Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Mask of the Verdoy by Phil Lecomber (guest post, excerpt, GIVEAWAY) Goddess Fish Tours
It is my pleasure to have a guest post from author Phil Lecomber in addition to hosting his novel, Mask of the Verdoy
ELF: What is your writing process?
PL: THE CHARACTERS
I like to avoid too much visual description of a character in my books. I don’t want this to get in the way of the reader’s imagination – I’d rather their subconscious fills in the blanks, moulding a figure that they’re reminded of by the character traits. Too much visual description will simply stop the flow of the action or dialogue.
However, as the author, I do need some idea of what the characters look like. For many of the minor players I’ll often choose a character actor from British television or films (usually from the 1970s for some reason); for the main players it’s a little more nebulous. Think of your partner now, or a good friend or family member; I don’t think we have a mental 2-D portrait in our heads when we think of them – it’s more of an essence in which the face and physical attributes are simply a part of the whole. I’m reminded of a story about Picasso. Apparently the artist was travelling in a train when a fellow-passenger asked him why he didn’t paint people "the way they really are." When Picasso asked what he meant the man took out a snapshot of his wife, saying, "That's my wife." Picasso responded, "Isn't she rather small and flat?" So, I try to paint the main characters with their humour, cynicism, the way they smoke, eat, the way they respond to situations … but mainly with the way they speak.
As far as choosing the characters for the cast, well, as I write period fiction I’ve usually read a great deal around the subject and have certain real-life individuals that I want to represent. For example, in Mask of the Verdoy , the inspiration for Sir Pelham Saint Clair was the real-life British Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley; the second book, The Grimaldi Vaults will feature a character called Ilse Blau, based on the outrageous 1920s Weimar cabaret star Anita Berber.
The next thing is to capture the character’s voice – this is the most crucial part for me because the majority of the story will be told via the dialogue, and this has to be convincing. For the smaller roles I go back to imagining them as character actors from films or television – it’s surprising how easily the distinctive voice then develops; as the books are set in the 1930s it also helps to watch films and read novels from the period.
For the main protagonist, George Harley, it took a lot more work; George was developed over months of research. His voice had to be the most natural to me; so there’s the London thing, the playing with words, the rough poetry and musicality of his phrasing and slang … and, of course, his everyday humour. I think I’m at a stage now with Harley (and with some of the other main characters such as Solly Rosen, Vi Coleridge, FW Swales etc.) that I can put him into a situation and just listen to how he reacts – rather than forcing the words from his lips.
To start with I’ll have a premise – what I’m trying to convey with the book. This may sound a little highfalutin and actually for me it’s not essential that the reader gets this; but I think it’s a good place to start. The premise of MOTV was to remind ourselves of how extremism once overtook Europe and how easy it would be for it to happen again. Then there’s the plotting. I usually have a main plot and then at least one or two subplots (which will often merge with the main plot somehow). With the main plot I’ll usually have the start, middle and finish, but I’ll obviously need to fill in the gaps. Some writers do this on the hoof, but for me there needs to be a ‘gestation’ period for the small connections to develop naturally. I’ve found that this is something that can’t be forced; I’ll often wake to find that a solution to a particular sticking point has been generated in my unconscious. It a little bit of the magic of creativity (maybe linked to Carl Jung’s theory of Active Imagination). Once this process is complete I’ll write a synopsis of each chapter, live with it for a few weeks (tweaking as I go) and then sit down, roll up my sleeves and start the first draft.
And then, of course, it’s all about the writing, reading, rewriting, rereading, rewriting, rereading, rewriting, rereading … you get the picture.
Please click here for a link to the interview of the author by Crime Fiction Lovers.
Mask of the Verdoy
by Phil Lecomber
LONDON, 1932 … a city held tight in the grip of the Great Depression. GEORGE HARLEY’S London. The West End rotten with petty crime and prostitution; anarchists blowing up trams; fascists marching on the East End.
And then, one smoggy night …
The cruel stripe of a cutthroat razor … three boys dead in their beds … and a masked killer mysteriously vanishing across the smoky rooftops of Fitzrovia.
