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Read an Extract

Here you can read sample pages from our stories along with blog posts by Rohase Piercy and Charlie Raven.
We hope you enjoy them and become encouraged to forge ahead and read more! We love reviews, reviews are gold dust so please, if you've read and enjoyed the books, leave a review on or or Goodreads! Thank you so much!

Re-encountering Constance Wilde

Rohase's Bloggy Bits Posted on 15 Nov, 2017 18:34:36

The highlight of my Bank Holiday weekend was a one-woman show in the Brighton Festival entitled ‘Mrs Oscar Wilde’, written and performed by talented actress (and fellow Goodreads Author!) Lexi Wolfe. It consists of a series of short vignettes in which Constance Wilde writes letters to her brother Otho Lloyd. The research is meticulous, based on real-life correspondence and writing, and it was riveting to see Constance transform before our eyes from star-stuck young girl to newly fledged ‘celebrity wife and mother’ to passionate, confident political activist and feminist; and then age and diminish as increasing disillusionment with her neglectful spouse and concerns about his dangerous lifestyle take hold. The final scene was particularly moving as Constance, ill and dying in exile, hounded by her husband’s disgrace and torn by concern for her boys, wonders what her legacy will be – she hopes to be remembered for her literary and political work, and for her championing of the burgeoning women’s movement, but fears she will only ever be remembered as ‘Mrs Oscar Wilde’.
It was exactly this sidelined legacy that I was trying to challenge in ‘The Coward does it with a Kiss’ – published back in 1990 when there was less biographical information about Constance publicly available, and also consisting of a series of (fictional) letters, written in this case by Constance to Oscar. It’s so nice to see that the balance is now being redressed, both by Lexi Wolfe and also of course by Franny Moyles in her 2012 biography ‘Constance: the tragic and scandalous life of Mrs Oscar Wilde’ (which I’m ashamed to say I have yet to read – I shall remedy the situation over the summer, and post a review right here on Goodreads …)
I do love to see a neglected, invisible character given a voice, and looking back I can see that writing ‘The Coward’ gave me the confidence to tackle Anne de Bourgh in ‘Before Elizabeth – the story of Anne de Bourgh’ – a fictional character in this case of course, but a voiceless, sidelined one in ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
I’m hoping to republish ‘The Coward’ in the near future, but in the meantime there seem to be a few second-hand copies knocking around if anyone wants to give it a go! And do try and catch ‘Mrs Oscar Wilde’ if you get the chance to see a performance – it’s off to Leeds next I believe!

Jane Austen’s Bicentenary

Rohase's Bloggy Bits Posted on 15 Nov, 2017 18:31:27

Amongst her own contemporaries, Jane Austen was not regarded as a literary phenomenon. The rise of the female novelist in the late 18th – early 19th century is well documented, and Austen’s original readership would already be devouring the popular and often sensational works of Fanny Burney, Ann Radcliffe, Maria Edgeworth and Hannah More. This is not to imply that female writers were ten a penny, or that publishers were welcoming them with open arms – thirty years after Jane’s death, the Bronte sisters were still so fearful of the stigma attached to female authors that they published under male pseudonyms – but the precedent had been set, success had already been achieved by others, and while Jane Austen’s work was praised and admired, it wasn’t regarded as unique. Today however, when it could be said (and has been!) that female writers ARE ten a penny, she is definitely regarded as unique – a literary phenomenon still topping the bestseller lists two hundred years after her death.

The reason? Her characters. Psychologically believable and instantly recognisable, they’re unshackled by their historical context and still make perfect sense to us today. Look at it this way: while many of us may lament the fact that we’ve never encountered Mr Darcy, I’ll bet we all know a Mr & Mrs Bennet with teenage daughter Lydia (‘Pride and Prejudice’), a ditsy Marianne Dashwood convinced she’s met Mr Right when he’s obviously Mr Wrong (‘Sense and Sensibility’), a fussy, nervous, dependent father like Mr Woodhouse (‘Emma’), and a small-minded, manipulative Mrs Norris (‘Mansfield Park’). Austen’s characters, like Shakespeare’s, can and have been played in modern dress and language in present-day settings without having to change a single sentiment expressed or a single reaction to their situations. They’re utterly memorable because they’re utterly believable.

