Last Sunday I handed over what I fervently hope is the final version of The Shrewsbury Murders. The place was a pub called The Coach & Horses and the time was the start of Happy Hour.
No coincidence, that. After working on it all the previous week I was satisfied I’d done all I could. And boy, did I need a drink.
My editor Mike, a self-confessed pedant, asked whether I’d changed it much, or just worked through his suggestions from the first time he’d seen it. He’s a Cambridge man, and these dialogues always make me feel like the errant schoolboy who’s late with his homework.
“Well, I took nearly all your suggestions on board Mike. Particularly when you’d written things like NO VERB IN THIS SENTENCE! Or, THIS IS NOT OLD ENGLISH!
He nodded. He really did print those and several other pithy bits of advice in various parts of the MS.
“Much change in the word-count?”
“Yes: about seven thousand more.”
Silence while he swallowed, and then:
This was said in disbelief, as though rather than producing something of 95,000 words I was giving him a tome a bit longer than War and Peace.
“Yes. I just wasn’t happy with some of Books 1 and 3. I’ve added to Book 2 as well.”
[TSM is divided in to three sections; each called a ‘Book’.]
“So I’ve got to read the whole thing again?”
“Well, be good if you could.”
I grasped at a straw:
“And thanks for redrafting the old English verse in Book 3; makes a big difference.”
This did little to calm him, and rapidly I caught Susie’s eye and signalled for two more.
An hour and a few beers later waters were calmer. He asked me if I’d done a blurb to help publicise it. I hadn’t, but have now. Proving I sometimes do not shrink from shameless self-promotion here it is:
‘The Shrewsbury Murders’ is the second novel in the Mike Ambrose trilogy that begins with ‘Project Overkill’.
Near the end of the 10th century a famous Archbishop is finally laid to rest in Glastonbury, England. A few private possessions are buried with him. Later, when his body is being relocated to Canterbury some of these artefacts are stolen.
In the late 16th century two friends meet in an ale house in London. They decide to embark on a journey together. As a result they make a life changing discovery, and later become bitter enemies.
In Whitechapel, London a series of five brutal murders begins in August 1888. They are perpetrated by a murderer known as Jack the Ripper, who is never identified or caught. He is afterwards regarded as the first serial killer. Inexplicably his crimes endure in the public consciousness up to the present day.
In Wales, following a German air raid in 1941the lives of each generation of a family line are marred by severe bouts of depression and dread.
In Shrewsbury in December 2011 Mike Ambrose, his partner Marcia and their close friend Claire Osbourn are hosting a Christmas party. An inexplicable occurrence at the end of it stays in Mike’s mind.
One day they encounter Cassie, an almost penniless young woman who desperately wants to work. They believe in her and decide to help.
Months afterwards a series of gruesome murders begins in Shrewsbury. The killer leaves a note signed ‘Jack the Ripper’. Incredibly, there are reasons to believe it may indeed be the same man.
But that is impossible!
Amidst the ensuing terror, happily fuelled by press, radio, and television Mike and those closest to him are themselves threatened, and have no alternative but to take matters in to their own hands.
In doing so, they stumble on to a secret even more chilling than the murders themselves.
So there it is, and thank you for reading. It may be that Ms. J. S-C is congratulating herself on getting the world exclusive, but I doubt it. I’d still love to know whether it whets anyone’s appetite though.
But the very best thing about finishing TSM is the feeling of getting my life back. Waking up Monday morning felt like being on holiday. It still does. Once again there is time for tweets, Facebook, Tomb Raider, and best of all reading books by other people.