Before long the cockney detective is drawn into a dark world of murder and intrigue, as he uncovers a conspiracy that threatens the very security of the British nation.
God save the King! eh, George?
THE 1930s … thinking debutantes, Bright Young Things and P. G. Wodehouse? Think again—more like fascists, psychopaths, and kings of the underworld. GEORGE HARLEY’S London is a city of crime and corruption … of murder most foul, and smiling, damned villains.
In part an homage to Grahame Greene’s Brighton Rock, and to the writings of Gerald Kersh, James Curtis, Patrick Hamilton, Norman Collins and the other chroniclers of London lowlife in the 1930s, Mask of the Verdoy also tips its hat to the heyday of the British crime thriller—but unlike the quaint sleepy villages and sprawling country estates of Miss Marple and Hercules Poirot, George Harley operates in the spielers, clip-joints and all-night cafés that pimple the seedy underbelly of a city struggling under the austerity of the Great Slump.
With Mussolini’s dictatorship already into its seventh year in Italy, and with a certain Herr Hitler standing for presidential elections in Germany, 1932 sees the rise in the UK of the British Brotherhood of Fascists, led by the charismatic Sir Pelham Saint Clair. This Blackshirt baronet is everything that Harley despises and the chippy cockney soon has the suave aristocrat on his blacklist.
But not at the very top. Pride of place is already taken by his arch enemy, Osbert Morkens—the serial killer responsible for the murder and decapitation of Harley’s fiancée, Cynthia … And, of course—they never did find her head.
Mask of the Verdoy is the first in the period crime thriller series, the George Harley Mysteries.
PEARSON RETRACED HIS steps as best he could in the smog, chose a slightly different angle and ventured out again, this time managing to find the curved pavement of the crossroads, realizing he must have wandered into the intersecting street. He regained the tramlines and set off in what he hoped was the correct direction.
‘Harley! … Harley!’
There was still no reply from the private detective, so Pearson increased his pace to a quick march, keeping his eyes peeled for any further obstacles that might appear from the gloom.
After a minute or so with still no sign of Harley the policeman stopped to assess the situation. Surely he should have caught up by now? In his confusion had he chosen the wrong way? Was he now travelling back in the opposite direction?
Someone cleared their throat behind him.
Pearson span on his heels to come face to face with the unearthly features of the mask, the wispy tendrils of yellow-green smog adding to the spectral effect.
‘Harley! Christ, man! This is no time for practical jokes! … I was nearly crushed under the wheels of a cart back there, you know! Why the hell didn’t you wait for me? You must have heard me calling ... Harley! I’m bloody talking to you! Harley?’
By the time he’d caught sight of the cosh, Pearson had finally realized that the masked man that stood before him was a good few inches shorter than George Harley, and was dressed in a completely different outfit. But of course, by then—as the leather-clad metal hammered into his temple—it was too late.
AUTHOR Bio and Links:
Most of his working life has been spent in and around the capital in a variety of occupations. He has worked as a musician in the city’s clubs, pubs and dives; as a steel-fixer helping to build the towering edifices of the square mile (and also working on some of the city’s iconic landmarks, such as Tower Bridge); as a designer of stained-glass windows; and—for the last quarter of a century—as the director of a small company in Mayfair specializing in the electronic security of some of the world’s finest works of art.
All of which, of course, has provided wonderful material for a novelist’s inspiration.
Always an avid reader, a chance encounter as a teenager with a Gerald Kersh short story led to a fascination with the ‘Morbid Age’— the years between the wars. The world that Phil has created for the George Harley Mysteries is the result of the consumption and distillation of myriad contemporary novels, films, historical accounts, biographies and slang dictionaries of the 1930s—with a nod here and there to some of the real-life colourful characters that he’s had the pleasure of rubbing shoulders with over the years.
So, the scene is now set … enter George Harley, stage left …
Phil lives in the beautiful West Country city of Bath with his wife, Susie. They have two sons, Jack and Ned.
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