Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Spotted in the Wild

Just back from a weekend of frolics, wine and conversation at 2016's Fantasycon by the Sea in Scarborough, a town of shabby-chic Edwardian charm with a fantastic coastline and some, er, interesting after-dark streetlife. The Grand Hotel made for a highly sociable venue in a spectacular clifftop location. Dining options on the doorstep, and some fine autumn sunshine for those moments where you just had to take time out and wander. I had a great time meeting up with friends old and new.

There was no single dealers' room, as such, more a bazaar that spilled through small rooms and passageways off a corner of the main hall. I'm pretty sure I didn't get to see everything, but I did get my first-ever sighting of the new hardcover in its finished form. PS Publishing regularly handles UK distribution of Subterranean titles and had rushed a stack of advance copies expressly for the convention. So, many thanks to all involved, with further thanks to those who bought out the stack!

A damn handsome piece of book production, if you ask me. I couldn't be more pleased. The hardcover editions of both The Kingdom of Bones (Shaye Areheart Books) and The Bedlam Detective (Crown) were something to behold, and this new title equals and, dare I say it, surpasses them. Subterranean also holds ebook rights for US territories, details of which can be found here. I'll have paperback news in due course.

Monday, 11 July 2016

New Readers Start Here!


The Kingdom of Bones, Stephen Gallagher, Shaye Areheart Books, New York, 368 pp, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-307-38280-1.

Set primarily in the England of the 1880s but also in 1903 Philadelphia and New Orleans, Stephen Gallagher’s The Kingdom of Bones is part murder mystery, part occult thriller, and part loving re-creation of a bygone era.  Someone has been killing poor children, and Detective Inspector Sebastian Becker believes ex-boxing champion Tom Sayers has something to do with the slayings.  After an understated opening, the novel kicks into high gear when Sayers escapes arrest and tries to clear his name by finding the real killer. In a move by Gallagher that will delight genre fans, Sayers enlists the help of Bram Stoker. This leads Sayers into a world of possible occult influence and secrets that will change his life forever.  Throughout the novel, Gallagher’s careful, restrained writing creates great tension and surprise.  Sebastian as the pursuing detective is convincing, but Gallagher’s careful, often brilliant characterization of Sayers is The Kingdom of Bones’ main touchstone.

(Review, Realms of Fantasy magazine)

Monday, 27 June 2016

Flash Sale! Half Off Preorders!

Until close of business on Tuesday, June 28th (that's tomorrow at the time of posting), Subterranean Press are (is?) running a half-off sale on preorders including The Authentic William James.

The Subterranean edition is limited to 1,000 signed and numbered copies at a list price of $40.00. Until the sale ends tomorrow that's cut to $20.00.

Other titles in the sale include China Mieville's This Census-Taker, and Robert Silverberg's Early Days.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

The Working Methods of Bram Stoker

British film and TV indie Zenith Productions took an option on The Kingdom of Bones ahead of publication, and financed its development under the title Victorian Gothic.

When Zenith went bust, the BBC's Drama department took over development. After a year of collaborative work they put the completed scripts before the BBC1 Controller as a so-called 'flagship' production for the coming season.

The then-Controller was a former producer from BBC Sport. After six months an exasperated Head of Drama spoke of repeated attempts to get a response of any kind out of him; after which the option expired and the rights came back to me.

But along the way, I'd been supported in a terrific program of travel and research, following the progress of the Lyceum Company's 1903 American tour, scouting locations and accumulating historical texture. As well as taking notes, every night I'd tape a summary of the day's findings and observations for later transcription and use.

A Twitter question from author and critic Anne Billson caused me to delve into the notes again. It concerned the dust jacket, or lack of one, on the first edition of Dracula.

I knew I'd seen a dustjacketed copy among Bram Stoker's working papers in Philadelphia's Rosenbach Museum. Some of the observations from that day seemed worth repeating.