There’s one Austen character who seems to me to achieve this feat without being allowed one single word of dialogue: Anne de Bourgh, Lady Catherine’s ‘spoilt, sickly’ daughter from ‘Pride and Prejudice’. Fussed over by her former governess Mrs Jenkinson, Anne sits silent and lumpen while her mother holds court and Mr Collins pontificates, Elizabeth Bennet sparkles and Fitzwilliam Darcy smoulders and sulks. She is described as ‘pale and sickly; her features, though not plain, were insignificant’. Her mother assures the assembled guests that she would have ‘performed delightfully’ upon the piano ‘if her health had allowed her to apply’. She appears to speak not one word to Elizabeth Bennet or Maria Lucas during the whole of their visit to Kent, though on their final departure she ‘[exerts] herself so far as to courtesy and hold out her hand to both’. We are given no hint of her feelings towards her cousin and supposed fiance, Mr Darcy, who is courting Elizabeth under her very nose; his casual indifference towards her, however, is made abundantly clear.

The first time I saw Anne de Bourgh portrayed with any individuality on screen was by Moir Leslie in the 1980s BBC adaptation starring Elizabeth Garvie and Nicholas Rintoul. When Anne ‘holds out her hand’ to take leave of Elizabeth Bennet for the last time, she actually grasps her by the arm and looks into her eyes with timid longing, as though wishing she’d been able to pluck up the courage to make friends. That brief scene set me wondering – what would Anne’s story be, what perspective might she have on the courtship and eventual marriage of her cousin to this lively, witty usurper? What must her childhood have been like, with such an overbearing mother? What was her relationship with her late father? Why was she so sickly and delicate? What happened to her after Darcy and Elizabeth married? These were the questions that eventually led me to write ‘Before Elizabeth: The Story of Anne de Bourgh’, and which I’ve tried to answer as believably as possible in a writing style as close to Jane Austen’s own as I could make it. It takes the form of a diary, in which Anne looks back at her childhood and early youth, recalls her father, her cousins, her formative years, and tries to gain some insight into her own state of mind and situation. The ending I’ve imagined for her may come as a bit of a surprise … why not celebrate Jane Austen’s bicentenary with a delve into one of her most neglected characters?

Bromance/Womance Part 3

Charlie's Bloggy Bits Posted on 15 Nov, 2017 11:30:16

So, last time we noted that while an awful lot of women need and want to imagine romantic male bonding or Bromances, hardly any men, apparently, need or want to imagine romantic female bonding or Womances. Womances simply do not figure in their scheme of things.

On the other hand, the Bromance thing is vitally alive and functioning at full throttle, even among the non-novel reading youngsters of today. There’s a galaxy of Bromantic YouTube stars performing to a new generation of adoring females, hopefully demonstrating that males are rounded people whose secret lives (separate from their relationships with women) are warm and playful.

Side note: Funny, isn’t it, that in gay Bromance written by females, the protagonists must be monogamous and faithful to each other? Not surprisingly, I’ve come across several online comments to the effect that this does not at all reflect the norm for gay men. (I will say nothing of my observations in this field except – well, duh.)

Meanwhile, among male authors, we get the oft-noted tendency to narrate female characters in sexual terms, to see them exclusively as relating to male needs, to have them appear in dark or light versions of that Triple-Aspected Muse, Damsel/Vixen, Destroying or Loving Mother, Sexual Playmate/Whore.

Boiling it down, then: females write male characters as sensitive, monogamous and a little bit wild (but actually predictable); males write female characters as genuinely interested in sex and more compliant. Ah, l’amour.

OK, sit down. Have a cup of tea. It’s not like it’s come as a shock to us, is it?

