Guest Post and Book Spotlight – Historical Fiction – Never The Twain – Jane Fenwick

Brothels and Prostitutes by Jane Fenwick @jane_fenwick60 #neverthetwain #historicalcrimenovels #romance #victorianwhitby

Brothels and prostitution feature in the opening of my new book Never the Twain. Men have used prostitutes since time began. There is even one mentioned in that very famous book The Bible!

Prostitution has always been a way for women to support themselves when all other means of earning a living have been exhausted. Very few women would have chosen this path had another option been open to them. In Never the Twain identical twins April and May find themselves in the unenviable predicament of being sold into prostitution.

Never the Twain is set in 1890 a time when it is easy to forget that women had very few rights. Women were considered chattel and on marriage were passed from their father’s care to that of their husband. Women like April and May, the protagonists in Never the Twain, had no male protectors and so had to make their own way in the world. April and May, through no fault of their own, are sold into prostitution so their actress mother can be rid of them. The acting profession in Victorian times was regarded as only a step away from prostitution and so it is easy to see why the twins’ mother would place them in the care of a Madam.

Educated women were still rare and middle class educated women rarer still. Had they been impoverished vicars’ daughters they would have found it relatively easy to get positions as governesses or companions. However, without a letter of reference they would have struggled to gain respectable employment. The twins could have taken work in domestic service or shop work but April and May would have found such work low paid and demeaning. Without means or protection their options would have been limited and falling into the poverty trap was a risk to avoid at all costs; once you lost the roof over your head there was no social security to fall back on. Once their “mother” died April and May were very much on their own.

Each twin had a different solution to their dilemma but ultimately the solution they agreed upon led to dire consequences. April knew that although they were educated it would be difficult to find respectable positions though she was willing to try. However, she allowed her twin to convince her to enter the brothel as a way of buying time – they were assured they would be untouched until their eighteenth birthday. It was a decision they would both come to regret.

***

Every port and harbour had their fair share of prostitutes. In seafaring towns prostitution was especially rife. Men who had been at sea for months had needs and a range of options were available for them to choose from when they were back ashore depending on their tastes and budget. From tuppeny streetwalkers to those who worked the inns, taverns and bawdy houses. And then there were the higher class brothels such as the one in Never the Twain, Mrs Jansen’s establishment where the higher ranks of the seafaring community, as well as the local gentry, were catered for.

In Victorian times gentlemen of rank often married for reasons other than love. The aristocracy, and increasingly the newly emerging merchant classes, often married to improve their finances and position in society. They married to join two influential families together or to gain the dowry of an heiress. Couples often married to unite two prominent families where one provided a title and the other party supplied the money. These misalliances often resulted in some gentlemen seeking their pleasures elsewhere especially once their wives had produced an “heir and a spare”.

For some, using “high class” brothels as opposed to regular bawdy houses offered ‘respectability’ as the brothels were often well-appointed almost like a gentlemen’s club. The girls were also thought to be cleaner and accomplished in the art of seduction. However, I found from my research, that some gentlemen liked “a bit of rough” too on occasions and would purposely seek out women of the lower orders as something different, a thrill!

The Victorian period saw the rise of a new class; the middle or mercantile class. “New Money” was made from newly emerging industries and manufacturing. The industrial revolution made enterprising men rich. My male protagonists Edward and Alistair Driscoll would have been part of this growth of the Nouveau Riche. Their fortunes had been made in the past from the slave trade and from importing tobacco from the New World – in this instance from Virginia. Now they were dealing in imports and exports and were adding to their fortunes.

Mrs Jansen boasted that her whores were “free from disease” and “practised in the arts of seduction”, something most men of position would appreciate. Men like Captain Edward Driscoll – being from new money – would have been the mainstay of Velda Jansen’s provincial brothel. In a port such as Whitby where a whore could be bought cheaply by any passing sailor, Mrs Jansen’s brothel would have been the epitome of class – if you weren’t from London that is. Anything which could attract her more wealthy clients would have been a boon for the avaricious Madam. So when beautiful, identical twin virgins were offered to her she saw the guinea signs flash before her eyes. She knew a marketable commodity when she saw it and here were two beauties ready for the plucking.