TUESDAY, 9TH JUNE

I've spent the large part of today in the Rosenbach Museum consulting not only the collection of working papers for DRACULA, but also taking a look at the two first editions of the books that they have in their collection. The catalogue also listed some Lyceum-related related correspondence, which turned out to be of no direct value. But the two first editions were interesting, and I made a point of measuring the dimensions of the book and also taking fairly detailed notes of the jacket design in case we don't have any other reference material to recreate the first edition in facsimile. They had two copies, one fine with a crumbling dust jacket, and the other jacketless and in not such good condition. But what was so interesting about the second book was that that was the inscribed copy given by Stoker to Lord Tennyson. This must presumably have been Hallam Tennyson, son of the poet, as the laureate died in 1892 and the inscription was dated 1897. I couldn't help noticing as I flicked through it that in at least one place the pages hadn't been cut, so it would seem that Stoker presented it to Tennyson, and Tennyson never read it.
(I can't check because the notes are now archived along with my own working papers at my old University, but my recall is that the dust jacket carried the same design as the printed boards underneath. The paper was a buff colour that may have faded from its original shade)
It's clear from the papers that Stoker had a working method which I find very recognisable. He wrote structurally at first, in extremely small handwriting so that you could take in as much as possible at a glance. When he'd worked out his chapter structure, he did a little calculation on the wordage to get some estimate of what his final length was going to be if he were to average 6,000 words per chapter. Then he started expanding, allocating a different sheet of paper to each chapter, with a jotted summary of notes on each. Then his research took two forms; one was background research in which he derived notes from books and also interviews, like the interview with the coastguard at Whitby where he apparently persuaded the man to transcribe the incident of the Russian boatwreck from the coastguard's log. This became the foundation for the wreck of the Demeter in the book. He persuaded him to transcribe it in his own hand, and the transcription was appended in the file. Stoker made location atmosphere notes, like a set of jottings from Whitby where he noted the weather and the view, and the fact that from the top of the cliff he could see two brass bands playing, one on the pier and one in the town. Neither could be heard by the other, but both could be heard from above.

Also recognisable in technique was the single pencil stroke that went through each of the different chapter summaries, or individual quotes or thoughts or concepts which, at a guess, he struck out of his notes as he used them in the manuscript so that he wouldn't fall into the trap of reusing them later on.

One can actually see on one of the small pages the point at which the book changed, or at least the character changed, from the original generalised evil figure to the specific of Count Dracula, because on the list of dramatis personae he's listed as Count Wampyr, which is crossed out, and then the word `Dracula' put in its place, and then the name `Dracula' or `Count Dracula' appears again on the page at least three times, written in the corners as if Stoker was playing with it and repeating it, and getting comfortable with it at a very late stage. In subsequent notes, where he's writing structurally, he lapses in a couple of places, and writes `Count Wampyr', immediately striking it out and putting in the name of Dracula. And then after the first half dozen lines or so, he settles into the steady use of `Dracula' with no need for amendments.

There are some interesting clues and images that never got included in the final book which, given that we're looking for Ur-Dracula material, it would be nice to draw upon and include. These include the two servants, the silent man and the deaf-mute woman, that Dracula was originally given, and which correspond very closely to the existing VICTORIAN GOTHIC idea of the two acolytes that transfer their allegiance to whoever holds the title. There's a detective named Cotwood, and there are several references to a charred and bloodied secret chamber somewhere in Dracula's London house, which would correspond interestingly to the notion of a similar chamber that (in my own story) Louise maintains in America.

Stoker had a very strict schedule for the events of the book, as can be seen by the fact that he had a complete set of pages taken from a desk diary which he dated and then mapped out the various events on, taking into account all travel times, and even the times it would take for letters to travel from one place to another.

One of the items in the file betrays the place that Stoker stayed on a touring visit to Philadelphia, because he used notepaper from the Stratford Hotel. The address given for the Stratford Hotel is on the south west corner of Broad and Walnut Streets. That site appears today to be occupied by the Bellevue Hotel, and in the postcard photographs of the time, and also in the Shackleton book on old Philadelphia, and in the endpapers of the Lukacs book where sheep are being seen driven down Broad Street. . . in all of those pictures and by the map, the Stratford would appear to be what is presently the Bellevue Hotel. But the one picture of the Stratford Hotel frontage clearly showing its canopy and sign fails to correspond with the architecture.

Just going back to the diary schedule for a moment, something that never made it into the book, but which Stoker clearly planned to include before he revamped and cut the preamble and shortened the opening, was that as part of his journey from Britain to what was then marked in as Styria, and which later became Transylvania, Jonathan Harker was intended on April 30th to attend a performance of Wagner's opera of The Flying Dutchman, probably in Munich, possibly in Vienna, as there's some discontinuity in the datings from the end of April to the beginning of May. And this, even if it isn't of practical use, is an encouraging revelation of the extent to which the Dutchman and related legends powered the imaginative drive of Dracula.

