Monday, February 19, 2007


The Day's Progress - Monday Edition

A decent day today, which is kind of surprising for a Monday. Covered more ground than I'd anticipated by adopting a kind of elliptical approach to some of the longer bits of dialogue, which is kind of narrative shortcut but works well with the faux-Victorian style of the voice. I'm looking forward to the (essentially) modern day section, "Millennium," which is set in 2000, when I can get away with a much looser narrative structure.

I note with distracted interested that the wordcount looks like some kind of numerical palindrome: 78987. Of course, it'll happen again at 80008, 81018, 81118, and so on, so it's hardly that surprising. You'll have to forgive me, I'm a little loopy on antihistamines.

I'm within a day or two of introducing all of the players in "Jubilee", after which point it'll be a question of killing them off, one by one, and revealing which one is the killer. These kinds of stories always seem to end up drenched in blood, don't they?
The next morning, Blank was awoken from a much needed and protracted slumber by someone ringing his front door bell. Pulling on a Japanese dressing gown of black silk embroidered with red and gold, making it the most colorful item of clothing in his current wardrobe, Blank left his sleeping chamber, crossed the library, and entered the foyer. Opening the door, he found a telegraph boy at the threshold, in a crisp brown uniform and matching cap, a leather satchel over his shoulder. The slip of paper the boy presented was from Superintended Melville, and in abbreviated words indicated that there had been a discovery in the early morning hours behind the Tivoli Music Hall that Blank was certain to find of interest.

Blank tipped the boy, shut the door, and returned to his bedchamber to bathe and dress. Melville had been circumspect in the details of his communiqué, but it was clear from reading between the lines that the so-called Jubilee Killer had likely struck again.

Without calling ahead to warn her, Blank knocked on the door of Number 9, Bark Place. When Mrs. Pool answered the door, a barely-concealed scowl of disapproval at finding him standing on the step, he said, “Kindly give these to your mistress,” and handed her the bouquet of long-stemmed white roses he’d purchased on the way. Tucked in between the stems, speared on one of the longer thorns was a card.

Mrs. Pool left Blank standing in the entryway, and in moments Miss Bonaventure was standing at the top of the stairs in a nightgown, the roses in one hand, the card in the other. “‘Miss Bonaventure, we are needed’,” she read aloud. She smiled. “Blank, why do I get the impression that your gift of flowers arrives with some strings attached?”

Mrs. Pool, scandalized at her employer appearing before gentleman caller in such a state of undress—practically naked—stuck her head out from around the corner and glared at them, before ducking back out of sight.

“Well, Miss Bonaventure, I’m afraid that I must interrupted your much deserved rest. It appears that our friend the Jubilee Killer has been busy.”

I hope that you use "Frying Pan Alley," one of my favorite street names in the East End.

from "In the heart of Clerkenwell, Frying Pan Alley was perhaps one of the worst of these refuges, with its densely packed houses, multiple twists and turns, overflowing dust bins and standing sewage. The narrow entrance into the alley measured a mere two feet, six inches—reportedly, barely wide enough to get a coffin out, even on its side. No wonder then that like Saffron Hill before it, Frying Pan Alley became in its turn a casualty of improvement.

In 1872, the Metropolitan Board of Works (MBW) began work on the street improvement scheme that would ultimately connect Oxford Street with Old Street. The wide swath that became Clerkenwell Road took out Wilderness Row, cut through St. John's Square (as Gissing bitterly notes in The Nether World), then passed through Red Lion Street and across the courts of Turnmill Street. Crossing Farringdon Road, the street continued through the densely populated areas of Hatton Garden and what remained of Saffron Hill. In 1877, the Times reported that the resonantly named streets of Lamb Court, Bit Alley, Rose Alley, and Frying Pan Alley “may now be numbered with the past.”

Have you read Will Thomas's Victorian historical mysteries? He's got a good feel for the grittier parts of London.
Hey, that looks like an awesome resource. I'll have to check it out. I've been using loads of stuff I've found online, like the Booth Poverty Map and the maps at Victorian, but as the plot has progressed the characters have actually only ventured into the East End once or twice, once to Whitechapel and once to the Limehouse, with most of the action confined to Westminster, Marylebone, Bayswater, and thereabouts. There may not be a way to work Frying Pan Allen into the mix, but I'll give it my best shot!

But I've not read Thomas's stuff, I'm afraid. I'll add him to my To Read list. Most recently I've been rereading The Picture of Dorian Gray, for reasons that will eventually become apparent.
There's no doubt that you've done your homework (original sources and period fiction), which sometimes is the most fun part of the work. I'm looking forward to this work. I suspect that you like me have to rein yourself in from putting in a million references (like ... oh, The Library of St. John the Beheaded from Andy Lane's Dr. Who novel, All-Consuming Fire).
I sometimes think that the research and outlining phases are the most enjoyable parts of the process, which is probably why I spend an inordinate amount of time at them. And yes, I have indeed had to resist the temptation to slip in all sorts of references, but I console myself in knowing that I can just do another Wold Newton-esque short story for Lofficier's Shadowmen anthos when I finish up, which helps keep those temptations at bay!
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