***

Sometimes prostitutes are portrayed as being happy with their lot or “the tart with a heart” but the reality was seldom so straightforward or agreeable. The girls were effectively slaves and the Madams ruthless. You can probably guess what would happen to one of Mrs Jansen’s “clean girls” if she became infected by a punter or when she lost her looks. Her only choice would be to walk the streets for business. As a result her life span would be considerably shortened. A girl would put up with a lot to keep herself from plying her trade in the dangerous ginnels and inns of Whitby so whatever the punter wanted the punter invariably got. The Madams would turn a blind eye to most things, even if this meant the girls were brutalised. So long as the gentleman did not spoil a girl’s face – the Madams would not be pleased if one of their precious girls were to be disfigured. Very occasionally a girl would get “lucky” and a punter would pay for her sole use or set her up in her own establishment as his mistress. Rarer still was the gentleman who married a whore.

In Never the Twain I wanted to show how devastating it would be for two relatively well brought up, educated young girls like April and May to find themselves in this frightening and dangerous situation. The twins, had they been ‘launched’, would have been sold to the highest bidder and thereafter used and abused day and night until their beauty faded. Such an end for the girls who were only valued for their beauty and bodies would have been shameful. In Never the Twain we see April and May struggle to survive the brothel but their lives soon become marred by jealousy and greed, betrayal and murder.

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Never the Twain: A twin tale of jealousy and betrayal, love and murder.

The year is 1890. The port of Whitby is heaving with sailors and where there are sailors there are brothels doing a roaring trade. Beautiful identical twins April and May are in desperate straits. They have been abandoned by their actress mother and are about to have their virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder by a notorious brothel madam.

Their fate is hanging in the balance when Captain Edward Driscoll a handsome, wealthy shipping tycoon from Glasgow saves them before they can be deflowered.

But have they exchanged one form of slavery for another?

April, reluctantly swept up in her twin’s secrets and lies unwittingly becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy. Is May’s jealousy stronger than the twin bond which has always connected them?

 

Available from:
Amazon UK: https://amzn.to/2mbA6hp
Amazon US: https://amzn.to/2ksAaZI

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Never the Twain: A dark blend of Gothic romance and murder.

 

Jane Fenwick lives in the market town of Settle in Yorkshire, England. She studied education at Sheffield University gaining a B.Ed (Hons) in 1989 and going on to teach primary age range children. Jane decided to try her hand at penning a novel rather than writing school reports as she has always been an avid reader, especially enjoying historical and crime fiction. She decided to combine her love of both genres to write her first historical crime novel Never the Twain. Jane has always been a lover of antiques, particularly art nouveau and art deco ceramics and turned this hobby into a business opening an antiques and collectables shop in Settle. However her time as a dealer was short lived; she spent far too much time in the sale rooms buying items that ended up in her home rather than the shop! Animal welfare is a cause close to Jane’s heart and she has been vegetarian since the age of fourteen. For the last twenty years she has been trustee of an animal charity which rescues and rehomes cats, dogs and all manner of creatures looking for a forever home. Of course several of these have been “adopted” by Jane!

Jane has always loved the sea and although she lives in the Yorkshire Dales she is particularly drawn to the North East coast of Yorkshire and Northumberland. This coastline is where she gets her inspiration for the historical crime and romance novels she writes. She can imagine how the North East ports would have looked long ago with a forest of tall masted ships crammed together in the harbours, the bustling streets congested with sailors, whalers, chandlers and sail makers. These imaginings provide the backdrop and inspire her to create the central characters and themes of her novels. As she has always loved history she finds the research particularly satisfying.

When she isn’t walking on Sandsend beach with her dog Scout, a Patterdale “Terrorist” she is to be found in her favourite coffee shop gazing out to sea and dreaming up her next plot. Jane is currently writing a historical saga series again set on the North East coast beginning in 1765. The first two books are being edited at the moment; My Constant Lady and The Turning Tides. Look out for My Constant Lady in 2020.

 

Find her on Twitter , Instagram , Facebook , Pinterest or Web.

 

GIVEAWAY!

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/8b9ec5be191/?

 

 

Reviews 2019 – Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Bath – Kirsten Elliott

Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths in Bath

This is one of the better ‘Foul Deeds’ series, and all the more interesting as I live reasonably close to Bath. Bath is an ancient city, which has seen its share of blood and wickedness – these cases were, mostly the lesser known from 19 century onwards, there was a chapter outlining older crimes. The research was well done, and the author didn’t sensationalise the accounts (which tends to happen in many true crime books).

I’d recommend this for local historians, true crime buffs and people with an interest in the area.

Nicely done.

First review of 2019! Yay!

A Day in The Life of Dorgo the Dowser

#Meetacharacter

A Day in the Life of Dorgo the Dowser.

*Who are you?