The typed background research notes are curious. They're in strange blue ink on two different kinds of paper, one very thin and the other heavy-duty watermarked paper. There are gaps in these, into which handwritten insertions of the missing words have been placed. What's curious about these only emerges when you combine it with the fact that there are some errors in the typing that can only be phonetic - the substitution of `finding' for `fining', for example - which would seem to suggest that the typing was done from dictation. But if it was done live from dictation, then why the gaps? One would simply ask for repetition. Shorthand seems an unlikely option for the same reason. Why would it be copy typed from handwriting when nothing else was? (Christopher) Frayling has suggested that they were typed up for later sale, but these have the look of notes made for use; they carry handwritten additions and amendments. One possible option that suggests itself, for which I'm not aware of there being any other evidence, is that perhaps Stoker was using a very early dictation machine, exactly in the manner that he describes in the diary entries of Dr Seward.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Now Ordering


The cell door swung open, and for the first time Sebastian found himself facing William James.

Arsonist. Mass murderer. Madman.

The cell's only furniture was a wooden cot at its far end. A thin grey blanket covered it. William James sat on the edge of the cot, shackled at the ankles, elbows on his knees, head bowed. Both hands and forearms were so heavily bandaged that they more resembled blunted clubs than human limbs. He didn't look up or show any reaction as Sebastian entered. The cell door was slammed and relocked behind him.

Sebastian waited a moment. Then he said, "William James? My name is Sebastian Becker. Do you know where you are?"

Nothing.

Had he even heard? The prisoner was not in a good state. He had a waistcoat but no jacket, and his shirt collar was missing. The waistcoat was buttoned, his shirt sleeves ripped to the elbow.

"Do you know where you are?" Sebastian repeated.

Slowly, William James looked up.

The face was blank; not especially handsome, not memorable, nor unpleasant. The face of a clerk, a father, an average man. The eyes held on Sebastian with a dazed expression. Was he rational? The lack of any spark might be a temporary result of shock at the consequences of his deed. It could also be a sign of some deeper mental detachment.

Sebastian was about to repeat his question yet again when William James nodded, slowly.

"Say it," Sebastian insisted.

"I'm in a police station."

"Do you know why?"

But James seemed to gain some further measure of awareness, as if Sebastian had just now awakened him from a sleep and his memories were falling back into place.

He said, "Is my daughter safe?"

"I don’t have any information on that. Someone will tell you when they know."

"When I ask," William James said, "they laugh and abuse me."

Sebastian was watching him closely. Though he worked for a psychiatrist, he made no pretence of being one. He was here to report evidence of madness, not to attempt to diagnose it. That was for others to determine, just as courts would decide the man's guilt.

Sebastian said, "They believe you set the fire in the theatre. Are they right? Did you?"

William James met his gaze. "I don’t know," he said.

"Can’t you remember?"

It seemed not. "If you say I did it, perhaps I did."

"That’s not how this works. I have to assess your state of mind."

"Are you a doctor?"

"No."

William James held up his bandaged hands. The strips of linen were soiled and stained. Not with blood, but with the clear fluid of weeping burns. The attention they'd received was rudimentary, and he'd been imprisoned like this for hours. Sebastian winced inwardly at the thought of the skin underneath.

"My hands hurt," James said.

"You should be in a hospital. They couldn’t risk taking you through the crowds. Do you understand why?"

"They want to kill me."

"Quite possibly."

William James looked up at him again.

"You should let them," he said.

The Authentic William James will be published on September 30th, 2016, in a hardcover edition of 1,000 signed and numbered copies. Available worldwide. Click here to preorder.

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Signature Pages

I'm taking a break from signing pages for the limited edition. A thousand copies. The only way to get it done is to pace yourself.


All signatures are made in sepia ink with a handmade Bortoletti dip pen, using either a Murano glass tip or a reconditioned vintage steel nib. It's given me a healthy respect for old-style penmanship, which this - I fear - is not.

But while I don't have the best hand in the world I'm making an effort to ensure that every signature will be recognisable to some degree, if not entirely legible. There's a notion among some writers that any kind of mark on a book will do. My feeling is that if a reader's making the extra outlay, then they're due the value.

So it's taking a little while, fitting it in around everything else. But the end's in sight.


Tuesday, 3 November 2015

More William James

There's no official announcement yet, but it's probably OK to tell you that the first hardcover edition to hit the market will be a signed limited from Subterranean Press in 2016. Other editions to follow.


I've been through the proofs, and the interior's a lovely piece of design in tune with the novel's 1913 setting.

The handbill in the sidebar isn't the actual cover. That's in hand, and I'll post something on it when I'm able.


