MEET THE CHARACTERS
CHILDREN’S PICTURE BOOKS > BEDTIME READING/EARLY READERS
Clyde and Friends by Russ Towne
I went to say “hi” to new neighbors next door
And saw something I’d never seen before
When I say what I saw please don’t laugh
Because what I saw was a green giraffe!
He was standing on his head out in the rain
And the poor wet guy seemed in a lot of pain
His body swayed way up high
And his feet were stuck straight up in the sky!
I just stood there not knowing what to do
As he ate a banana that was bright blue!
Available on Amazon and elsewhere.
The Melding of Aeris by D. Wallace Peach
I am Aeris, once a prisoner of Fallmist Keep, my home in the Sea Barrows. My solitude was self-imposed, for I was born a beast of nightmares.
My story is one of identity and redemption. For so long I loathed myself, a man in a monstrous body whose only wish was for human skin, to lead a normal life beyond the confines of my father’s walls.
Long before the consequences revealed themselves, my parents embraced the art of melding. How can I fault them for my maiming? They couldn’t have known that the embellishments to their bodies, the horns and scales, the snakeskin and white wings would warp the life of their child.
For most of my youth, my mother forbade mirrors in the keep. Yet, I was never blind. When I finally stood as a man, naked before my first looking glass, I beheld my vile entirety. Nowhere did I observe the smooth skin or soft hair of a human. My body was a haphazard scrap-work of gray serpent skin and black reptilian scale. Withered white feathers grew randomly over my arms and caught in my clothing. When I pressed my fingertips to my reflection, I stared unblinkingly into eyes of hammered gold, the slit iris a ragged rift that ran straight through the heart of my soul.
I wished my parents had smothered me at my birth.
Instead, in my eighteenth year, they granted me a gift. An alchemist stripped me of my beast’s skin, and I woke melded in human flesh. The richness of the world unfolded before me. Elated and grateful, I was free to explore, to love, to blend into a city that I’d only viewed through the keep’s arched windows.
My precious few days of freedom ended with a woman’s horrified cries as she recognized a tiny flaw by my eye. Through her grief, I discovered the source of my new skin. In my quest to be human, I had truly become the beast I despised.
Now, my father offers me a new start in a foreign land across the sea. Yet, how do I sail away from the very skin I wear? I have no choice but to battle, to halt the meldings that have been both my blessing and bane. In the end, I will sacrifice everything to finally know what it means to bear a human heart and soul.
Available at Amazon and other major retailers.
FANTASY > EPIC
Dance of the Goblins by Jaq D Hawkins
Goblins have survived through the ages of man by staying out of sight. I was around for the old Goblin Wars, when my people learned this truth; that humans destroy what they don’t understand, and so they have sought to exterminate our species. But humans forget quickly. After a few generations, humans consigned the goblins to legend and over time, began to believe that we were only stories told to frighten children.
We even stopped trading children with the humans, though it would have improved both our species. They tortured the changlings and left them exposed, so we gave their inbred children back and took our own to safety, though it meant that breeding became more and more difficult.
Then the Turning came again; the magnetic pole shift that makes the planet flip over every two-hundred thousand or so years in human time. Most of mankind was wiped out, yet there were survivors. For some reason they gathered mostly in the rubble of the old cities and began their societies anew. Our warrior goblins, whom we refer to as Those Who Protect, were all for killing off the remaining humans to protect our own future generations. Many of our kind were lost during the Turning too. We dissuaded the warriors and stayed out of sight, as always.
Much of what happened was my fault. I am called Haghuf, and your people would call me a librarian. I keep the books of magic safe. Humans lost their magic long ago, yet one night I heard the unmistakable rhythm of feet dancing, reverberating from the surface world. Goblins dance to the natural rhythm of the earth in spiritual ecstasy, but this came from above.
I went to investigate, breaching the surface for the first time in many generations, since the time before the Turning when humans fought with swords. Such times were coming again, though the human weapons could not match ours, forged deep within the earth with dragon fire. I was cautious, but when I found a man dancing in the light of the moon, I knew him for a magician, like myself. Magic had come back to the humans. I soon learned that Count Anton was the leader of the humans and that others of his kind ruled in the new world they had formed.