But now let me do what I promised, let me look at the broader meaning of Romance. What we now think of as ‘Romance’ is not how it all began. Nowadays, a romantic story involves the complications of relationships, emotional rumination, tenderness, heartbreak, happy endings. It is also a much-devalued genre, dismissed out of hand by literary snobs and all that lot (I’ll leave you to guess why). Anyway, not so long ago, Romance was written by males, highly regarded and involved Courtly Love, noble ideals, chivalry and shipwrecks.

And it is the Courtly Love aspect that still comes into play here. I find this old idea relevant to my less-than-rigorous study of Bromance: in the tales of the Troubadours, the longing for an unattainable lady by a knight of valour was an ennobling passion which led him to go off and do wonderful deeds. There’s a lot more to it than that, of course; and don’t go running away with the idea that the ‘lady’ was necessarily female (see Susan Schibanoff’s ‘Mohammed, Courtly Love and the Myth of Western Heterosexuality’)

Anyway, in this tradition, the lover is deeply afflicted by a love verging on monomania. It can never be fulfilled – his ‘lady’(q.v.) is usually married or unattainable in some way. To consummate the relationship is to invite death; but, as Love’s Law transcends those of society, the lover is bound to pursue it or hang suspended between happiness and despair. The result is usually disastrous.

Well, clearly, this fits the bill for any number of doomed narratives of the Bromantic tradition. See ‘The Flight of the Heron’ by D.K.Broster, for example. My little theory is simply that the noble ideal of Courtly Love has not been ignominiously thrown off its pedestal and dragged into the backroom of history.

The slow evolution of more mutually respectful, realistic relations between the sexes has not deleted the need that drives Romance. But it is an ideal which doesn’t fit in with proactive, self-determining, modern females. Therefore, the circumstances which evoke the archetype are not so much traditional heterosexual liaisons any more.

Is it too fanciful to say that a variation upon Troubadour tradition has morphed out of the Middle Ages to reappear in modern female writing? I’m not talking about a direct descendant from a literary past – I’m talking about a psychological driver expressing itself anew.

I think that women are providing a version of Courtly Love for themselves through a new Bromantic twist on a very old tradition. And in this age of Trump, we need Bromance to reassure ourselves that, however tainted masculinity may become, there have always been – and always will be – males who transcend its toxicity. It’s now up to men to reclaim their right to write their own romance again.

Bromance/Womance part 2

Charlie's Bloggy Bits Posted on 15 Nov, 2017 11:25:26

Welcome to part two of my rather frivolous look at the phenomenon of straight women writing adoringly about platonic or not-so-platonic male romance a.k.a. Bromance.

In my effort to track down its meaning, I wanted to look at its mirror image i.e. straight men writing adoringly about platonic or not-so-platonic female romantic friendship. So first of all, I googled to find out what name it might have picked up in pop culture. What, I asked innocently, is ‘female equivalent of bromance’? What came up was lesbo, lesbianism, homance, womance, chickmance. Personally, I liked Womance. That’s clever. That’s why it’s at the top of the page.

But could I think of an example of it in literature? I racked my brains. I googled it and came up with long lists of literary female bonding. They were almost all written by women.

I could find plenty of examples of men writing about ‘women in relation to men’ – sometimes in sensitive, insightful ways; sometimes, alas, in derogatory, objectifying and demeaning ways. Check out this hilarious page at to show you how it works (if you didn’t already know).

But the fact is, I could not find anything which treated of a female friendship with the kind of serious regard, let alone the romantic homage, that happens the other way round. I know men tend not to write romance anyway, not in anything like the quantity that women write it … but I thought there must be something! I was looking for sweeping, deep, satisfying, written by a male about heroic female friendship – even if only one example.

I deliberately excused myself from searching ‘men writing about lesbians’, of course. I couldn’t think of a way to phrase it without opening the gates of hell. Anyway, I didn’t, you know, want to repeat what happened when my daughter’s cello string broke and I needed to source a new one and typed the word G-String into the search bar.

So I was disappointed – but not surprised – to realise that male writers do not coo and gurgle and puppify and squee about female friendships. In fact, they’re not really interesting for them. There are no spin-offs and prequels or sequels – no hopeful rewrites of ‘Emma’ from the point of view of Harriet, along the lines of Rohase Piercy’s ‘My Dearest Holmes’.

