(This isn’t a promo post as such because the book’s not out till June. But I’ve had a lot of questions on Twitter/GR/here about this book, so I wanted to put the answers in one place!)
Backstory. Last year I wrote a short story called ‘The Caldwell Ghost’ for a Halloween anthology. It was set in the late Victorian period, with a Holmes/Watson-like relationship between Simon Feximal, ghost-hunter and occult detective, and Robert Caldwell, journalist and sidekick who narrates the stories. The premise of the tale was that Robert and Simon have been publicly colleagues and secretly lovers for twenty years, that in writing Simon’s adventures for a Victorian audience Robert has systematically written himself out of his own life, and that he has at last decided to tell the truth.
This is how the story begins:
A note to the Editor
I have been Simon Feximal’s companion, assistant, and chronicler for twenty years now, and during that time my Casebooks of Feximal the Ghost-Hunter have spread the reputation of this most accomplished of ghost hunters far and wide.
You have asked me often for the tale of our first meeting, and how my association with Feximal came about. I have always declined, because it is a story too private to be truthfully recounted, and a memory too precious to be falsified. But none knows better than I that stories must be told.
So here is it, Henry, a full and accurate account of how I met Simon Feximal, which I shall leave with my solicitor to pass to you after my death.
I dare say it may not be quite what you expect.
It was meant to be a one-off but my imagination was caught by foul-tempered, taciturn Simon, and I liked doing Robert’s voice. I wrote another story, Butterflies, which is free on Smashwords, to continue the tale.
At this point, Jordan L Hawk and I realised we were both doing late nineteenth-century occult detectives on opposite sides of the Atlantic. There was only one thing for it: Jordan’s Whyborne and Griffin had to stop over in London for a quick adventure on their way to Egypt for their book Necropolis. We called the resulting co-written free story Remnant, and it placed second in Best Free Story in the Goodreads MM Readers Choice Awards last year.
Now, Necropolis is set in 1899. That meant I had to jump forward five years in Simon and Robert’s timeline to have them meet Whyborne and Griffin. It turned out as I wrote that a lot had changed. Robert now has a mysterious bit of metal embedded in his hand, a nasty scar under his eye, and a lot of grey hair. The ghost-writing on Simon’s skin is working very differently. They’ve been in the wars.
A lot of people have asked about this–what happened in the intervening years, where is the story between Butterflies and Remnant, what’s the deal? Well, it’s been in my head, and now it’s coming out, and, for starters, get a load of this cover by Kanaxa.
So is this a novel?
No. It’s a collection of short stories–some closely linked so they form a continuing narrative over days and weeks, others standalone episodes–covering various parts of Simon and Robert’s life.
I’m not sure about short stories…
No, well, me neither. But that’s just how this had to be written.
What period does it cover? Are we going to find out about the stuff in Remnant?
It starts with ‘The Caldwell Ghost’ and Butterflies, and plays out the full story of Simon and Robert getting together. Then we cover various other incidents–how Robert got his scar, the cartouche we see in Remnant, a particularly evil enemy–all the way to the end.
Um…that sounds a bit ominous.
Oh, come on, have I ever let you down?
Apart from then.
Apart from then, no. Fine. Is this going to be sinister?
Hell yes. High level of spooky magic, brooding evil, ghosts, curses, cults, plots, and the creepiest villain I have ever written.
I object to depictions of devil worship, spirit communication or tampering with the occult. Should I buy this book?
No. Or, yes, because I like royalties, but don’t read it.
Is ‘The Caldwell Ghost’ currently available separately?
No, it’s not. It will be included in the book, which is much better value for money anyway, so hang on. You can still get Butterflies and Remnant for free
The Secret Casebook of Simon Feximal is due for publication with Samhain in June 2015. I dare say I will mention it again before then.