Around three years ago, I attended a writers retreat at the Elms Spa in Missouri, just a few miles north of Kansas City. After sampling a few beverages from the bar on Saturday night, I awoke suddenly at 3.00am, sitting bolt upright with a complete novel mapped out in my head. A brand new one.
I sat sweating in bed, my wife Karla sleeping beside me, and carefully examined my memory. The whole book lay before me; names, characters, plot, and the crazy plot twist at the end, making it into quite the adventure. Shaking I looked at the red glow of the bedside clock, knowing that I couldn’t take out my laptop, as it would disturb Karla. I would have to stay awake all night and wait until a more respectable hour.
Of course… I fell asleep again.
I jolted awake, the red numbers now saying 7.30, and a slit of light breaking through the heavy curtains.
Cautiously, I searched my mind, and to be sure, the novel was still there!
I grabbed my laptop, a couple of Twix’s, and raced downstairs to the expansive tiled lobby and began to write.
I got 1500 words done before my fellow writers sleepily joined me. I’d done a synopsis and the opening sequence… they all marveled at my work.
That’s how the Clockwork Killer began.
But of course, I had an existing schedule, and slotted my dream-book away for another time. Then a colleague suggested a steampunk twist, and it gave me the spark of encouragement I needed. Two months of word-crunching, and I had a 70,000 word novel completed to my satisfaction.
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Francis Smalling is a young fledgling scientist, forced to oversee the family orchard when his father fails to return from the Civil War. He witnesses the brutal slaying of his older sister, and is somewhat disillusioned by the standard of local police work he sees employed. When Paul Chapman from the Pinkerton Detective Agency shows interest in Francis’s deductive skills, the young man is soon drafted into the Agency’s ranks, and the investigation begins in earnest.
Keen to place his scientific knowledge into the case, Francis studies through the summer in Harvard laboratories, where he meets the engaging Emily Hettinger, also a young scientist, but refused entrance to the laboratories by day because of her gender. Entranced by both her mind and her body, it is inevitable that Francis falls slowly in love.
But a new murder in the case puts their relationship in danger, Francis must return to Illinois to renew the quest for his sister’s killer.
As the new duo investigates under the scrutiny of their Pinkerton overseer, they slowly draw the net tighter on the shadowy figure.
Clockwork Killer is a two-voiced novel that moves at breakneck speed, full of historic detail and adventure. Each half chapter is divided between by Francis Smalling and Paul Chapman, their outlook worlds apart, yet their goal the same.
The shock, nail-biting conclusion is an abrupt about-face, throwing their world into confusion and despair, from which neither will properly recover.
The sequel, The French Lieutenant’s Widow is planned for Summer 2015.
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A great detective murder mystery, set in the Victorian Steampunk mid-west USA.
Illinois, USA, 1866.
When 17 year old Francis Smalling’s elder sister is cruelly murdered before his eyes, he joins the National Pinkerton Detective Agency to help find the killer.
Teamed with their top detective, Paul Chapman, they soon find that the killer has already struck three times, and a pattern emerges from their investigations.
But Francis has other skills which he soon brings to the fore; he is a part-time scientist, an emerging light in the Victorian age of invention. He has dabbled in the new sciences for years, and uses his skill, intelligence and guile to bring his sister’s murderer to justice.
Francis’s burning quest for Justice will shape his life, affect his family and friends, and perhaps change the world.
The Clockwork Killer is a two-voiced story, told alternately by Francis Smalling, the seventeen year old scientist, and his Pinkerton partner, Paul Chapman.
It is a novel of detection in the Victorian age, and so dips its toe in the Steampunk genre, but it is also a love story, a coming of age, a birth of a new science, while being mixed with a gruesome murder or three.
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