We kept our friendship secret. Anton agreed that the other humans would not understand. But inevitably, our secret was destined to be found out. A human wandering in the tunnels dug for an old human transportation system encountered the goblins who live between the surface and the deep places. He was taken prisoner. They had their sport with him, but when they drugged him with the mushroom potion that would make him forget and expelled him back into the early morning sunlight, a search party happened to be passing by. The humans saw the goblin who pushed their man out.
That was when it all began again. The humans, true to their kind, immediately tried to dig out the goblins with intent to destroy our species, though we had let theirs live. Thus they began a renewed war that they couldn’t possibly win.
What happened is told in a book called Dance of the Goblins.
Available at Amazon and other major retailers
FANTASY > GENERAL / CHRISTIAN
Journey to Aviad by Allison D. Reid
It was a hard beginning, growing up in Tyroc. The city covers evils of all types, as a fresh snow covers a dung heap; pungent and waiting to trap the unsuspecting foot. Only its exterior is shrouded in white, the pretense of innocence. In the city, none care to look beyond the surface, for the hidden darkness is too overwhelming for one soul to carry. The city trapped me, trapped all of us…and my mother knew it. I lost the innocence of my youth at the sharp edge of her cruelty before I finally made my escape, while those who knew my suffering simply looked away.
Some memories fade slowly, until they are only wisps of smoke that dissipate into nothing when you try to catch hold of them. Others stay with you, like the details of a recurring nightmare. A smell, a sound, a flash of light can catch you off guard and take you back to that place you wish you could forget. There are nights when I close my eyes and I can see the tiny one room cottage my mother, my younger sisters, and I once lived in. So many years have passed that it is probably long gone now. But in my mind it continues to stand, just as it was when I was a girl; the smooth, cold gray stones of the floor…the wood beams of the roof, stained black from the hearth fire. A trestle table, some stools, and my mother’s loom were the only furniture.
My mother would sit there for hours on end, her light brown hair swept up, away from her face, her fingers working with forceful precision. The curve of her back shut us out as she embraced a world of her own design, carefully constructed of hand-spun threads. Anyone who pulled her away from it was met with a ferocity that betrayed the seething anger consuming her soul. And so my sisters and I spent our days treading carefully around her, trying not to break the dreadful silence.
I remember, too, the small fingerprints that dotted the walls. Most of them belonged to my sister, Elowyn, who only seemed happy when she was covered in dirt from the surrounding woodlands. She often disappeared for days out there. Mother barely noticed, but my stomach always churned with worry over what might become of her. Somehow she always returned, carrying one small treasure or another. Her whole being glowed with a peaceful contentment that I envied at times. There was certainly none to be found at home.
Then one day Elowyn returned with an unusual object—a coin it seemed. But it was old, with markings that made me wonder about its origins. Our lives changed that day, though I had yet to realize it. It was a change that brought adventure into our dreary existence; and with it both danger and the joys of freedom. More than just our lives, the whole world began to change. History, legend, and prophecy were becoming real before our eyes, leaving us at the mercy of an impending storm no one could stop. We had a choice; to believe in Aviad’s truth and join in the fight to save our world, or to do nothing and let the growing darkness swallow us whole.
I will not tell you what we chose, though you can probably guess. Our story is not here on this page—it has been written elsewhere, and by a more masterful scholar and scribe than I shall ever be. But I hope that through those writings you will join us as we make our journey of hope, of courage…sometimes of pain and despair…but always with faith. Where it shall end, even I do not yet know.
ISBN: 9781311864192 (Smashwords)
ISBN: 1456329650 (paperback)
YOUNG ADULT SOFT SCIFI/PARANORMAL
Anabelle Lost by Melissa Volker
My name is Anabelle Gamin and I am 17 years old. I have friends, parents, and a dog named Benji.
But today I woke in my bed to find it’s no longer my bed. I woke to find my parents do not know me, nor do my friends, my dog…
My mother screamed that some stranger was in her dead daughter’s bedroom, and my father called the police.
They do not know me.
If that wasn’t enough, if I touch something living when I am sad — it dies. If I touch something dead when I am happy — it comes back to life.
You have no idea how easy the first is to do, and how hard the latter.
I don’t understand what happened…I don’t know if it’s me that has gone wrong, or the world…but I have to find out.
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PARANORMAL > DARK COMEDY
Toten Herzen Malandanti by Chris Harrison
Message delivered (under duress) by Toten Herzen lead vocalist Dee Vincent.
