Sunday, November 20, 2016

Irregular Lives -- Then and Now

My next novel -- Irregular Lives -- is set in the last century, it is most appropriate for our time given that the 1% are in control of my country.

Like many writer’s, I construct my stories around a central focus, or theme, that is artfully woven (hopefully) into the main story.  In Sherlock Holmes - The Golden Years, the theme was eugenics, is all its various forms.  Irregular Lives: The Untold Storyof Sherlock Holmes and Baker Street Irregulars has a another contemporary theme -- the growing economic gap between the rich and poor.

My novel is set in post-WWI London that, at that time, had a metro area population of almost 7 million.  In 1919, almost 30 % of the London’s inhabitants were poor and destitute. In one scene, Wiggins takes Holmes to his home in Spitalfields where Holmes’s eyes are opened, really for the first time, to the horrid neighborhood his soon to be gang of irregulars call home:

Sherlock Holmes was familiar with the dingier places in London, but his previous encounters had been in the context of a chase. His eyes and attention had been on the villains and clues. In this way, his mind had forged a correlation between the slums and criminals. It was black and white, like Charles Booth’s poverty map of London, where Spitalfields appeared as a blacked series of city blocks on London’s east side. That map had no shades of grey, no color, no faces or names. Holmes remembered filing this map away in his archives, along with the knowledge that one-third of Londoners lived in desperate need and squalor. It was but another scrap of information, like the number of cabs in London—4,142 currently.
But now, he stood in the middle of one of those blackened city blocks. There was a metamorphosis: information had transformed into flesh and blood. He needed to consider this. He would—but not now, and not here. He would walk out of this “blackened block” to his spotless rooms. However, he would never again be able to leave behind the people of Spitalfields.

As an interesting side-note, London’s population has grown to 8.6 million people, but almost the same percentage of the inhabitants, about 27%, live in poverty. Not a lot of progress there, or elsewhere in the world, in the last century. 17% of the world’s population lives in extreme poverty, and nearly half -- 3 billion people -- are considered poor by the World Bank -- defined as making less than $2.50 per day.

Although I am active in my community, more and more I feel as though I am not doing enough for my fellow man. I rationalize that my reader’s will be able to draw parallels between my stories and the current reality in their community. Maybe they’ll be stirred to reach out and help others. In Irregular Lives, Holmes and Watson have a conversation about how the well to do tend to reach out in their community:

“Holmes, who is the fellow to be examined, and on whose behalf are we conducting this examination?”
“It’s on behalf of Wiggins’ mate, a youth called Snape.”
“Is he that rather stout lad who waddles about?”
“No, that is Rumpty. Snape is the ham-fisted youth—fifteen stone, or so, of solid muscle.”
“Rumpty, Dumpty, Snape,” Watson muttered. “These names mean nothing to me. Why do you meddle in their affairs? Noblesse oblige, I suppose.”
“I should not use that expression,” Holmes shot back. “It carries a dreadful stigma. Those who use it seldom see their societal obligations extending beyond their pocketbooks. They offer the less fortunate a hand, while keeping a foot on their neck.”

While this blog post borders on preaching, I can promise you that if you read Irregular Lives, you will not be subjecting yourself to a sermon, or morale tirade. I believe I have written a darn good tale. I only wished to give you a peek at one of the elements contained in my new novel. For, in the end, reading should be a joyous experience. Check it out on Amazon!

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