Disclaimer: If you think I’m tending to man-hating here, please note, I’m simply looking at a cultural phenomenon; and in fact I do love, admire and dote on countless male writers – I just want to put that in here, in case you think I just don’t like men – I do. I do love my sons!

Right, now we’ve got that out of the way. So. The question was begged, if men don’t write what could be styled ‘Womance’, how DO they write about just any old female friendship, the kind that happens when the male characters aren’t there and female characters aren’t discussing the hero? A memory surfaced of the creepy Miss Wade in ‘Little Dorrit’ who persuaded the orphan, Tattycoram, to run away with her.

And that was it – out of all those years studying Eng Lit and stuff. I am ashamed that I can’t think of anything else, and I know it shows I just haven’t read enough of the right books. Educate me, please. If you can think of anything, please suggest it in the comments below – promise I’ll read it.

Perhaps it is not in the printed word, thought I. Are we to look at ‘The Killing of Sister George’? That was a farce by Frank Markus, which became a film. The on-screen version entailed a more heavy-handed portrayal than he’d intended of the relationship between the two protagonists. They were clearly lesbian, but presented with creepy music and dysfunctional behaviour. (Incidentally, if you look up the original film poster, they managed to get a naked female form into Susannah York’s hair, didn’t they? But I digress.)

Are there more in Tellyland?– Cagney and Lacey, Rosemary and Thyme, Birds of a Fevver, Scott and Bailey (don’t ask me, I don’t watch TV). When I checked, incidentally, to see who did write those scripts, they were three-quarters female. Perhaps we can add Calamity Jane and Katie Brown singing ‘A Woman’s Touch’ and tidying up their little cabin? OK, I’ve stopped being serious now. But, sadly, I think that’s about as near as it gets.

So why DON’T males take the same interest in Womance as females do in Bromance? Is it simply that most Romance (as the genre is understood these days) is written by women? Or is it that the male 20% of mid-teen authors contributing their slashfic to the internet do not need to explore their feelings for the opposite sex in quite the protected, sane and safe online playground that their female teen equivalents do? In other words, could it be that the boys don’t feel quite so terrified of the girls?

Now, here I will just mention that that study on ‘Bromance’ I quoted from in Part 1 of this little series said that the chaps don’t feel as ‘judged’ by their boy friends, which is why they feel comfortable and cuddly with each other. Because of this fear of judgement, they prefer not to reveal the entirety of their experience to their girl friends or girlfriends.
I will just pop in a little quote from Wiki here: ‘Novelist Margaret Atwood writes that when she asked a male friend why men feel threatened by women, he answered, “They are afraid women will laugh at them.” When she asked a group of women why they feel threatened by men, they said, “We’re afraid of being killed.”’

On that rather sombre note, I will leave you till next time, when I’ll be asking myself questions about the nature of Romance.

