria Harmon, a young Spiritualist trance medium recently arrived from Boston, Massachusetts—and what a séance it proves to be! Mrs Harmon manges to conjure up the spirit of an especially ill-behaved little girl, much to the horror of everyone present.
As with the preceding novels in this series, this one is also founded in fact. Towards the end of 1852, the young medium Mrs Maria B. Hayden and her husband William travelled to Britain from their home in Hartford, Connecticut, to bring Spiritualism to these shores for the very first time. She held regular séances in London, but they were met with a fairly mixed response. The literary world, in particular, was nothing less than scathing of her. George Henry Lewes, who was later to become the partner of the writer George Eliot (author of Middlemarch, Silas Marner, The Mill on the Floss, etc., etc.), played an especially mean trick the woman. Unseen by Maria, he wrote out a question on a sheet of paper: “Is Mrs Hayden an impostor?” The spirit controlling Maria rapped out: “Yes”, causing Lewes to claim this as an admission of her guilt.
In reality, Maria Hayden’s mediumship was limited to producing raps and fielding questions, the answers to which were known only to those who asked them. The Mendacious Medium in Big Bona Ogles, Boy! goes much, MUCH further than that, with tricks in her repertory that historically date from some twenty years later. Does Gooseberry manage to work out how she does it? Yes…but he needs a little inadvertent help from George to show the way!
This month I start my long summer break from teaching, which means I’ll be able to throw myself wholeheartedly into the writing. I’m hoping to have Octavius Guy and the Case of the Mendacious Medium ready for general release on December 1st. It’s a tall order, but I think it’s achievable. In the meantime, you can read more about Maria B. Hayden, the inspiration for my medium, right here on my website.
Finally, as a small token of my thanks for taking the trouble to find this page, I’d like to offer you a copy of my book Why the Victorians Saw Ghosts – An Illustrated Guide to 19th Century Spiritualism. Download it for free from Smashwords.com. When it comes time to pay, just use coupon code: TD22X. A word of warning: opt for the ePub version if that happens to be a format you can use; for technical reasons beyond my control it is vastly superior to the MOBI on offer.
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