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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 Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com 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?



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 …