Monday, 20 July 2015

The Authentic WIlliam James

I know it's been a while coming but I just signed the US contract for this, the third Becker book. More details soon.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Welcome to The Bedlam Detective, which collects together Sebastian Becker-related postings and material from my main blog, Hauling Like a Brooligan.

In other news, this new edition of The Bedlam Detective. "Only bad thing about his books is that they eventually end. Brilliant." (Jonny Lee Miller)


Monday, 16 February 2015

When The Kingdom of Bones first came out in hardcover, I was invited to blog about it for The Page 69 Test. This was the result...

As a teenager I had a fascination with old-time Penny Dreadfuls and turn-of-the-century thrill fiction. Tom Sayers was a leading character in one of those old story papers, The Marvel. Loosely – very loosely – based on an actual historical figure, the fictional Sayers was your classic Victorian hero. Clean-living, morally upright, and with a hero's enviable physical prowess.

Tom Sayers lead story in The Penny MARVEL, Saturday, March 12th, 1010
These were the unsung narratives of the Age of the Great Storytellers. They gripped the masses, but they weren't made to travel. Haven't you ever bought the DVD set of a TV show you used to love, and realised with a twinge of sadness that what you're experiencing isn't pure joy, but rather that joy remembered?

It takes more than just the old material to recreate a form. My ambition with The Kingdom of Bones was to take the characters, settings and narrative pacing of those old stories, and to bring them to new life with the kind of themes and complex psychology that we look for in modern fiction.

Page 69 of the novel finds Police Superintendent Turner-Smith, "a formidable figure with a broad white moustache, a war wound and a walking-stick", in the back room of a public house. He's here to meet a man whom he believes to be Tom Sayers. The year is 1888 and the setting is the North West of England. Sayers is a former prize-fighter who's given up the ring, and now serves as the business manager to a small touring theatrical troupe.

Unbeknownst to Turner-Smith, the man across the table is an impostor. The real Tom Sayers is in the theatre next door, watching his company perform. What's about to take place will deprive Sayers of his good name and his liberty, with consequences that will pretty much destroy any future he might have hoped for with the woman he loves.
Turner-Smith considered the man before him for a moment, and then decided that he could speak as one gentleman to another. They were more likely to have interests in common than in conflict.
    “Take a look at this, please, Sayers,” he said, and placed before him one of the pasted-up sheets that suggested a link between paupers that had been mutilated without apparent motive, and the stage company’s progress around the country.
    The other man read for a while, and then glanced up.
    “Some of our less notable receptions.”
    “The dates, Mister Sayers. Look at the dates.”
    He read on for a while. Then he sat back in the attitude of a man conceding an argument that had already been won. “This is very revealing,” he said.
    And Turner-Smith, who for the past minute had been given the opportunity for a closer study of his visitor, said, “Are you by any chance wearing greasepaint, Mister Sayers?”
    The man threw the paper onto the table between them.
    “Ah,” he said. “There you have me.”
    Under the table, Turner-Smith reached out for his sword stick. He took care not to signal his intention. “Yet you are not listed on the playbills among the actors,” he said.
    “Very true.” The man smiled. “I can see that you are too good a detective for me, superintendent.”
    A few moments later, the man rose from the booth and walked out of the saloon. The four commercial travellers in the next booth were laughing so hard at a story that none of them noticed his departure. One took a draught from his mug and leaned back in his seat, only to splutter it out all over the table.
    His fellows were slow to catch on. Their humour ebbed, where his had vanished in a flash.
    “What the devil?” he said. “Something pronged me!”
    And he turned in his seat to find out what it was.
Even though the story's main character is offstage in this scene, I should imagine that the page makes for a reasonable taster of the novel as a whole. I've always reckoned that the best way to test out a book is to pick a random paragraph or two; at the very least, they'll give you a sense of whether you connect with the author's voice. In this case I'd hope that page 69's combination of history, greasepaint and villainy will give any prospective reader a fair idea of what lies ahead. 
Subterranean Press is a Michigan-based publishing house best known for high-end hardcovers and limited editions, mostly covering horror, fantasy, suspense, and SF.

Their stuff really stands out. Probably because the list is editorially-led in the old school fashion; publisher William Schafer is guided by his own taste and enthusiasms, and he's built up relationships with many – I'd even say most – of the top names in genre fiction.

Subterranean also publishes regular short fiction in the form of the quarterly Subterranean Magazine. The Spring 2014 issue contains One Dove, a new story of mine featuring The Bedlam Detective's Sebastian Becker.

