If it takes a historian to bring an exciting but little-known character back to life, the historical novelist can imagine them a new one. But how does this work, and what are the pitfalls? Continue reading
I recently finished a novel of the historical hue, called Killing Beauties. Set in 1655/6, slap bang in the middle of the interregnum, when Cromwell was Lord Protector of England (and brutaliser of Ireland, amongst other places) and Charles II was in exile, the book follows the adventures of two women, Susan Hyde and Diana Jennings, both of whom were she-intelligencers, or spies with broad portfolios. Continue reading
Here are two samples of my dramatic work, Bowling at the Death and Shakespeare Must Die!, written for the radio and stage respectively. You never know, you might find them amusing.
Bowling at the Death is a play for the radio rather than the stage, and it based around the great game of cricket. The protagonist is a batsman denied his first century by what he considered a wild miscarriage of justice at the hands of the umpire. The ‘outrageous’ LBW decision to which he he falls victim unleashes years of pent-up jealousy and fury, with murderous results.
Shakespeare Must Die! is a response to the slew of conspiracy theories surrounding the authorship of William Shakespeare’s plays. The most common idea is that the plays were truly written by Christopher Marlowe, who subsequently faked his own death in order to escape censure at the hands of the authorities for his many and various sins, and that Shakespeare was a cloak. The play takes as its premise that Shakespeare is in fact being employed by a shady cabal to write political works under the name Christopher Marlowe. An altercation in a public house leads to a fundamental shift in the playwright’s firmament.
The lights started to come back on. At first they were incandescent bursts which ripped through her unconsciousness before fading back into darkness. Then, slowly, the bursts became less violent, longer-lived, until she began to see.
The pain at the back of her neck was sharp, visceral and raw, and yet this pain seemed to lie on top of a dull, heady ache. She rubbed at it with the palm of her hand and winced as the pain increased, intensified, sharpened.
She pulled herself up onto her knees groggily and looked at her hand. There was blood. A wipe of fresh, glistening blood alongside the crust of the earlier bleed which her hand had disturbed. Her head hit the floor hard as the lights went out once more. Continue reading
[following pt 4]
‘The feed from one of our drones.’ Tamarind restarted the video. The voice was metallic. Dead. But very, very alive.
‘Haha! Got another! That’s seventeen … it’s a personal best! Let’s try … a clusterbomb! … Wheeeeeeeeeeee! Look at that one! He burst! Running man? Stop running … yes, no legs stops you running … selfie! …’ Continue reading
[following pt 3]
‘So. The baby. Richard’s?’ Began Terri. She ploughed through Tamarind’s protest. ‘It isn’t the first, and won’t be the last …’
‘I’m here to speak with Richard, not discuss my private life.’ And let him go, he’s just not interested, she almost added.
Terri stood up as the door opened and Richard walked in. ‘You girls best friends yet?’ Terri left the room. Richard stared at the door as it shut heavily behind her, its automatic closing device thwarting her attempt at a dramatic slam. ‘Who got her goat?’
‘You did. Some time ago, I shouldn’t wonder.’
‘Ok. Tamar. It is Tamar, right? I may be arrogant, overbearing and think all this Gaia stuff is a load of old … but I’m not stupid. You’re no hippychick. And that’s no baby. What gives?’ He sat and poured himself a large glass of red wine. Continue reading
[following Pt 2]
‘Dr. Woods’, Terri interjected, just a little piqued at how she had suddenly lost his attention.
‘No. Richard is my name. And you are …?’
‘Starchild, meet Dr Richard Woods’.
The expected words didn’t materialise. Richard breathed a sigh of relief. He leant down, putting his face to the child’s. It was strangely still.
‘Hello Starchild. I’ll bet your daddy’s proud of you!’ Tamarind shot him a look.
Richard froze, but the cloud passed.
‘I know how this is going to sound’, she began … Continue reading
[following on from Pt 1]
‘… and so the natural state of being, of a being, is being in love. To be sentient is to love. Cogito, ergo amore. Thank you.’
The audience broke out into warm applause peppered with shouts of ‘yeah!’, as the twenty-minute period for questions finally ended an hour behind schedule. As he was led off the dais, the speaker was engrossed in animated conversation with the event’s organiser, his words illustrated with small but intense gestures.
‘… but I’m preaching to the converted here, Terri. It’s all well and good but there’s very little this lot can do.’
Terri bridled slightly as he took her by the arm. ‘But we’re doing workshops, holding consciousness awareness days, then there’s the … ‘ She was waved silent. Continue reading
The sound from the live feed stunned the room into silence, reducing its temperature by a good three degrees. Dave Baker, operative third class, was overwhelmed by a visceral surge of impotence. Even his colleagues comprehended that what they had just witnessed was beyond special, beyond even unique; it was the future. And it didn’t seem to like them that much.
‘What the actual fuck?
The words dripped from Dave’s open mouth.
‘You have got to be kidding me.’ He sat heavily into his seat, utterly defeated.
Want to read more?
Today, as part of a rather odd writing event, I wrote the following piece, from a standing start, in six minutes. The prescription was as follows: Agatha, Matt, and the five senses. This is utterly unedited, and sold three books:
‘Stop, look, listen’, said Agatha, as she felt young Matt tug on his reins. For his part, he had been humming the Marseillaise for some time now, a tune whose second verse, with its furrows of blood, was not to Agatha’s taste. What’s more, she was increasingly aware that her son was feeling the effects of a rather excessive intake of fruit juice on the bus. Not only were his hands sticky, but his hum was turning into a whine, like wine becoming vinegar, and she began to imagine the smell of the bus’s diesel fumes being infused with his piss.
Without willing it, her hands dropped the reins as she felt the hand on her shoulder and the whisper in her ear. A split second was all it took. The scream of a passer-by mixed in with the screech of brakes like two flavours of ice cream melting in the sun. She smelt burning rubber. Her heart stopped. There was silence. She felt the heat of her jeans spread as she turned to look.
There, looking directly at her was her son. Unharmed. She stepped forwards to envelop him in her arms, scoop him up to safety.
She didn’t see the lorry. She didn’t hear the lorry. She didn’t feel the lorry. But she smelt fear, and tasted death.