Bromance/Womance part 1

Charlie's Bloggy Bits Posted on 15 Nov, 2017 11:23:06

From Achilles and Patroclus via Holmes and Watson to Frodo and Sam and beyond – with a multitude in between – Bromance is everywhere. But what do men think about it? Why do women like to write about it? And, by the way, where is the female equivalent in literature? What does it all mean?
This three-part (rather frivolous) discussion will look at these questions.
First: Bromance.
When I started thinking about this subject, I did wonder if the modern literary theme of male/male platonic bonding was an entirely female fantasy. There are an awful lot of women writing about it (guilty as charged, m’lud: see ‘A Case of Domestic Pilfering’. And, I wondered as a starting point, what does Bromance, as a fictional genre, mean to men? Is it something they welcome? Does it amount to a kind of demeaning objectification of males, akin to the ‘Male Gaze’ of the heterosexual male artist first defined by Laura Mulvey back in 1975?
First of all, is it a real thing?
Well, of course it is.
I came across a study into ‘The Bromance: Undergraduate Male Friendships and the Expansion of Contemporary Homosocial Boundaries’. It’s a small study in a small social group, but all these straight chaps were clear: “There was a conclusive determination from the men we interviewed. On balance, they argued that bromantic relationships were more satisfying in their emotional intimacy, compared to their heterosexual romances.”
There is no space here to discuss the limitations of this study, of course, and it doesn’t answer my question about whether men feel happy that Bromance features in many a fictional setting; but it does show that it’s a recognised social phenomenon.
In order to get a view on male opinion, it’s necessary to stray from ‘Bromance: Straight, Platonic’ to ‘Bromance: Gay, Sexual’ – and here there are online comments to show that gay men do not necessarily feel over the moon about being continually squee’d over, puppified or, indeed, represented as obsessed with buggery. They’re in the middle of daily political and personal struggles and although ‘cuteness’ probably is a soft power of social change, it is easy to understand a gay man’s outrage at having his sexuality co-opted and made to serve straight female needs . This is where the Female Gaze gets demeaning.
There are jungles of Slashfic out there (‘slash’ due to the ‘slash’ between characters’ name in a ‘ship’ e.g. Kirk/Spock) and to stray into them is to be … quite surprised by what the readers are writing and the writers are reading. Not least because this research shows that up to 80% of online fan fiction is written by females in the U.S. (57%) – the only country to come near that was the U.K. (9.2%) – and they’re in their MID-TEENS. Again, there’s no room here to discuss why that is: the age range is significant, I think, indicating perhaps that it’s a safe way for straight girls to explore their sexual feelings towards men (sometimes by projecting them onto gay couples).
However annoyed gay men feel about this, these online fandoms vocalise the romance in the bromance. Important as mainstream LGBTQ fiction has been, a lot of it (written both from the male and the female perspective) has tended to be Worthy and Political and therefore sometimes rather like chewing a bran-based breakfast cereal. You know it’s good for you but it is a little cardboardy; and the off-stage sound of Axes being Ground gets distracting.
Next time, I’m going to look at Womance – the almost non-existent phenomenon of straight men writing adoringly about relationships between female characters. Where’d it go?

The Fragrance of that Friendship …

Charlie's Bloggy Bits Posted on 15 Nov, 2017 11:19:54

Writing ‘The Compact’ took me to a lot of strange places, I can tell you. Not physically, of course. Though now I come to mention it, I have been to a lot of … well, to get back to the point of this blatantly promotional blog post, I just wanted to let you in on what happened.

So, there I was, resurrecting another lost story idea. I’d lobbed the manuscript into the big bin at the end of the street a few years previously. I was in a very dark place in my life and it seemed so far away, this self who used to write. Anyway, as I tried in this Year of Grace 2017 to remember how the story had once unfolded and who the characters were, I was having a little difficulty with one of the names: I came up with ‘Charles’, ‘Herbert’ and finally ‘Jerome’.

As things proceeded, it naturally happened that the occult theme of my story and the year of its setting, 1898, brought me face to face with a young Aleister Crowley. Crowley was only 22: just getting into his studies at that time and very far from becoming ‘The Beast 666’. He was initiated into the Order of the Golden Dawn in that year (and later, rising through the ranks like a comet, fought with everyone, split from them and went on to become what he became).

To my surprise, I found that in 1898, he was also deeply in love with a man called – wait for it – Herbert Charles Jerome Pollitt. See? I really felt that there was a synchronicity at work; and so, for better or worse (the reader will have to decide that), Mr Pollitt and Mr Crowley were volunteered to become characters in the book (and my original character’s name had to be changed from Jerome to George).

In real life, theirs was a short, intense romance. They met at Cambridge whilst Crowley was an undergraduate. Pollitt was 26 (though Crowley later thought – or pretended – that there was a ten year age difference). Pollitt had returned to give a performance at the Footlights Dramatic Club, of which he was president in 1896 and 1897. And Crowley met him and was smitten.

Pollitt was a remarkable amateur female impersonator – ‘a Rossetti woman come to life’. He could perform Loie Fuller’s Serpentine Dance ‘with all the charm and grace of a premier danceuse’, could sing and act with real ability; and commanded local renown. His notices in the newspapers regularly single him out: ‘The greatest praise must certainly be given to H.C.Pollitt who played the part of Diane de Rougy, the character having been especially written to allow of his excellent dancing. In the first scene of Act Two he gives a serpentine dance in a most finished and excellent manner.’ (The Stage, 14th June 1894).