I’ve been asked by our publicist Rob Wallet to tell you about Toten Herzen Malandanti. Big it up, he said. No, I said. My message to you, great and wonderous readers, is avoid this book like you’d avoid the Black Death.
Why? Well, for starters the author has portrayed me as a good six inches shorter than I am in real life. (And made Susan Bekker a good six inches taller.) He portrays us as a bickering bunch of nutters and that whole lead singer-lead guitarist conflict is so 1970s, which admittedly is where we come from, but that’s no excuse. Hang on, Susan Bekker wants me to say something . . . the what? . . . Tell them about the what? . . . We’re playing Brasilia on the 3rd June? They’re not interested in that, this lot read books.
I suppose I should tell you about the story. We go into the studio to record our first album in forty years, there’s some trollop in America suing me and the band because I called her a trollop (which she is) and there’s a witch after us because of a secret contained in a book that I own. The usual vampires, witches, more witches hogwash. You’d be better off keeping your money and buying a cup of coffee.
So there it is. Rob, I’ve told them; you can put the goldfish back in its bowl.
Actually, if you do have forty dollars or whatever the currency is in Brazil, we’re playing the Estadia Nacional de Brasilia on the 3rd June. . . .
Amazon, Smashwords and other online retailers
Come Hell or High Water, Part 2: Rising by Stephen Morris
My name is Elizabeth. I grew up in Ireland, near Waterford, the daughter of a farmer in the mid-1700s. I loved Padraig, one of the local shepherds, but my father refused his permission for Padraig and I to wed. Instead, he struck a bargain with one of the English landlords whose estate along the river included the old tower marking the spot where Strongbow (an English knight) married Aoife (the daughter of an Irish king) and began the English occupation of our country.
I married the landlord, as my father insisted. But my husband, old enough to be my father, was also a cruel man — what Englishmen in Ireland are not?! He raped me and he beat me. He beat me for bringing his tea cold, he beat me for bringing his tea too hot, he beat me for being too angry that the English Protestants ruled us with an iron fist and he beat me for being forlorn as I would never see Padraig again. It was less than a year after our wedding that my husband beat me to death.
But my friend Eva wanted to revenge my sorrow and death against my husband and father. So she made a bargain with the faerie queens and stole bits of their magic. Eva was able to raise me from my grave. So I struck back against my husband and father. I killed them both and licked up their blood in order to sustain the magic that Eva had raised me with. But I was not content to simply go back into the grave and sleep, knowing that men continued to beat, rape, and mistreat women.
So now I continue to rise from my grave, seducing and killing men in revenge for the way they treated me. For the way the treat other women. And I have been called to Prague to aid a woman accused of witchcraft by the mob….
Available on Amazon in paperback or Kindle edition.
HISTORICAL FICTION MYTHOLOGY
Search for the Golden Serpent by Luciana Cavallaro
Hi prospective readers,
My name is Evan Chronis. My creator thought it may be a good idea to introduce myself as I am the main character in the book she wrote. I don’t know why she chose me to lead this motley crew to find some holier than thou relics.
First, she rips me away from my thriving business and from the 21st century! Who does that? I mean, wouldn’t it be more sensible to choose a character that was from ancient Greece, a hero or anti-hero like say, Achilles? At least he wouldn’t hide in the bowels of a ship when pirates come raiding or run when the harpies attack! Second, why write about a period of time no one is interested in? Seriously, there are other more popular genres to write in. Sheesh!
I will give her credit though, it is packed full action, a roller-coaster ride and I got to visit interesting places and meet wonderful people. You will too. Come along and say hi and meet the other characters. Just between you and me, some of these other characters I have to work with aren’t very nice.
See you on the flip-side of page 1!
Available at Amazon and other major retailers.
HISTORICAL FICTION > 19TH CENTURY AMERICAN > SAGA
Weary of Running by Adrienne Morris
Of course I remember tricking Willy Weldon at the spelling bee my father organized at 1st Presbyterian and I don’t feel bad about it. Not really, anyway. Everyone fawned over that little headachy cripple and it made me and my twin brother Fred sick. And it was years ago. Willy acts all mournful and like we’re supposed to feel sorry his father was a morphine eater. There’s even a book about all their trials and such called The House on Tenafly Road.