Why, I’m Dorgo Mikawber, otherwise known as Dorgo the Dowser. I earned that nickname because of the dowsing rod that I carry with me all the time. This is a rather unique and specialized dowsing rod, because it can detect the ectoplasmic residue of any supernatural presence or demonic entity, and sense the vestiges of any form of magical power used in the commission of crimes, crimes I’m often hired or asked to solve. Without my dowsing rod, I’d be out of work and forced to find other means of employment. I mean, what else can I do? I’ve been a mercenary, a body guard, and even a smuggler. I’m not qualified for much else. Can you imagine me being an innkeeper or a blacksmith? I can’t. And my luck is often so bad when it comes to gambling that I’ve learned to keep my money in my pocket, most of the time. I do gamble with my life often enough and thus far Lady Luck hasn’t left my side. But it would be nice if she’d let me win at dice or cards once in a while. Oh, well. Beggars can’t be choosers, I guess.

Tell us about an average day in your life.

On the rare occasion when I’m not engaged in something to do with murder, mystery, magic, mayhem, and the occasional monster, my average life is pretty average. I sleep late, stay awake all hours of the night, drinking, placing the rare bet on a Minotaur wrestling match or centaur race, and spending time with a lovely woman. But as I said, those days are rare, because those who deal with the supernatural and the demonic, and those who follow the Dark Light of Odylic Power, which is commonly referred to as magic and sorcery, are always up to something nefarious. In my city of Valdar, almost anything can happen, and usually does.

Are you a lark or a night owl?

I have to be both in my line of work, because evil never sleeps, demons never rest, and most crimes occur during the darkness of the night. I often have to walk a fine line between darkness and light, in the shadows of a world where life is cheap and souls are always up for sale.

How do you think your ‘average’ day compares to that of other people?

Well, I sometimes get a chance to break my fast, enjoy a bath and don clean but tattered clothing. I may even get a chance to visit with friends. But that’s where all comparison comes to a halt. When there’s a crime committed that involves dark sorcery, demonic entities and supernatural agencies, that when I come in. I’m either hired by some private citizen to help solve the crime, or my friend Captain Mazo of the Purple Hand (the Royal Constabulary in Valdar) will, most reluctantly, ask me and my dowsing rod to lend him a hand.

Do you court danger?

I don’t court it so much as find myself either caught in its grip or trying to keep clear of it. But when I’m forced to deal with unscrupulous men, duplicitous women, practitioners of the Dark Arts, and a criminal underworld . . . well, danger usually courts me. Trouble, as someone famous once said, is my business.

Do you think your life is fulfilling?

I think so. I hope so. I have helped a lot of good people, saved a lot of lives, and have sent many a dark soul to the dungeon or to the gallows. I’m certain Hell is filled with many of my foes who are just waiting for me to get there.

If you had the choice what would you change in your daily life?

Nothing. Not a damn thing. I love my life and enjoy it to the fullest extent of both my ability and my pocketbook. Although it would be nice to have a little more money so I could afford to buy some new clothes. My friends are always chiding me for wearing the same shirt, britches and boots day in and day out. By God, how some of them nag me to no end!

Tell us a little about your home/environment/land – how does this reflect on your day to day life?

I live in an interesting world where lost souls are often resurrected as hell-spawned devils; where entities from the other side of the veil separating the earthly from the unearthly can be conjured into existence; where beings from an ancient land whose borders cross over into other dimensions slip through to my own world. In my specialized line of investigative work I’ve had to confront sentient, gold-eating shadows, malevolent puppets, wicked witches, mad sorcerers, blood-thirsty men and women, plus hungry ghouls and zombies, faun assassins, demented demons, ghastly ghosts, vengeful vampires, raging werewolves, and the most deadly, other-worldly book ever written. Then there are the semi-human races, like the Muthologians, those so-call “mythical” beings and creatures who escaped from your world of ancient Greece and settled in my own world of Tanyime.  Most of them are good souls, and I’m fortunate to call many of them my friends. I truly live in interesting and exciting times, don’t you think?

Are you organised or chaotic? Does this annoy your family/companions?

I’m usually chaotic, although when it’s called for I can be very organized. I have no family, but my habits, the hours I keep, my attitude, and my entire lifestyle often troubles and worries my friends. But they’re all decent folks who, more often than not, are willing to lend me a hand. Our tempers often clash when they disagree with me or try to prevent me from getting involved in something that might cost me my life and perhaps even my soul, but in the end I am blessed to have such good friends looking after me.

Thank you for spending so much of your valuable time with me. I enjoyed our little chat. And remember, if you ever have need of me: “Have Dowsing Rod. Will Travel.” I got that from some bloke whose name, sadly, escapes me at the time.

