Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Monday, December 26, 2016

Okay...some head-banging ended...

I finally found the style I want to tell the story in. It's a bit jokey and casual but is close to Adam's way of speaking without being totally there, and I feel better now. Only took me all weekend, half of which was spent expanding on the characters and putting notes into the story of things I wanted to add.

Here's the new it currently stands.


The Alice '65 is one of the rarest books in the world. Taken from the very first print run of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, it entered into the world of rarity when Sir John Tenniel, who had done the illustrations, saw the final result. He so disliked how his artwork appeared in them, he badgered Lewis Carroll into recalling the copies that had been sold, having the printing plates reset and the book reissued. All but fifty were returned and only twenty-four of those are known to still exist, so normally it would be a bibliophile's dream to be asked to fly to Los Angeles and return to London with a newly discovered copy of this very book.

But Adam Verlain did not want to go. To begin with, his area of expertise was manuscripts from the Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Century, mainly works of literature, philosophy and history. It would have made far more sense to send his colleague, Elizabeth Pascal, a lovely young woman who worked in the next cubicle and whose focus was 19th and 20th century works ... and he didn't think that because he rather fancied her; she wasn't quite what one would call a book person, yet, though she did have the makings.

And then there was Vincent St. George, head of the antiquarian book collection, a role he had occupied for untold decades ... perhaps even since the university was founded, in 1691. The one issue was, Vincent was more than twice Adam's age and had the appearance of a Victorian ghost, so the trip might have been difficult for him. Still ... he wasn't exactly at death's door and it would have made far more sense.

In fact, all that was really needed was someone human to fly over, accept the book on the university's behalf, and fly back. For that, they could have sent Jeremy, who almost qualified as such and who photographed the books once they were archived then joined their image with the on-line list. He was young and full of himself, and would love a day or two in Los Angeles. But he was also somewhat immature and much-tattooed and pierced; hardly the image the university would want to project.

Of course, Adam fit the image, perfectly. Trim, just under six feet tall, always in a suit and tie, with a face that gave him the look of an inquisitive cat. Granted, his life was in the process of gathering dust before he'd hit the age of thirty, and he also hated traveling, but the main issue was ... another copy of this book had gotten his father killed. The man had won it for a client at auction and was transporting it up to Edinburgh when he was robbed. In Newcastle. Was kicked down a flight of stairs, breaking his neck. Adam was but fifteen.

So he wanted nothing to do with The Alice '65, and had he known this was how his Monday would turn out ... well, he had a month of sick days coming to him, and he'd have taken every one of them to avoid being trapped into this. But by the time he realized what was about to happen, it was too late to change course.

Naturally, the day started well enough. He arrived for work at eight-fifty-two, as usual, and was in his cubicle by nine, sharp, his computer fired up and ready to go. He also had his usual moment of incongruity, looking around at the three-hundred year-old room with its arched ceiling and dark carved wood, everywhere, the ambience completely shattered by the island of modern work-spaces set up in the middle of it.

By nine-thirty, he finished the provenance on a rebound copy of Orlando Furioso, in Latin, which had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel, in 1866, not long before the Third Italian War for Independence. He had noticed indications the book was first given to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier, so had spent nearly a week trying to confirm it. Which caused him some difficulty with Vincent, the Friday before.

"We've a hundred other books to archive," the man had said, in his veddy-veddy-British tone, "and you spend five days on one inconsequential volume?"

Granted, the book was bound in a plain speckled calf and a bit worn, yet it was still in fine condition and the possibility of it being linked to two famous men was more than worth the effort, so he had snapped back with, "Sir, I have never believed any book is inconsequential."

Which jolted Vincent into his most ramrod posture, bringing out the worst of his Oxford attitude as he snarled, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the cart, so be done with it."

So Adam finished with it, that morning, not completely satisfied but taking no end of pleasure in knowing he had done the fullest research on it. Still, Vincent needed placating, so he dove into a copy of Erasmus' Morais Enkomion, which had been sitting on the incoming cart for over a week because it was in Greek and no one else would touch it. He was done by three, and since he and Vincent were to meet at three-thirty, he hoped presenting the provenance on this book would soothe the older man's huffy nerves.

But first things first. He tenderly carried the Erasmus past the other cubicles and down a short hall, singing it a soft little song, in Greek. "I see a book that's going to be took for Jeremy to photograph and put with all the rest. It's a lovely book which soon will find its nook and she will be considered one of our very best." One had to follow protocol, don't you know.

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