I’d never tell my brother but I kind of admired Willy’s father, John Weldon, for fighting the South. But Willy. I just couldn’t stand the sight of him and so I convinced him I’d teach him the spelling words properly. The big joke was teaching him lieutenant wrong. Willy insisted he knew the spelling of his father’s rank, but his head was foggy from that fall from the horse out West (some say he was fleeing from a brothel at age 12). Only Willy’d end up in a house of ill repute so young. It’s just the way the Weldons are. Mama beat the skin right off my feet that night when she found out we taught Willy every word wrong, but it was worth it.
Personally I don’t think books should be written about morphine-eaters (even if they’re war heroes). Willy will only humiliate his family like his father before him. Mark my words. When people write about my life it’s going to be different.
I’m off to West Point. I’ll enter the military as a lieutenant and I’ll spell it right. My brother Fred says, “It’s 1884 and times are changing.” Some colored boys are trying to get into the academy. I say let them try, but I’ll be damned if I let anyone– black or white– beat me to the top of my class. So long, Willy and Englewood and Mama. You have your sorry little lives and one day I’ll show you all. I was worth something.
My name is Buck Crenshaw. Read about me in Weary of Running by Adrienne Morris.
Available at Amazon.com
HISTORICAL > ROMANCE > WESTERN
Gallagher’s Pride by MK McClintock
November 13, 1883
We have more snow at the ranch this year than I recall ever having in Scotland, and yet, the cold doesn’t seep into the bones the way it does back home. Yes, I still call Scotland home, as much as I call Montana my home. Highland blood still runs deep within me.
I had a most frightening encounter with a wolf yesterday. Eliza and Amanda encountered a small pack of them last year, but this is the first I’ve seen one up close. Dare I say it without sounding crazy? She was beautiful. Of course, had I been paying attention to how far away I was riding from our group, and if Ramsey had not been such a good aim with a gun as to scare off the animal, I’m not certain what would have happened. One day I hope to show you this magnificent land.
The hawks for which this ranch is named, have built a new nest nearby. We don’t see them as often as the eagles that often soar over the house. Jacob is fascinated with them, and I’ll admit that I am, too.
How is my beloved Heather? I miss riding her across the meadows and hills. I have thought about bringing her back to Montana, but I dare not risk her life on the crossing. I will have to settle for a long visit when we come in the spring.
The sun is hidden behind a sky filled with gray clouds, but I see that I have dallied long enough. Ethan said he has a surprise for us, but won’t give me a hint about it. I’ll tell you all about it in the next letter.
My deepest love to you and Iain.
Available at Amazon and other major retailers.
DETECTIVE – TRUE CRIME NOVEL
The Execution of Justice by Michael Phelps
My name is Detective Mike Walsh. I was just promoted from Patrol Officer to Detective in the elite Robbery & Homicide Unit of the Indianapolis Police Department. Hand-picked by my original Field Training Officer, Detective Sergeant Jack Lovell. I am fighting inner feelings of not being able to measure up to Jack’s expectations.
“Mike, we are not here to judge anyone . . . we are here to get the ‘bad guys’ off the streets . . .” Jack tells me. I determine to follow his lead, learn and do my best to be half as good a Detective as he is.
Jack, the seasoned Detective and me, his rookie partner solve numerous cases . . . then we catch a case involving a gang or ruthless armed robbers who become more viscious with every robbery, culminating in the murder of a Brinks Armored Guard. Jack Lovell has eight months to live . . . My life will be changed forever.
Available at Amazon and all Internet Booksellers in both Hardcover and E-book Editions.
Smile Now, Cry Later by Paul MacDonald
Dear Employees, it has come to our attention that many of you are reading a new mystery series about a sardonic HR exec who moonlights as a private investigator. We strongly recommend that you avoid these books as the many that have read it are starting to openly question their life in Corporate America and are more vocal on conference calls. This is NOT good for our firm’s culture, which relies on placated cubicle dwellers content with their 2% raises every five years.
Included is the ASIN on Amazon just so you are aware of what the book looks like so you can avoid it.
GUILTY From the Villain’s Point of View by Brigitta Moon
Please, let me introduce myself. This of course is the best way to scrutinize a person who may interest you. My name is Coach Terrence Jackson. Most people refer to me as just Coach or the Coach. I am handsomely built and wear a killer smile every moment of the day that I can. I have fans – lots of them. I don’t know when they may be watching, so I’m always prepared. Always smiling. It’s my signature. I never leave home without it.
My difficulties started when a student accused me of a crime against her person. Of course she was lying and naturally the jury saw through the weak case and set me free. I was innocent of all charges, so what I can’t understand is the attack on my reputation and my person. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around the notion that someone is out to get me. Someone wants to make me pay for a crime I have been exonerated of by a jury of my peers. Someone has gathered together another jury in the midnight hour. All I can tell you is that I awoke to judgement from Hell.
Available on Amazon
The Friendship of Mortals by Audrey Driscoll
My name is Charles Milburn. I’m a librarian.
Boring, you say? Not really. At Miskatonic University, in Arkham, things are a little different. I was a cataloguer there, for fourteen years.
But you don’t want to hear about that, do you?
All right, I won’t tell you about cataloguing, but I will tell you about Herbert West.
He came into the Library and asked to see the Necronomicon. The Necronomicon is a remarkable book; some say it’s magical, others call it evil. Whatever it is, it did something, made a link between Herbert West and me, between the quiet librarian and the student of medicine, and of death.
He told me things I should not have believed, perhaps. But I did. God help me, I became West’s assistant and I learned unimaginable things. I learned his secrets, and have carried a burden ever since.
Come, sit down and have a drink. We have the whole night before us. I’ll tell you everything, and you will tell me if I did the right thing, because even after all these years I do not know.
ISBN: 9780986636905 (ebook)
ISBN: 9780986636981 (print)
Available at Smashwords, Amazon, B&N, Kobo and other retailers.
Eternal Curse: Battleground (Eternal Curse Book 2) by Toi Thomas
Hi there. My name is…
Wait I can’t tell you that, not just yet. You see I have a story to tell, but I need to take measures to protect me and my family from the evil ones who seek to tear us all down. We are living in a dark time, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a bit of light in each of us. That’s why I want to tell you my story…well, a story that I’m part of.
I started by telling my father Giovanni’s story, but that was just the beginning. I don’t really know what the world was like back in the earlier part of the 21st century, other than what I’ve learned from my father, but in the year 2070 everything looks bleak. A privileged orphan, raised by the best mother and father a girl could ask for, I’m not naive to the dangers that are coming. I just graduated from college, but no one has bothered to fill my mind with lies of a bright future through hard work. I’ve seen the real world, the underworld that’s been hidden. I know the humans are in the dark now, but soon the light will be filled with the shadows of underworld.
I don’t have the special talents and abilities of the ones I love, but I do have something to offer. My half-breed father is the most powerful creature I’ve ever encountered and my human mother is a doctor, a healer to the half-breeds. I’m not sure what my role is yet, but I know I have youth, I’m teachable and trainable, and most of all, I can tell a story. I can make sure that the trials we face now aren’t forgotten down the road.
When it’s time to step onto the battlefield, I plan to be ready. I want to make my family proud, I want to make my species proud, and I want the righteous to prevail…So I will tell my story and leave a legacy for the generations to come. This battle did not start with me and will not end with me, but I will leave my mark on history and prepare the next generation.
Available at Creatspace.com and Amazon.com.
CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S FICTION
Hanging From the High Wire by Bridget Straub
I was raised to be a writer. It’s in my blood, and what we in my family do. My father, my sister, and my brother, all writers. My mother was an editor and my husband is a literary agent. What else could I be, right? I had big plans to follow in the family business, but you know how life can be. It’s unpredictable and a lot can get in your way. Hanging From the High Wire chronicles some of the obstacles that thwarted me on my way to writing the great American novel.
Available on Amazon
CONTEMPORARY WOMEN; ROMANCE / CONTEMPORARY; OCCULT & SUPERNATURAL; RELIGIOUS; PSYCHOLOGICAL
Irish Firebrands by Christine Plouvier
Dillon Carroll asks, “What if your man believes in love at first sight? What if your woman doesn’t? What if they’re both wrong?”
“How much trouble can an empty-nester genealogist get into, on just a three-month tourist visa, in Ireland,” wonders Lana Pedersen.
Frank Halligan says, “One fellow is the lovable ‘Bad Boyfriend,’ and the other is the ‘Nice Guy Who Finishes Last,’ but which one is which?”
“My part is small, and that’s good, because it’s not pretty, at all; but while it’s being told, I can’t leave the others to carry the bin by themselves,” Medb McManus confides.