Education at all levels was segregated in those days and so of necessity, in schools or universities, female roles were played by males. Doing so implied nothing about an actor’s sexuality. But Pollitt was a leading light not just on the stage but among the Aesthetes of Cambridge. He was a notable collector of the works of Aubrey Beardsley – being both an important patron and also a personal friend of that artist – and was even the inspiration for a novel by E.F.Benson, ‘The Babe, B.A.’

Through this relationship, Crowley came into contact with a world of glittering but dangerous decadence – the fall of Oscar Wilde, only two years before, had sent many gay British artists and writers to take refuge in the more tolerant society of France. But their stormy and passionate affair ran aground on the rocks of Crowley’s ‘white-hot’ obsession with his spiritual path. After only six months or so, they separated. The aftermath, however, is interesting.

For Crowley, this one romance – of all his many lovers and friends – seemed to become the defining passion of his life: ‘I lived with Pollitt as his wife for some six months and he made a poet out of me.’ He regretted the ending of that relationship for years and in his privately printed erotic writings often recalled their intimacy in various guises: ‘I had heaven in your kisses and I went to seek it in the cloister.’

A Perfectly Splendid Idea

Rohase's Bloggy Bits Posted on 15 Nov, 2017 11:15:16

From Rohase’s Goodreads blog:

‘I’ve just had a perfectly splendid idea’ announced Charlie a few weeks ago – ‘isn’t it thirty years next April since MDH was published?…’
Blimey, I thought, is it? I checked the publication date in my battered old scrapbook, where I keep various newspaper clippings and reviews pertaining to MDH and ‘The Coward Does It With A Kiss’ (including the famous ‘Sherlock Homo!’ article from The Sun), and there it was – ‘Published 14th April 1988’, courtesy of The Gay Men’s Press. That’s a whole generation ago …

… and how times have changed! I’ve written in earlier blogs about the reaction my modest offering received from the press, the Sherlock Holmes Society and the Conan Doyle Estate, so I won’t repeat myself here except to say that from a present-day perspective it all seems rather surreal – I wouldn’t expect to be asked on live radio in 2018 ‘why I had to drag this nasty little element of homosexuality into a perfectly normal friendship’; that ‘The Woofter of the Baskervilles’ would be suggested as a sequel in the popular press; or that I’d be accused of harbouring a ‘dangerous urge to update the past’ just because I’d written a (romantic, non-explicit) novel exploring the possibility that Watson was in love with Holmes. It’s unthinkable today … (isn’t it? I seem to recall that a mere seven years ago the Conan Doyle Estate brought pressure to bear upon Guy Ritchie & Co not to insert any ‘element of homosexuality’ into ‘A Game Of Shadows’ following the already rather camp overtones to his ‘Sherlock Holmes’).

Anyway be that as it may, a 30th Anniversary Edition is currently in production, and this means that Yours Truly is having to type up the whole thing from scratch since no file exists from those prehistoric times and all I have is the actual book. There’ll be some Extra Features – the exploratory essay about the Gothic and Decadent influences on Conan Doyle’s most famous character that I’ve already used as a basis for blogs, initially written soon after the book itself and finally published in the Baker Street Journal’s 2015 Winter edition, plus a brand new Foreword – but rest assured, the storyline remains unchanged. I wouldn’t and couldn’t interfere with a narrative that actually did seem, all those years ago, to unfold of its own accord, as though I really were discovering what John Watson, if not Arthur Conan Doyle had been wanting to write all along.

It’s an interesting experience, re-reading one’s own work from an older and wiser perspective. Not only am I unable to resist tightening up a line or two of clumsy dialogue, adding a word of explanation here or subtracting an annoying repetition there – well I guess I’m perfectly entitled to edit my own work as long as it doesn’t change the narrative – but I can also look at it with a critical eye, mindful of the comments and critiques of reviewers over the years.

