With thanks to the good offices of Dr S. C. of Omaha, who pointed me in the right direction, my novel By The Sea is now available for you to buy on Amazon’s Kindle. You can get the ebook from Amazon in the U. of K., in the U. S. and A., in Germany and in France. It’ll cost you $1.99 or local equivalent. If you have an iGadget you can get it at the iBook store which contrary to my earlier statement is entirely legit, and if you do that you’ll be putting down £2.99. This is in addition to its availability as a pdf download from Lulu at £1.99, or, if you must, as a book for a princely £7.03. You can, of course, get the original entirely free from Lablit, in which forum Dr J. L. R. of Rotherhithe kindly published the original version in serial form. The Kindle version is slightly different from the earlier published versions in that it restores Dr J. L. R.’s edits, chapter breaks and chapter names in full – the earlier versions were something of a mixture.
So what is By The Sea? One reader, a Dr J. G. of Sussex, has been the only person brave enough to have supplied a testimonial:
Bram Stoker meets Tom Sharpe in this hugely entertaining romp. Henry Gee may just have invented a new genre –not Science Fiction but Science Gothick.
It started after a stillborn attempt at SF (a huge sprawling novel called variously The Sigil or Siege of Stars, now very much in the
doldrums dockyards for serious reworking) when my agent suggested I should write what she called ‘a puzzle book’ – a mystery with a hint of science. To keep up the pace, I thought I might try writing it as a serial, and Dr J. L. R., to her infinite credit, agreed.
Thus was born the Lablit element, in which a young scientist used to the pristine certainties of the laboratory comes to grips with the vasty deeps of the unknown. Well, there’s a mysterious death, and all sorts of crepuscular goings on, and there is definitely a fantasy element, too. I decided to set it in a remote English seaside resort aiming to do for Cromer what Stephen King does for Maine, and the main characters turn out to be a troubled super-sleuth and her chirpy detective sergeant. I modelled Detective Inspector Persephone Sheepwool and Detective Sergeant Elaine Fitch quite consciously on Colin Dexter’s Morse and Lewis, except that Sheepwool is into modern art rather than opera, and the obvious fact that they are both women.
I enjoy writing female characters, and think (if I say so myself) I am rather good at it. I do this because I find that women make for more complex and interesting characters than men. Such liberty allows me to write the following: Elaine Fitch, like Robbie Lewis, loves driving, but I bet when Lewis drives Morse’s Jag he isn’t in a supermarket car park with the kids in the back:
Fitch changes into fourth, then fifth, and she’s away. She decides to sublimate her frustration by concentrating on the driving, something she’s superbly good at, and which always gives her solace. At times like this, while she’s waiting for something to happen that might get her closer to some kind of resolution, she likes to remember the fun she’s always had on the advanced and defensive driving courses the force occasionally offers. Wonderful! The expression on Jason’s face when she does screaming handbrake turns in the supermarket car park; the admiring approval of Dean, her eldest, and at eleven, passionate about cars; the squeals of mingled terror and delight from Eric and little Bryony.
“Mum! You might get arrested! By the police!” Eric had said.
“Mum is the police, stupid.” Dean had replied, not entirely unreasonably.
Well, there you are. Being me, I salt the story with quite a few references to H. P. Lovecraft and try where I can to conjure an ambience of the Gothick – the astute reader will note, for example, that I use the weather quite
hamfistedly deliberately to counterpoint the action, and that the landscape plays a very active role in the narrative. The horror element comes to the fore quite often, and some of the scenes are so repulsively gory that I frightened myself as I wrote them.
So, if your taste runs to lab lit gothic schlock horror police procedurals (with mermaids – did I mention the mermaids?) then this is the book for you. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t.
I should mention something about names. Many years ago Crox Minor invented a character called ‘Inspector Sheepwool’. Names like that can’t go to waste. At about the same time she doodled up a cartoon of a bemused fish with stars and birds swirling around its head. “It’s a Dazed Haddock,” she explained. From which notice was born – instantly – one of the pubs in which some of the action takes place. Kids, eh? Listen to them, for in their most casual utterances empires and dynasties lie.