B&N ID: 2940016093796
Smashwords / e-book ISBN-13: 978-1301513826
Available in paperback & digital through retailers and libraries worldwide.
Spiralling Out by Terri Nash
Hi my name is Kirsten and I am still reeling at the betrayal of my two faced family. They have incarcerated me without my compliance to an institution without the wherewithal to cope. By that I mean drugs, alcohol, sex…I suppose that’s what got me here in the first place. This is not a story for the faint hearted so be warned but if you have the grit I invite you to follow me on a journey.
Published on Amazon. eBook and paperback
CHRISTIAN > AMISH
The Secret Voice by Bob Nailor
My name is Daniel Yoder. I’m Amish. Yes, I’m one of those strange people you see wearing a blue or white shirt, dark pants, suspenders and either a straw or black felt hat. Oh, and I usually get around in either a speedy one or two horse buggy. I’m one of the lucky guys who got to attend high school. No, Amish children do not usually attend school after the eight grade. That’s where I met Miss Bronson, the first black person to live in my area. She was my chorus teacher in high school. Amish aren’t prejudiced and to discover its ugliness first hand was a new experience for me. Of course, for me to learn to actually sing was totally un-Amish, too. I’m just an easy-going Amish boy who is introduced to the world and not sure how I want to accept it. Of course, there are secrets and everyone has a secret but as I discover, secrets don’t stay secret for long. Did I mention that EVERYONE has secrets?
ISBN: 978-1-61877-155-1 ebook
ISBN: 978-1-61877-154-4 paperback
Available at Amazon and most other outlets.
CHRISTIAN BOOKS & BIBLES > LITERATURE & FICTION > COLLECTIONS & ANTHOLOGIES
Pearlie Jane’s Soul Food Kitchen Volume 1 by Paul Johnston Sr.
Hello there, my name’s Pearlie Jane Meadow and I live in Middletown, Ohio. For the first sixty years of my life I was a regular ol’ heathen. Now my baby sister and me was different as night and day. She actually listened when our Grandma Whitacre would try to talk to us about the Lord. Not me though, I was stubborn as a Missouri mule. I loved my drinkin’ and runnin’ with my fast crowd, and stayin’ out partyin’ till all hours of the night. She loved goin’ to church and even married herself a Reverend whose wife died leavin’ him with two little babies to raise. Why the Lord let me live those sixty years the way I was, but took my baby sister at age forty two, I’ll never know? I can tell you that when she lay there dyin’ and begged me not to leave her, it ’bout tore me in two. It was bad enough when I thought she just didn’t want me to leave her side there in that hospital room, but when I realized she was talkin’ about where we was goin’ to spend eternity, well I got all quiet like. I promised her that I would think on the things she told me about Jesus lovin’ me even though I had been an ol’ heathen. To make a long story short, I did think on those things and right there in the middle of my old bar that I owned and run I fell on my knees and like that ol’ thief on the cross, I cried out to Jesus to be my Savior and I told him I wanted to live for him too, just like my baby sister. I’m an old woman now and that was more than ten years ago and my heathen days are behind me. I sure ain’t perfect though. Sometimes my temper still flares up and I have to do me some repentin’. I run a self supportin’ mission where I take in the folks that no one else wants. In the buildin’ where I once ran my bar I opened Pearlie Jane’s Soul Food Kitchen and the people at the mission help me run it to make ends meet so there is food on the table and a roof over all our heads. If you all would like to hear more, just stop on by Pearlie Jane’s Soul Food Kitchen and I’ll tell you some stories about the folks that come to me lookin’ for help. Hope to see ya’ll real soon.
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Baudelaire’s Revenge by Bob Van Laerhoven
Lecteur, je vous salue!
I’m Charles Baudelaire, doomed French poet, author of the collection “The Flowers of Evil.” I died miserably from syphilis 145 years ago, but a Flemish author did what my countrymen neglected: he brought me to life again in a shocking and provocative novel – just like my poems were! To my great satisfaction, he called the novel Baudelaire’s Revenge.