By the way, you can find my Mad Shadows adventures (volumes 1 and 2) on Joe Bonadonna’s Amazon author page:
https://www.amazon.com/default/e/B009I1KYIK?redirectedFromKindleDbs=true

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Spotlight – Addict (The Cassie Tam Files) #Sci-fi #Crime #Lesfic

Title: Addict (The Cassie Tam Files #1)

Author: Matt Doyle

Genre: Lesfic, Sci-fi, Crime Noir

Main character description (short):

Born in Vancouver, Cassie Tam is the daughter of a cop and an out lesbian. Now situated in the technological haven of New Hopeland City, she plies her trade as a Private Investigator, taking on odd job cases that the police either don’t care about or won’t touch. She’s built up a good reputation over the years and tends to solve cases with a healthy mix of the three S’s: smarts, snark, and sheer stubbornness. Oh, and the odd assist from her robo-gargoyle pet, Bert. Despite her tough exterior though, Cassie is prone to keeping stuff in, and is more than capable of finding social awkwardness when faced with the unfamiliar. That combined with her compulsion to keep digging, even when she knows she shouldn’t, can often leave her biting off more than she can chew.

Synopsis:

New Hopeland was built to be the centre of the technological age, but like everywhere else, it has its dark side. Assassins, drug dealers and crooked businessmen form a vital part of the city’s make-up, and sometimes, the police are in too deep themselves to be effective. But hey, there are always other options …

For P.I. Cassie Tam, business has been slow. So, when she’s hired to investigate the death of a local VR addict named Eddie Redwood, she thinks it’ll be easy money. All she has to do is prove that the local P.D. were right to call it an accidental overdose. The more she digs though, the more things don’t seem to sit right, and soon, Cassie finds herself knee deep in a murder investigation. To make matters worse, Cassie’s client, the deceased’s sister Lori, is a Tech Shifter – someone who uses a metal exoskeleton to roleplay as an animal. Cassie isn’t one to judge, but the Tech Shifting community has always left her a bit nervous. That wouldn’t be a problem if Lori wasn’t fast becoming the first person that she’s been genuinely attracted to since splitting with her ex.

Easy money, huh? Yeah, right.

Brief Excerpt 250 words:

I ALWAYS DID like Venetian blinds. There’s something quaint about them in a retro-tacky kinda way. Plus, they’re pretty useful for sneaking a peek out the front of the building if I feel the need. That’s something that you just can’t do with the solid, immovable metal slats that come as a standard in buildings these days. That said, a thick sheet of steel is gonna offer you a damn sight more security than thin, bendable vinyl, so I keep mine installed. Just in case.

Another round of knocking rattles the front door, louder this time than the one that woke me.

The clock says 23:47, and the unfamiliar low-end car out front screams “Don’t notice me, I’m not worth your time,” which makes for the perfect combo to stir up the paranoia that the evening’s beer and horror-film session left behind. This is my own fault. My adverts are pretty descriptive in terms of telling what I do: lost pets, cheating partners, theft, protection, retrieval of people and items, other odds and sods that the city’s finest won’t touch…I’ve got ways to deal with it all. That’s right, I’m a real odd-job gal. The one thing that I don’t put in there are business hours. The way I see it, even the missing pet cases usually leave me wandering the streets at half-past reasonable, so what’s the point in asking people to call between certain hours?

More knocking, followed this time by the squeak of my letterbox.

 

Why should readers buy this book (50 words max)? Described as Sam Spade meets Blade Runner, Addict throws an old-style PI into a near future world and blends sci-fi world building with noir corruption. If you want a speculative fiction title with an LGBT lead that isn’t a coming out tale or erotica, this is the book for you!

 

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Links etc.

Purchase Links

Amazon.co.uk 

Amazon.com 

Ninestar Press

Smashwords

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

Apple

Author Links

Website: www.mattdoylemedia.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/mattdoylemedia

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MattDoyleMedia/

Google+: https://plus.google.com/105461183776248861486

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14173377.Matt_Doyle

Pinterest: https://uk.pinterest.com/mattdoylemedia/

DeviantArt: http://mattdoylemedia.deviantart.com/

RedBubble: https://www.redbubble.com/people/mattdoylemedia

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mattdoylemediaprojects/

Tumblr: https://mattdoylemedia.tumblr.com/

Wattpad: https://www.wattpad.com/user/mattdoylemedia

 

 

Reviews 2018 – Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes

Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French and English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes

3.5 stars

This is not a bad book, but it’s not particularly good either.

