My current work-in-progress (my 25th novel, no less) is a murder mystery set in Victorian London. A Jack-the-Ripper type is at large, carving up prostitutes, but is there more to the killer than meets the eye? And what of the enigmatic Doctor Hoo and his arcane experiments?
The book has elements of horror and the macabre, and more than a hint of steampunk but, as with all my other books, it’s the humour that rules the roost.
Here’s a snippet from the opening chapter in which our narrator, Damien Deacus, finds himself in a tight spot…
I pounded my fists on the underside of the coffin lid. It did not budge. Neither did it make a hollow sound.
Crap, I thought. I’m buried alive.
I lay still and wondered how long I would have to wait this time, casting my mind back to the last thing I could remember before my death – before my ‘supposed’ death.
A hospital. Well, more of a dumping ground, really, for the sick and infirm of old London Town. The place had been packed, crammed to the rafters, with people in need – and the din! It was like Bedlam – which was across the road. The doctors couldn’t cope. It was all they could do to provide enough space for the poor bastards to get horizontal. And they was all poor – of course they was. No one with any money would be seen dead in a place like that.
I reckoned it had been about mid-afternoon when I was pronounced (presumed!) dead. That meant another few hours until dusk and then a few more until midnight. Doctor Hoo would probably wait until then before he came to retrieve his employee.
Mind you, I don’t know how long I’ve been out, I reflected. I’d taken the powder like he told me – I could still take its vile bitterness – and let it work its magic. I can only assume Doctor Hoo had strode in, cloak swirling, and imperiously demanded the urgent removal of the corpse. Contamination, he would have said, along with a few other big words. The fellow must be interred with the utmost urgency.
And they, the overworked doctors and nurses, would have been impressed by his haughty manner, his implacable features, his hundred-yard stare. More than anything they would be glad of one less poor bugger to think of, one less drop to worry about in this ocean of human misery.
The rozzers might even have heard about my demise by now… I couldn’t help smiling, even in my coffin – There’s not many people what can say that, is there? They can cross me off their list of wanted men. I am free!
Well, apart from the whole being-shut-up-in-a-coffin thing, but that was only a temporary inconvenience.
No, Damien, I warned myself. You take it easy. Doctor Hoo has come through for you yet again and all you have to do now is lie back, get some kip maybe, and try not to think of how full your bloody bladder is right now…
It was easy to doze off. The powder was still in my system. I could only hope I wouldn’t piss myself while I slept.
Hurry up, Doctor Hoo! Get me out of here!