Some call the ending of the novel “esoteric.” I beg to differ. The title Baudelaire’s Revenge is not chosen because it makes you think this book is a crime novel, but because of its subtle meaning. Think about it: how can poor me, a poet who is dead for three years when the novel starts, take revenge on the characters? The answer is hidden in the ‘Aids of the 19th century’ – Syphilis aka French pox, the clap, tropical bubo, morbus Gallicus, hard chancre… I could go on…
In the 19th century, syphilis was a curse of the mighty, the rich… and artists like myself. Many novels and plays presented the disease as an essential part of the story or plot. There was a wealth of great names linked to the topic that could be of literary use: Pope Borgia, Bram Stoker, Henry VIII and Vincent Van Gogh, to name just a few, were thought to have suffered from syphilis.
Shakespeare, whom I consider the greatest English bard of all, was ‘obsessed’ with the chancre and possessed clinically exact knowledge of its manifestations which he expressed in many of his sonnets. My French colleague, the author Guy de Maupassant aka ‘the inspired madman,’ complained to Monsieur Flaubert about his “darkest depressions and infinite disease.’ De Maupassant’s syphilis led him to write horror stories like The Horla in which the last stage of neurosyphilis is symbolized in the form of a Demon – remember my eternal verse: Sans cesse à mes côtés s’agite le Démon – invading the protagonist’s brain. In everyday life, de Maupassant became obsessed with the idea that flies were eating his brain and he suffered hellish hallucinations. This brilliant writer, a leading exponent of the short story worldwide, died in an asylum, his mind destroyed by the chancre.
Since I’m a ghost, I learned that even in the beginning of the 20th century this venereal disease was still considered as being heretic and not contagious. A lot of physicians were convinced that syphilis was being transmitted by ‘women of the working class’ and by prostitutes, because syphilis was thought hereditary in those humble social classes. The ‘clap’ became thus a tool in a conflict of classes: women in the poor quartiers and cocottes were considered to be assailants of the social order by means of ‘degenerating’ families of the higher classes with the disease. Between 1870 and 1900 French women who were suspected of having syphilis were therefore arrested and imprisoned in dreadful circumstances. As a result, many prostitutes tried to hide their genital lesions with special ointments and skin colored creams, as you will read in Baudelaire’s Revenge. There was not much that medicine could do for sufferers but administering mercury which was horribly toxic and possessed doubtful efficiency. In spite of the relentless spreading of the genital lesions, almost every physician – and, to my shame, I also – considered the use of a condom as futile and even a source of diseases in women who enjoyed ‘useless orgasms’ because they knew that the condom would prevent pregnancy. So, “The Great Pretender”, as the ‘morbus Gallicus’ was sometimes called due to the efforts of the sufferers to hide it, could go on wrecking havoc.
Now, I know that syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. It can be transmitted to unborn children in the womb. In my time of life around 70% of the contaminated newborns died. If they survived, they bore a terrible burden which could manifest itself in blindness, nose deformations, notched teeth and mental retardation. In adults, the disease wrecked havoc in three stages: primary syphilis was only an initial sore, secondary syphilis manifested itself with a rash and fever. The third stage could follow years later and could be distinguished in different forms. Gummatous syphilis is characterized by granulomatous lesions. These “gummas”, as they are called, have a rubbery texture and invade skin and organs. Most sufferers of this form lost their nose. Cardiovascular syphilis began as an inflammation of the arteries and could be life-threatening by damaging the heart valves or rupturing blood vessels. Neurosyphilis, the syphilitic infection of the nervous system, is the most chronic and insidious inflammatory process known to mankind. Psychosis, delirium and dementia were the results. Sufferers of this form of syphilis had brusque and absurd delusions in the late stage of the disease. They include the idea of immortality, supernatural power, apocalyptic visions and being harassed by ‘entities’, demons or devils. O, reader, how I suffered from this during the last years of my life!
And what did Bob Van Laerhoven, this cunning Flemish writer, do? I’m not going to tell you that, you can read his book if you want to know. But I’ll tell you this: imagine, commissioner Paul Lefèvre, the somber protagonist of Baudelaire’s Revenge, prowling the Parisian streets in uproar in 1870. His mind is a turmoil. He has just killed the woman he loved. The Communards, the association of Workers which has instigated a revolution in Paris, are being slaughtered by the National Guard. France is no longer at war with the Prussians but with itself.
As is Paul Lefèvre. He feels feverish, beads of sweat roll down his heavy jowls. He wonders: Is the world a stage, an illusion?
Am I one?
And who is that demon sitting in front of me?
Reader, I rest my case. Salut, and please don’t forget that I was once one of France’s greatest poets…
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