The cases included in this text are:
– Marie Lafarge and Euphemie Lacoste;
– Madeleine Smith and Angelina  Lemoine;
– Celestine Doudet and Constance Kent;
– Florence Bravo and Henriette Francy;
– Gabrielle Fenayrou and Adelaide Bartlett;
– Florence Maybrick and Claire Reymond.

Good points:

  • The French cases were largely unknown to me and that aspect was interesting. The comparisons between French and English middle-class society and the position of women were fairly well discussed.
  • There was a mix of cases, although all were ‘respectable’ women from the time. What was expected of middle-class women, and her own expectations – marriage, children and running the household – were discussed at length.  Many had arranged marriages – often to men much older, or totally unsuitable. Divorce was not a viable option, especially as the father would have maintained control of any children, and the money. Thus most of this women were stuck in relationships, not of their choosing (with the exception of Madeleine Smith – who was in a relationship with a man below her station and disapproved of by her family).
  • Although the cases were discussed fairly sympathetically there was a lot of the authors own views on whether the particular murderess was guilty of the crime she committed. Not all were, and those who were found guilty may not have been. At least one was judged on her moral crimes (adultery) as much as the actual murder.
  • The author had done her research and it showed. The social comparisons were good and I think the most interesting aspect was the emerging position of women in both France and England during the 19th century.  There was good focus on the societal aspects of what may have caused these women to take, or consider taking, the ultimate solution to their woes.

Bad points:

  • The book jumped around a lot. All the time. It became hard to follow and sometimes wasn’t clear which case was being discussed. References to other cases made things more confusing.
  • The accounts were long and meandered. They became stories in their own right. Why is this bad? For a book that is meant to be a non-fic there was too much of the ‘newspaper’ style telling. Give me the facts – if I want a fiction on the subject I’ll read historical fic about the cases.
  • There were quite a few formatting issues.

I just couldn’t really get into the long, often dry accounts of the crimes. It’s a shame because the sociological side of the book was interesting for the most part. If the book had been more structured then the rating would have been higher.

 

Review – Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and Their Victims – Crime/History/English History

Poisoned Lives: English Poisoners and their Victims – by Katherine Watson

Synopsis

From Mary Ann Cotton, the Victorian serial murderess, to Dr Crippen, poisoners have attracted a celebrity unmatched by violent killers. Secretly administered, often during a family meal, arsenic (the most commonly-used poison) led to a slow and agonising death, while strychnine (with its characteristic bitter taste) killed very quickly. Poisoned Lives is the first history of the crime to examine poisoning and its consequences as a whole. Unwanted husbands, wives or lovers, illegitimate babies, children killed for the insurance money, relatives, rivals and employers were amongst the many victims of these calculating killers. Difficult to detect before 1800, poison undoubtedly had its heyday in the nineteenth century. In response to many suspected cases, forensic tests were developed that made detection increasingly likely, and the sale of poisons became more tightly controlled. Because of this, twentieth-century poisoning has become a crime largely associated with medical professionals including, most recently, Dr Harold Shipman, the world’s most prolific serial killer.

5 stars

Many of the true crime books focus solely on the murders themselves, as one would expect. Usually the same twenty or so crimes are discussed and not often in detail. This book is different. Over 500 cases from 19th century to the early 20th century are included, although many as comparisons and not in detail. That said the author does a great job of discussing the ‘whys and wherefores’ of the crimes – the societal aspects, how they changed, the rise of the police force, and the increased awareness of poisoning as a crime. Before the 1900s sanitary conditions amongst the poor were dire, life expectancy short and infant mortality high. Many of the cases discussed, and the situations covered reflect this – people poisoning as to not have another mouth to feed, to get a few pounds from the ‘burial clubs’ which sprang up, ostensibly to help the poor, and the new ‘life insurance’ schemes which abounded. Poisoning is viewed as the most despicable of crimes; usually it is a slow and very painful process, and often the perpetrator is well known to the victim – spouse, parent, servant, nurse/doctor. It’s easy to judge by the modern standards when life expectation is relatively high, health provision freely available (in the UK at least), a social security system, divorce attainable, much less stigma on illegitimacy and very few people are truly desperately poor. Oh and poison is much harder to get. But one must realise that sometimes disposal of an unwanted, violent spouse, was the only way out some people could see. There were simply no viable alternatives.

