Happy publication day to David Morrell’s Victorian thriller MURDER AS A FINE ART! A critical darling raved by Douglas Preston, Dan Simmons, and featured in Entertainment Weekly, Morrell’s newest features notorious essayist Thomas De Quincey and his irrepressible daughter, Emily, matching wits with a killer the likes of which London has never seen before. Enjoy an excerpt right here–more on MURDER AS A FINE ART later this week!
From the Journal of Emily De Quincey
Sunday, 10 December 1854
This morning, I discovered Father again pacing the back courtyard. Once more, he had wakened much earlier than I, probably before dawn. Last night, I am certain that I heard his footsteps creaking past the door to my room, descending the stairs so that he could roam the dark streets. He claims that this is the only way he can avoid indulging in laudanum—by distracting himself with the effort of walking as much as fifteen miles each day.
Father’s short stature emphasizes how thin he has become. I worry that his obsessive exercise will harm him more than help. The way he talks also worries me. Before we left our home in Edinburgh to journey here to London and promote his newly collected writings, his practice was to waken groggily no earlier than noon. For a long time, he refused to make the trip at all. Then abruptly he called it essential and surprised me by filling his hours with walking to prepare himself. Soon he wakened at nine. In a matter of weeks, he backed to eight o’clock, to seven, to six. On the train bound for London, he walked in place, his cheeks red from exertion.
“To avoid the laudanum,” he kept insisting, although I know that he hasn’t abandoned it entirely. Two decanters of the wretched liquid are among the clothes and books that he packed.
I was especially troubled when he said, “As my waking hour retreats from five to four to three, I fear that I am backing into yesterday.”
Yesterday, though, is what I am convinced he wants to back into. His journey to London seems about his past more than his collected writings—or perhaps the two are disturbingly intertwined.
Our income from Father’s work is too little for us to afford the splendid town house in which we are staying. A middle-aged woman who serves as maid and cook has been supplied to us as well. Father claims that he doesn’t know who pays the bills, and I believe him. Perhaps one of his old acquaintances secretly provided the means for us to make this journey, although I can’t imagine whom, since so many of those acquaintances, Wordsworth and Coleridge, for example, have passed over, or as Father says, “have joined the majority,” since far more people died over the centuries than are currently alive.
Our lodging is near Russell Square, and after we arrived four days ago, Father puzzled me by asking me to walk with him before we unpacked. Within a few blocks, we reached the Square, where I was delighted to find a wonderful park in the middle of the tumultuous city. A breeze had chased the fog away. In what Father told me was rare December sunlight, he surveyed the grass and the bare trees, the intensity of his blue eyes indicating his memories.
“When I was seventeen,” he said, “I lived on the streets of London.”
I knew that, of course, because Father had included some of those terrible events in his Opium-Eater book.
“I lived on the streets for the entire winter,” he continued.
I knew this, too, but I have learned to let Father say what is on his mind.
“In those days, cows wandered this square. Many nights, a companion and I slept here, a rag that could barely be called a blanket wrapped around us. I’d been lucky enough to find an old bucket. When the udders on the cows were full, I did my best to milk one of them. The warmth of the milk helped us not to shiver.”
Father spoke without looking at me, his attention focused totally on his memories. “So much has changed. Coming from the train station, which didn’t exist then, I hardly recognized much of the city. There are so many places I need to see.”
His tone suggested that he didn’t want to see some of those places, even though he needed to.
“Ann,” he murmured.
My mother’s name was Margaret. Mine is Emily.
“Ann,” he repeated. Continue reading ›