Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016


I'm guilty of putting too much information at the beginning of a book or script I'm writing...which tends to confuse the reader and, I'm told, be a real turnoff. I had to fight myself to spread details for OT throughout the story, and I was only partially successful, I think. I won't know until I get some serious feedback.

To my surprise, I've sold a hardcover of OT. I worked that edition up mainly for my own vanity and self-indulgence...but hey, if someone prefers to buy it that way, no argument from me. In fact, that pleased me as much as realizing how much better OT was selling in Kindle (tho' this part was tempered by the fact that Amazon is causing me all sort of agita in how my books are listed).

Anyway -- here's what I've worked up for the opening of A65. It will change. It has to. Adam's a bit over the top...but I'd like to know if this voice is better for him or if the third person from yesterday worked better. Comments, anyone?

My name is Adam Alexander Aloysius Verlain, and books are my life ... at least, they were until I was sent to Los Angeles to collect an 1865 edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland from an actress named Casey Blanchard and ... oh, bloody hell ... what am I doing -- joining a twelve-step program and trying to explain away what happened, as if I were an addict? How absurd.

I'm not -- an addict, that is; I simply love books. Especially antiquarian volumes of paper or parchment bound into leather and vellum. And incunabula and manuscripts and fine bindings by the likes of Sangorski-Sutcliffe and Nonesuch that enfold aged copies of great literature and elegant woodcut images. And private press editions, like Kelmscott and Grabhorn, despite the latter being of more recent issue than usually interests me. Oh, and there’s Dickens or Fielding in wrappers...and illuminated Twelfth-Century manuscripts with lovely hand-worked etchings and colour on their ancient pages ... and ... and ...

Hmm ... perhaps I am addicted. But it’s hardly a dangerous obsession, unless you believe breathing in the dust of centuries ... or skipping a few lunches and having your shoes mended instead of purchasing new ones ... all so you'll have enough coin to buy a slightly worn but still good copy of Burke’s Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful that you just saw at a shop in Chelsea ... is harmful to health and well-being.

Some would answer in the affirmative, but they would not be book people. Nor would they be working as an archivist for a small but well-thought of university in London. And it's not as if I were the musty, aged academic sort using the pages of his library as walls against the world. One of my colleagues even told me, “You’re tallish enough. Trim without being taut. Open features that are pleasant but always seem ready to pose a question. A rather ordinary haircut, and I have to wonder -- have you even reached the age of thirty, yet? Oh, and please tell me those are prescription glasses and not just Foster Grant’s readers you bought at a pharmacy.”

They're Foster Grant’s. I’m far-sighted so only need them for reading ... though I did notice the last time I purchased some, I had to bump up from +1.50 to +1.75. I suppose I’ll have to see an ophthalmologist, eventually. As for thirty, that’s 10 months off, still. Dunno why it matters; it’s only a number on an artificial scale meant to cause untold misery to men and extreme agita in women, as though ranting and raving about something over which you have no control would make a difference once way or the other. Sometimes understanding the meanderings of mankind is beyond impossible ... and I do tend to ramble. Such is my lot in life, and I’d have no other.

Oh, I should mention -- that was Elizabeth Chaflin speaking, a fellow archivist whose specialty is 19th and 20th Century literature, and who is nicely-formed in every place that counts, physically, and who was giving me a wary eye at the end of her first week, as though she were trying to decide if I was worth paying attention to instead of merely being the lad in the cubicle next to hers. Who happens to keep finding excuses to talk with her. For some reason. I think she decided I wasn’t, but not having a firm answer means I can still bring her tea, whether she asks for it or not, and offer her a biscuit. Which she turns down only half the time. Hope does spring eternal ... especially since she told me I looked as if I belonged in that careful, cloistered world and made it almost sound like a compliment.

We work together along with another archivist named Bill, from whom you will never get his surname; he trusts no one. Not even me, and I've actually shared dinner with him ... more than once. He loves soups. Hot. Cold. Spicy. Sweet. Made from things that don't even work in Haggis. Anything you can imagine that can be cooked in a two gallon pot. His depth of field is books of exploration, adventure, discovery of South America and the Pacific realm. There are centuries worth of it. I haven't had the nerve to ask him if he's read much about cannibals of the South Seas, and I refuse to give in to my suspicion that he might overly enjoy the tales of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper.

There’s also Hakim Jappour, who has officially been archiving books three months longer than I have, and who thinks he knows every aspect of it that needs be known. If you doubt it, just ask him; he’ll tell you. He will also tell you he is very good-looking and should have been a star in Bollywood, but he's third generation English who grew up in Newcastle-on-Tyne, so when he gets into one of his more intense moments, his English quickly becomes unintelligible. He follows the Empire upon which the sun never sets, along with Middle-Eastern and South Asian philosophy and religions. Perfect match-up, on the surface.

The head of our department is Vincent Gurney, who’s been with the University since its founding in 1612. You may think I exaggerate, but not by much; he seems that old, that ghostlike, and that arch in manner. He either has one suit he wears all the time or three identical ones he swaps between while the others are at the dry cleaners. But he has a wealth of knowledge about any book that’s passed through the University’s archives, and what little he does not know for a fact, he knows where the facts are.

Last but not least is Jeremy Blackstone, who’s half scally-half-Cockney, massively tattooed, and full-on filled with his own sense of worth. Which has some basis in fact, I suppose; I’ve seen both Bill and Elizabeth cast him sly glances. He photographs the books for archiving, and I must admit, what he can do with that and PhotoShop is nothing short of phenomenal. On more than one occasion his eye caught manipulations in a snap we’d been sent of a book someone “had just discovered in the attic of their great-grandfather and was offering for sale.” Usually at an exorbitant price. There's a lot of forgery going on the book world, these days, and he's helped the University protect a number of smaller dealers who might have been taken in by such a trick.

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