Watson discusses the changing views and social ideas – the emerging rights of women; ideas pertaining towards mental illness; religious and moral ideology and the rise of the forensic scientist, the role of the coroner and much more. It’s a potted history which changes vastly over time.  This, I think, is the most fascinating aspect. There is no sensationalisation of the cases – which sometimes appears in books on true crime – the subjects are dealt with in a sympathetic way. It’s a book of tragedy – lost lives, destroyed lives, desperation and the depths of human misery, but there is also hope. Murder by poison is rare now and more easily diagnosed. And society is not as brutish, or terrifying as once it was for the common person.

Well researched, well argued and highly interesting I’d recommend this book to anyone interested in true crime, 19th Century history, the rise of science and the social reasons for crime.

 

Review – Brighton Crime and Vice #Truecrime #British History

Brighton Crime and Vice

3 stars.

I tend to like this local, more specific true crime books. The general true crime anthologies often cover the same cases/criminals so these localised ones reveal the activities of the more obscure criminals.

The book covers 200 years and features murder, manslaughter, abortion (which was illegal until 1967), wife beating, husband slaughter, theft (often of minor items) and more. Most of the accounts are presented well-enough with a bit of history around the case, and the outcomes (most of which were execution, transportation, or imprisonment). Many of the cases are tragic – unmarried mothers trying to dispose of unwanted babies in a time when single-motherhood could ruin a girl and occupations for women were extremely limited. Some of the perpetrators of these crimes were insane, or of diminished responsibility, but until the late 19th Century such matters were barely recognised.

It’s a good account of crime in the area. Although some of the accounts are a little short, and get a bit tedious.

So why the relatively low rating? Now I don’t often mark down a book for typos – but this book had a lot. All the way through. There was a repeated paragraph and mistakes on every other page.

 

The Elements of Murder – Book Review and Brief Summary.

The Elements of Murder

This is not your run of the mill true crime book, it’s a good deal more – with scientific analysis of the poisonous elements and interesting chapters on other uses. Each element only has one or two murder cases discussed in detail, and the rest comprises of more scientific information, such as a particular element’s place in the natural world, whether we need it to survive and medical or industrial uses. There are cases discussed dealing with accidental imbibing, including historical hypotheses (such as Napeoleon’s arsenic-laced wallpaper, Roman emperors and lead poisoning, and unsolved cases where poisons may have been involved. Some of these deaths turned the course of history (such as the mental illness and infertility of many of the Roman leaders, the madness of King George III, and the death of Bonaparte.

It’s interesting to trace the history of such elements, some of which were (or are) used in a medical capacity. One such example is Fowlers Solution – a medicinal tonic and treat-all which was arsenic-based; overdoses were a reality and adding a little extra to the mix was not unheard of. This concoction was responsible for more than one end – a helping hand was given or self-inflicted. James Maybrick (who was at one point considered a candidate for Jack the Ripper), was poisoned with arsenic. He was, by many accounts a self-dosing hypochondriac and was using Fowlers Solution, amongst other ‘medicenes’. His wife, Florence, was tried for his murder (after distilling arsenic from flypapers – also a Victorian practice to produce a face wash). Florence had an affair (or a couple) and was mostly tried on this behaviour, proving the hypocrisy of the time as James had a mistress and five illegitimate kids. Did she do it? The jury thought so but many advocates of her cause say she was innocent and the poison was taken by James himself, or planted by family members who didn’t like her.  My point is – there were legitimate uses for poisons in the right quantities.

The rising technology and scientific method in the 19th century led to arsenic, antimony and other poisons being more easily traceable. Many of the symptoms of the poisoning would resemble other illness, particularly gastrointestinal disorders, dysentery etc. at a time when food hygiene and personal hygiene were rather lacking.

See links for Marsh Test

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marsh_test

Mercury based medicine came to be used in the treatment of syphilis, but mercury and mercury vapour are toxic. In many cases the mercury would kill the patient if the syphilis didn’t. Mercury was often seen as a wonder element;  it was even thought to prolong life in China and Tibet, and the ancient Egyptians used balms and tonics made from mercury compounds, and the Romans used mercury cosmetics.

This unusual element was at one time thought to be First Matter, from which all other metals derived, and alchemists used it (and were poisoned by it) in the search for transmutation.

Its unusual properties gave an almost mythic status but this dangerous metal caused all sorts of unpleasantness. Mercury usages in industry include use in batteries, dentistry, paper and paint manufacturing, and gold and silver mining. Artists used vermillion paint, which is made from cinnabar (a mercury compound) and it’s thought many of Van Gogh’s mental health illnesses could be linked to mercury poisoning from his paints.

