Derry, Northern Ireland

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

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Give and take...

I'm back to working on The Alice 65, and made my way through the first four chapters. Mainly just inputting edits I'd already made but also adding more bits and changing other aspects to better reflect the direction the story is going. I'm keeping it in third person but making it completely from Adam's POV. There is going to be nothing in the story that he does not see or hear or know about. But that means some substantial changing going on.

So here's how the opening goes:
When Adam Verlain set off for work at 7:35 am, it was supposed to be a typical Monday. He wore his usual navy-blue suit, cream-colored business shirt, and simple tie; his dark brown Oxfords were polished; his tan overcoat was held over one arm; and his russet hair had been neatened by the monthly visit to his barber. His glasses were freshly washed, his pleasant face neatly shaved and he had on his usual expression -- that of a mildly curious kitten. His one acquiescence to still being under thirty was the gray rucksack slung over his left shoulder; it held a sandwich, packet of crisps, a bottle of water, and a thick copy of Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter to read on the underground.

He strode to Epping station to catch the 7:46, changed for St. Pancras at Liverpool Street, had a brisk five minute walk to his university, 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 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 rare volumes was hardly the largest, it was more than respectable and was in the process of being expanded thanks to changes in the board of governors.

Adam had joined with Merryton straight out of university, almost seven years ago. His specialty was 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 a question ... well, first, they would have to ask it twice, then he would take a moment, look at them with his curious cat expression, remove his glasses, look at them a moment longer and then say, "Sorry? What did you say?" As if he had been in a separate world and had to go through a twelve-step process to rejoin this one.

He had his own cubicle in what was once the old chapel, a shadow-riven room whose flagstone floor was partially covered by a well-worn Persian carpet, and whose wooden ceiling was held in place by intricately carved beams and braces, all unchanged since first put in place three-hundred years earlier. An iron candelabra with electric bulbs twisted into the shapes of little flames hung from the center beam, and along two walls, tall slim windows of cut leaded glass in colorful images allowed barely a fraction of light to pass through, protecting the dark, aged wood and giving the room a gentle feeling of mystery ... a feeling ruined by the set of four bland chrome and grey cubicles in the center of it all ... of which, Adam's was number three.

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. It had been printed in Latin and Adam found indications this particular volume might have first been a gift to Pope Pius IX on his selection to the papacy, twenty years earlier, which would greatly enhance its historical value ... and even its monetary, despite a page having been torn out at the end of the book.

Vincent, the library's curator, a man with the age and appearance of a Victorian ghost, had dismissed the story as nonsense, but Adam had a feeling there was truth to it and had become so focused on trying to confirm the events, he had worked on nothing else all week. When Vincent found out, he had stormed over to Adam's cubicle, his face almost filled with color.

"We've dozens of 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 with extensive gold decoration that was a bit too ostentatious, but the possibility of a pope having presented 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 in our collection! Be done with it!" Then he had stormed off.

That was on Friday, last. Adam had already grown to believe he had dug as deep as he could into the book's history, finding nothing but suggestions and hints about pope or king, so completion of the provenance was scheduled for the first hour of Monday. Then he would take another book from the incoming shelf and work on that.

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