‘Everyone in this book is gay!’ complained one reviewer back in the day. Well, there are heterosexual characters as well, surely?… Lord Carstairs in ‘A Discreet Investigation’ and, er … then in ‘The Final Problem’ there’s Mycroft, Moriarty, and (presumably) Mrs Hudson. That’s four straight characters. Too many? Oh, sorry, that wasn’t the problem… well, the difference between then and now is that now we have a Genre. Gay Romance, as a sub-heading of LGBTQ Fiction, if officially a Thing, and readers presumably know what to expect.

‘This book is just pieced together from old stories …’ well, duh, The Final Problem is supposed to be the unexpurgated version of ‘The Adventure of the Final Problem’ and its aftermath. But when it comes to ‘A Discreet Investigation’ – ‘there’s no real detective story here, it just hinges around the fact that Everyone is Gay.’ Ouch. Okay, so I’m not a crime fiction author. But I did think I’d managed to insert a bit of misdirection and an element of surprise … what with Miss D’Arcy … talking of whom, she’s aged twenty-nine, fair complexion, ‘fine light eyes’, who does that remind me of? Surely I wasn’t so vain as to try and put a self-description into my novel? Oh dear – the Arrogance of Youth. And here’s something you won’t know – I was very naughty with the name ‘Maria Kirkpatrick’. Hopefully the two people of whom she is an amalgam have never read the book. Or if they did, they’ve declined to comment, for which I am truly thankful.

If all that’s managed to whet your interest, there’s not that long to wait. April 2018. Put it in your diary, and think of me slaving away …


The Compact Posted on 15 Nov, 2017 11:10:22

· The Compact is a
Long Read (376 pages, 150,000 words approx.) It’s an LGBTQ
mystery/romance set in 1898, the London of Sherlock Holmes, with fictional
characters such as Dr Watson interacting with historical characters such as Aleister Crowley.

· The story is
a third person narrative; contains humour as well as Occult and Supernatural
themes. Other themes: obsession with beauty and youth; LGBTQ men and older
LGBTQ women in Victorian England; Goddess Inanna/ancient Sumer.

· Biographical
notes, bibliography and footnotes included.

· Non-explicit treatment of adult themes (appropriate to a crime/mystery story e.g.
murder, necromancy, dismemberment, rape).


The action at first focuses on Harriet Day and her dearest friend, Alexandra Roberts. These two
romantically-attached middle-aged women work hard to maintain respectable middle-class
independence in an era of female economic disadvantage. Things take a sinister
turn when Alexandra begins to fall under the influence of a fascinating,
manipulative and wealthy woman by the name of Minerva Atwell, provider of a range of marvellous skincare products
to the likes of Lillie Langtry and other society beauties.

Meanwhile, one of Alexandra’s
‘gentleman boarders’, the enigmatic, child-like actor, George Arden, is wrongly accused of murder. In terror, he flees for
his life. Harriet, desperate to help him, goes to the address shown on a
calling card George leaves her: a kindly doctor who once met George and took an
interest in his wellbeing. Thus a solo Dr
, whose poor health has prevented him from assisting his friend Sherlock Holmes in a mission to Russia,
becomes involved in attempting to prove George’s innocence. At the same time, a
young Aleister Crowley has quite a
different motive for wanting to secure the safety of the actor. Crowley’s flamboyant
lover, Jerome Pollitt, patron and
friend of Aubrey Beardsley and talented
amateur female impersonator, is drawn unwillingly into the plot (Crowley’s and
Pollitt’s relationship is respectfully explored in the course of the book).

Simultaneously, at her remote spa
hotel, Minerva begins to induct Alexandra into the mysteries of a certain
ancient clay tablet upon which she has long been brooding. As Alexandra falls
further under her dangerous influence, Watson and Crowley grudgingly team up to
investigate precisely why the punctilious crime reporter, Albert Burroughs, would choose to bear false witness against George
– and begin to discover a series of grisly secrets.

Available on, and Kindle from 18th November 2017. ISBN 978-1-9998901-0-0