The wiki page for mercury poisoning states: ‘ Common symptoms of mercury poisoning include peripheral neuropathy, presenting as paresthesia or itching, burning, pain, or even a sensation that resembles small insects crawling on or under the skin (formication); skin discoloration (pink cheeks, fingertips and toes); swelling; and desquamation (shedding or peeling of skin).

Mercury irreversibly inhibits selenium-dependent enzymes (see below) and may also inactivate S-adenosyl-methionine, which is necessary for catecholamine catabolism by catechol-O-methyl transferase. Due to the body’s inability to degrade catecholamines (e.g. epinephrine), a person suffering from mercury poisoning may experience profuse sweating, tachycardia (persistently faster-than-normal heart beat), increased salivation, and hypertension (high blood pressure).

Affected children may show red cheeksnose and lips, loss of hairteeth, and nails, transient rashes, hypotonia (muscle weakness), and increased sensitivity to light. Other symptoms may include kidney dysfunction (e.g. Fanconi syndrome) or neuropsychiatric symptoms such as emotional labilitymemory impairment, or insomnia.

Thus, the clinical presentation may resemble pheochromocytoma or Kawasaki diseaseDesquamation (skin peeling) can occur with severe mercury poisoning acquired by handling elemental mercury.’

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_poisoning

https://www.medicinenet.com/mercury_poisoning/article.htm#what_are_the_side_effects_signs_and_symptoms_of_mercury_poisoning

Thallium:

Thallium was used in medicine as a ringworm treatment – one of the effects is hair loss so a patient would be given thallium so any ringworm or other parasites could be treated. It was the standard use for hair removal for 50 years. Thallium is used to make lenses, in smelting, and insecticides. There have been ancient and modern cases of it being used for evil. For me the most interesting case example was the Graham Young case, as the man in question came from a town not far from where I grew up (Bovingdon). I’m familiar with the case from previous books but this account was detailed and complimented the scientific accounts of this metallic poison.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Young

The great Agatha Christie used thallium as the murder element in her story The Pale Horse – where she describes the effects of this poison, which was little known at the time. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/the-poison-prescribed-by-agatha-christie-thanks-to-the-mystery-writer-the-deadly-properties-of-1534450.html

Overall as a book on poisons and murder this is certainly one of the better offerings. The author clearly has done a good deal of research, and chosen suitable but not always common cases to review. The scientific side of the poisons is rarely put forward in such books. Perhaps not a book for the casual reader, as some knowledge of chemistry would be a help.

Recommended for true-crime buffs, historians, and those who enjoy the science of crime.

5 stars.

The Watcher – A Jack the Ripper Story – New Release #Horror #Short Stories

Watcher cover (1).jpg

 

As some of you may know I have always been rather fascinated by the legend of Jack the Ripper. (Don’t look at my browsing history – I’m a writer so it’s a bit weird!). For anyone unfamiliar with him Jack the Ripper stalked the London streets in the Autumn of 1888 and left at least five women dead and mutilated. These poor women were prostitutes of the lowest class; it was a dangerous profession.  In many ways the killings highlighted the plight of the Victorian poor, particularly for females. Who did not have much choice in how they supported themselves if a husband was not around, or the family was very poor.

 

There are hundreds of theories about who he (or she) was – ranging from the grandson of the Queen Victoria (Eddie – Duke of Clarence who might have had some rather dubious doings but was several hundred miles away in Scotland at the time of one of the killings), to a mad doctor, to a Jewish slaughterman, to a midwife, to a wealthy Liverpool businessman (who himself was (possibly murdered by his wife Florence Maybrick ).  

George Chapman, another unpleasant woman-killer of the time was also mentioned, as was the artist Walter Sickert.  Any or none of these could have been the killer.

Who was this person who left London in the grip of terror? This new murderer more wicked than any before him? Who knows? That is part of the enduring legend. Jack the Ripper was never caught and his legacy is such that writers and historians aplenty have fielded proof, disproof, and stories for over a hundred years.

Anyway enough background…. The story is from the point of view of the killer – and recounts his last known murder – that of Mary Jane Kelly.  I am not putting forward names – other than Jack but there is a twist at the end of his identity.

This was previously published as an anthology piece for Tales from Darker Places and Boo Fore! but has been updated and revised for this version.

Welcome to the darkness of Victorian London….

The Watcher – A Jack the Ripper Story

The year is 1888, and the place is Whitechapel, in the very heart of London. But the heart is bleeding. A mysterious killer is stalking women of the streets – his true name is unknown but his legend will go down in history. This is a short tale of Jack the Ripper.

18 rated for scenes of violence.