And the fiction content in the online version is free. You don't have to register, sign in, or even endure advertising.

Yep, I find it hard to get my head around, too.

But there it is; all you have to do is point your browser to the Subterranean website and click on the Subterranean Online tab. You'll get direct access to the content of the current number, and to all of the back issues you'll find there.

Or you could cheat and click here to go straight to One Dove.


No, I don't plan to quote every review I get - not least because it's asking for trouble and an inevitable eventual slap from someone somewhere - but thanks to Pamela O'Sullivan for making my weekend with this contribution to The Library Journal.
Gallagher, Stephen. The Bedlam Detective. Crown Pub. Group. Feb. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780307406644. $25.

Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, January 13, 2012

Sebastian Becker is a special investigator for the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy — a detective who studies whether various wealthy individuals are of sound mind and capable of conducting their own affairs. He is assigned to investigate a rich landowner, but his arrival in the man’s small town coincides with a double murder for which the subject of his visit seems a likely suspect. As he works to ferret out the truth, Becker must find a way to distinguish the real monsters from the imaginary ones. The story moves easily between present and past events, leading to a conclusion that is as perfectly logical as it is surprising.

Verdict Intricately drawn characters, carefully shaded depictions of events and situations, and an excellent sense of pacing mark this latest offering from Gallagher (The Kingdom of Bones; Nightmare, with Angel). This is a real page-turner, and fans will hope to see more of Sebastian Becker in the future. It may also attract readers who enjoy historical thrillers in the Caleb Carr tradition.
They don't sign the notices over at Kirkus Reviews so I don't know how better to describe this one for The Bedlam Detective...
"Gallagher has been called a horror writer, a fantasy writer, a non-fantasy writer, a writer for big screens and smaller ones, a writer whose considerable talent has enabled him to slip in and out of genres precisely as if those tidy little boxes didn't exist - as indeed they don't for his character-driven books. In this one, Sebastian Becker (The Kingdom of Bones, 2007, etc.), his fast-track career abruptly derailed, contemplates an uncertain future...[snip]

...Gallagher loves character development but respects plotting enough to give it full measure. The result is that rare beast, a literary page-turner."
The full review is online and you can read it here.

The Bedlam Detective reviewed by Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times:
"Gallagher’s detective is a man of fine character and strong principles, but he’s upstaged by the monsters he pursues. Watching Becker track down a pedophile is gratifying, but it can’t beat the sight of 20 overburdened boats hurtling through white-water rapids or Sir Owain, armed to the teeth and blasting away at giant serpents only he can see."
That complete review here.

Thanks to Bill Schafer at Subterranean Press for forwarding this Publishers Weekly starred review:
Fiction The Bedlam Detective. Stephen Gallagher. Crown, $25 (256p) ISBN 978-0-307-40664-4
Set in England in 1912, this masterful whodunit from Gallagher (Red, Red Robin) introduces Sebastian Becker, a former policeman and Pinkerton agent who now works as the special investigator to the Masters of Lunacy, looking into cases involving any “man of property” whose sanity is under question. His latest assignment takes him to the small town of Arnmouth to determine whether Sir Owain Lancaster has gone around the bend. Lancaster returned from a disastrous trip to the Amazon, which claimed the life of his wife and son, only to attribute the catastrophe to mysterious animals straight out of Doyle’s The Lost World. Lancaster believes that the creatures that plagued him in South America have followed him home, and are responsible for the deaths of two young girls, a theory supported by a local legend of a beast of the moor. Gallagher’s superior storytelling talents bode well for future adventures starring the well-rounded Becker. Agent: Howard Morhaim. (Feb.)
And finally, from The Historical Novel Society:
"It’s certainly a thriller, but with a literary depth unusual in the genre, and fascinating in the complexity of its construct. Gallagher’s prose is swift, sure, and occasionally darkly comedic. Excerpts from Lancaster’s fantastical account are interspersed with historical Amazonian reports, adding to the mystery a compelling tale of jungle survival and all the fantastical steampunk appeal of a Jules Verne or Rider Haggard story... Three words of advice: read this book."
You may care to consider this handsome pair as a stocking-filler for the fan of Victorian crime now pining away there in the corner. I've seen a surprise surge in the Amazon sales over the past few days, with new stock on the way. Don't let that deter you from supporting your local bookshop, if you have one, and if they stock the titles. A third Becker book is well in hand, and there's an upcoming story in Subterranean Magazine that picks up the chronology from the end of The Bedlam Detective.



And from our Colonial cousins, this equally handsome pair: