Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, April 1, 2017

I'm being that writer, again...

Today was spent tossing out the first chapter of The Alice '65 and completely reworking it. Hopefully, it is not as busy as the previous one...but I'm open to feedback...'cause here's the first 4 pages --

Oh, and just for the fun of it...imagine Adam being played by Matthew Lewis as he goes from this... this, through the course of the story...


When Adam Verlain set off for work at 7:35 am, he expected it the be a typical Monday. He wore his usual suit and tie, his hair having been neatened by his monthly visit to the barber, and carried a rucksack holding a sandwich, a bottle of water, and a copy of Kristin Lavransdatter to read on the underground. He caught the 7:46 from Epping, changed for St. Pancras at Liverpool Street, had a brisk five minute walk and arrived in his cubicle at 8:54 to start up his computer. As usual, he was the first one there.

His job was archiving rare and antiquarian books for Merryton College in London. This was neither the oldest nor best known of England's schools, but it had a good reputation in the liberal arts and sciences world, and while their library of such volumes was anything but the largets, it was more than respectable. It was even housed in its own climate controlled extension of the old chapel.

Adam had joined with them straight out of university, almost seven years ago, his specialty being codices, incunabula and manuscripts, in German, Latin, or Greek ... and he loved working there. Loved investigating when a particular book was printed or written, by whom or for whom, who had first owned it, who its later owners were, when and how often it sold at auction -- everything one could imagine. He could become so engrossed in his research, were someone to ask him something, he would look at them with the expression of a curious cat, remove his glasses, look at them a moment longer and then say, "Sorry? What did you ask me?" As if he had been in a separate world and had to remind himself to rejoin this one.

He had his own cubicle in the old chapel, one of four set in the center of the shadow-riven three-hundred year-old room. Its flagstone floor was partially covered by a well-worn Persian carpet, and the arched, wooden ceiling was held in place by intricately carved beams and braces, unchanged since first put in place. An iron candelabra with electric bulbs in the shape of fire hung from the center beam, directly over the cubicles, giving the room a dark, aged feeling of mystery, enhanced by how the tall slim windows of cut leaded glass in colorful images allowed only a little soft light to pass through.

This particular Monday, he was finishing the provenance on a truly elegant copy of Orlando Furioso. It was an edition printed in the early Nineteenth Century that had been presented to King Victor Emmanuel, in 1866, prior to the Third Italian War for Independence. Vincent, the library's supervisor, a man with the age and appearance of a Victorian ghost, had dismissed the book as unimportant, but it was printed in Latin and Adam found indications the book might have been a gift to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier. He focused so tight on trying to confirm the story, it got him in some difficulty with Vincent.

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

Adam had huffed. Granted, the book was bound in bright red Morocco leather and the gold trim and was overdone, but the possibility of a pope presenting it to a king at a time of major political upheaval was more than worth the effort. So he had responded with, "Sir, I have never believed any book is inconsequential."

Causing Vincent to jolt ramrod straight and snarl in his worst Oxford attitude, "Nor is this one more consequential than any others on the shelf! Be done with it! We've dozens more acquisitions to archive and no funds to do it, thanks to the board's maniacal purchasing." Then he had stormed off.

That was on Friday, last. Now it was Monday, and Adam had dug as deep as he could to find nothing but suggestions and hints about the book's history, so as his computer continued to merely contemplate the possibility of making itself available, he picked the book up and casually read the opening canto aloud:

Of loves and ladies, knights and arms, I sing, 
Of courtesies, and many a daring feat; 
And from those ancient days my story bring, 
When Moors from Africa passed in hostile fleet, 
And ravaged France, with Agramant, their king, 
Flushed with his youthful rage and furious heat; 
Who on King Charles’, the Roman Emperor’s head, 
Had vowed due vengeance for Troyano dead.

"You're a lovely little book," he sighed to it. "Probably just the right item for a pope to give a king before a war. So don't think I'm giving up on you; I'll unlock the last of your mysteries, eventually."

He set the book on his desk and swiveled in his chair to look around. He shook his head at how the bland chrome and rug-covered cubicle walls clashed with the elegant shadows, aged wood and stained glass that had once dominated the room. He had long believed something could be done to make it less incongruous.

"Remove these hideous work-spaces and add desks to the four corners," he thought. "Perhaps a large general table in the center, under the candelabra. There might be some old chairs in storage to put around them, something in the same vein. That would be more in line with how the room prefers to be seen."

He rubbed a slim bandage on his chin, evidence of a rougher-than-usual football match with his mates, on Saturday, and gazed at a nearby play of gentle, colorful, sparkling dust caught in light filtering through a window. He decided to write up a plan for Vincent to consider and turned to make a note ... and a whispery sense of dislocation washed over and around and through him, as though the space he occupied existed only as a hint of a dream. He both knew it and did not know it ... had been here yet had not been here ... and almost felt like he was floating as he sat in his chair, his three-and-a-half blank walls barely visible to him. It wasn't until Elizabeth, the young woman in the cubicle next to his, burst in that he jolted out of the sensation.

He watched her whirl up to her cubicle, remove her coat and sling it over the top of her half-wall. "Has Vincent been in, yet?" she asked him as she pulled her hair into a ponytail.

Adam shook his head. "You're safe. It's just on nine."

"Thanks." Then she vanished behind her wall and he heard her cry, "Bloody hell, my computer won't wake up."

That is when Adam's computer flashed that it would now allow him access to the database.

"Mine just now came on," he said. "Took its time."

"Bloody figures. Well, Vincent can't say anything if I don't have access to the database." Then she got up and headed for the kitchenette.

Adam smiled. This was nothing but a job to her. Granted, she specialized in Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century literature, and the regents were expanding that section of their library, but it was obvious she was not a book person. He doubted she ever would be ... but he was open to helping her learn, if she wanted. After all, she was rather pretty.


Michael said...

What a difference the teeth make. I once dated an incredibly handsome man with some unfortunate teeth (he said it was because he's from Jersey, not sure if that's a thing). It didn't work out because he was ex-mormon and too damaged even for me. I wonder if he ever got them fixed. He'd look every bit as amazing as the transformed Matthew.

I loved The Alice '65 screenplay and am looking forward to the novel . I didn't read any of the previous draft but it doesn't seem "busy" to me. In fact, I think that's a great opening for the story. I like the bit about the bandage from the football match. Really gets the point across that there's more to Adam than just being a book nerd.

JamTheCat said...

Thanks! Encouragement is always appreciated...

Somebody told me one reason so many English have bad teeth is because that showed they were theirs, not dentures. Dunno if that's real, and more and more English actors do have good teeth...still, it's something to ponder.

And I could not believe how Neville Longbottom turned out...woof...