Universal Link The Watcher – A Jack the Ripper Story

Bundle Rabbit https://bundlerabbit.com/products/detail/the-watcher

Background reading for those interested.

 

 

 

Jack the Ripper – a rundown

Florence Maybrick – Did she kill him? 

The Florence Maybrick case is fascinating in itself, tragic for all concerned and showed the morals of the time well enough.  Mrs Maybrick was tried more for the fact she’d had affairs (including with her husband’s brother) than anything else. Her husband had a mistress, was a hypochondriac who took arsenic as a tonic, and in more than one case had struck his wife.

Walter Sickert – Casebook review

Swift Six Author interview – Louisa Swann – #HeroicTales #SFF #Paranormal

 

Heroic Tales - Fan setName: Louisa Swann

What attracts you to the genre in which you write?

I tend to write in three genres: mystery, science fiction, and fantasy. I’m drawn to these genres as I’m drawn to the same things in real life: I love a good mystery, am fascinated by science and inventions, and am enthralled by magic and magical creatures.

What piece of writing advice do you wish you’d known when you started your writing adventures?

“Go where your obsessions take you.” (Neil Gaiman)

I still have difficulty with this one. Writing about my obsessions in whatever form means stepping outside my comfort zone, but my best stories come from doing just that.

If you could have dinner with any famous person or character who would you choose?

Neil Gaiman. Not only do I love his writing, he’s had some really interesting “adventures” (i.e. visiting refugee camps). Would love to pick his brain!

 Who has been the greatest influence on your own work?

Dr. Seuss J. Not only did I devour Dr. Seuss books as a child, I channelled that writing style when I wrote my first poems and stories!

 Do you think the e-book revolution will do away with print?

I think ebooks will coexist side by side with print and audio for the immediate future. Personally, if I really like a book, I end up with all three versions. As our dependence on non-renewable resources decreases, however, I believe ebooks and audio will become more prevalent, though I think print books will always be around.

Which 3 books would you take to a desert island and why?

Stephen King’s Duma Key. I love the visuals King evokes in this book as well as the way the main character transitions after his accident.

Tom Brown’s Field Guide to Wilderness Survival. Might as well have a book that’s practical as well as being interesting to read!

One of Patrick F. McManus’s books, probably The Night the Bear Ate Goombaw. Love this author’s sense of humor regarding everything outdoors and being on a desert island would probably need a touch of humor or three!

GirlWithTheCandyCaneLegs-v3-B (1).jpg

Author bio and book synopsis

Please introduce yourself (250 words or so):

I grew up in the wilds of the Sierra Nevada mountains, surrounded by deer and beaver, muskrat and bear, all of which provided ample fodder for my equally wild imagination. As an adult, I spin those childhood experiences into tales that span multiple genres, including fantasy, science fiction, mystery, and my newest love—steampunk. My short stories have appeared in Mercedes Lackey’s Elementary Magic and Valdemar anthologies; Esther Friesner’s Chicks and Balances; and several Fiction River anthologies, including the newest Reader’s Choice. I have a new steampunk/weird west novel series, Abby Crumb, debuting this summer.

 

Tell us about your book(s) – title, genre etc (short)

A little background: I am not a vampire fan. Vampires give me nightmares. But another word of writing advice from David Morrel (and Stephen King) has to do with writing about what scares you. So I tried to figure out how I could write about vampires. As often happens to me, my mind went to humor and the ridiculous: What if a bicycle cop was stalked by a vampire dwarf with a fetish for muscular calves? “The Girl With the Candy Cane Legs,” an urban fantasy, is the result!

Summary:

Three months ago, the gates to the Otherside failed, flooding the normal world with creatures both supernatural, demonic, and just plain weird.

Diane Swift, a bicycle cop with thighs of iron, calves of steel, and the ability to see the strange monsters infiltrating her world, keeps the beaches and her city safe from scumbags. Then someone steals her patrol bike along with a bag of fossilized fairies.

And Diane ends up patrolling the beach with a partner straight out of a lunatic’s nightmare.

Fast and furious, wet and wild, “The Girl with the Candy Cane Legs” delivers a rollicking adventure where almost anything goes.

 

Links

http://www.louisaswann.com

 

Social media

https://www.facebook.com/SwannWriter/

 The book also appears in Heroic Tales – Bundle

BundleRabbit https://bundlerabbit.com/b/heroic-tales

Kobo https://www.kobo.com/gb/en/ebook/heroic-tales

Barnes and Noble http://bit.ly/2u33Tfd

I books https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/id1257100962

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B073T45HYB/

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B073T45HYB/