Over the last few days I’ve been re-sharing details of my books originally self-published as eBooks which I made available as paperbacks last autumn. I mentioned ‘Farholm‘ and ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov‘, both written a few years before I was able to publish them through Kindle Direct Publishing on Amazon in 2012. Another book which I began to write some dozen years before also became available that same year, ‘Loving Judah‘.
Although most of my novels have some element of romance,, as well as mystery and action, I guess ‘Judah’ is maybe one which could fall into the romance genre. The idea of it was based on true events which happened to an internationally renowned person who fell from grace in a spectacularly, and for him catastrophic public fashion. This person was actually a cheat and a crook, and somehow managed to appear to redeem himself – I had admired him but changed my mind completely and irrevocably. However, this idea of someone publicly coming unstuck – very topical in the light of the current news in British politics, intrigued me. I began to think of a character who was at heart decent, but made a terrible error of judgement.
It took me a while to bring different ideas together and have an Icarus character woven into a narrative. I had another idea, of a couple, Aislin and Peter, who seemed in many ways very happy together, until a terrible event puts such a strain on their marriage that it begins to crack. I began to see how I could explore both these ideas by bringing the main characters in each together. Obviously the story is more complicated than that and there are different themes in it, but this is the opening chapter:
They sat at the kitchen table, the flame from the candle flickering slightly in the draught. It was a round, fat creamy coloured candle set in a saucer between them. It was very cold in the kitchen, the stove had not been lit or had gone out or… but who cares. They stared at the flame as if hypnotised, utterly silent, absolutely still. There was nothing to say and there was little point in doing anything.
Aislin shivered suddenly and Peter glanced up, startled. Aislin’s teeth started to chatter audibly and she realised that her ankles were cold. Peter stared at her expressionlessly. His face was shadowed and gaunt and he looked more like his father as his father looked now. Peter looked as he would when he was nearly eighty.
“I think I shall go to bed,” said Aislin. “Can I get you anything before I go up? Would you like a cup of tea? Or anything else?” Her smile was a mechanical contraction of muscles in her face, it took a deliberate effort.
“No, thank you,” said Peter coldly, as if offended.
Aislin did not ask what the matter was. They had buried Peter’s son today, her step-son.
She stood up and her chair scraped on the tiles. Peter winced and frowned slightly as if she had done it on purpose.
“Sorry, Pete,” she said contritely, squeezing her eyes to stop the tears.
She hurried to the dresser and the lantern. The matches kept going out and she burnt her fingers before the wick lit.
“I’ll leave it at the top of the stairs so you can see your way up,” she said.
It was a bizarre thought but should she kiss him? Of course she should but when she tried to kiss his cheek he turned his head sharply and her nose bumped against his ear.
Tears sprung into her eyes. He wasn’t rejecting her, of course he wasn’t. It was his grief, it was making him fragile, the slightest chink and he would shatter completely.
Without another word she hurried to the door, the swinging lantern casting strange looming shadows round the chilly kitchen. She looked back at Peter. He was staring at her, aggressively.
“You shouldn’t have encouraged him to go,” he said in a low voice. “If he hadn’t gone to Kashmir he would still be alive. You should not have encouraged him.”
Aislin was stunned, shocked out of the daze in which she had floated all day. Poor Pete, poor, poor Pete. She had loved Judah, she was riven with the pain of his loss. But Peter was his father, Peter had seen him come into the world, had been the first to hold him. Judah was his son.
“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I am so, so sorry.”
Pete looked at his hands, cupped on the table before him.
Aislin waited but he said nothing more.
She turned and almost slipped between the joists, forgetting that there were no floorboards in the hall. The heel of one shoe hooked against a timber and she tumbled forwards by luck arriving on all fours, her bottom ludicrously in the air, the lantern tumbled in the crawlspace. She wanted to laugh but that would bring her even nearer to tears. She glanced over her shoulder as she regained her footing, still crouched on the joists. Peter hadn’t moved despite her broken off cry, he was still staring at his hands, either lost in thoughts or deliberately ignoring her.
Aislin had to kneel on the timber to reach the lantern which had amazingly landed on its base.
The rough edge of the wood dug into her shin and as she got up her tights snagged and tore.
She was suddenly angry. Angry that she’d hurt her shin and ripped her tights, angry that she’d twisted her wrist when she tumbled, angry that there were no floor boards and no electricity, angry that Judah was dead.
She had managed not to cry at the funeral although she had nearly broken down when embraced by one of Peter’s cousins, a younger woman she hardly knew. But now she could feel the sorrow and grief bubbling in her chest, seething like a pain. She wanted to scream, she wanted to yell and shout.
She looked back at Peter.
She climbed the stairs.
‘Loving Judah’ is still available as an eBook, but you can get it as a paperback too! here’s the link: