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JEKYLL’S MIRROR: Origins Part 1

Monday, December 15th, 2014

Hi all

JEKYLL’S MIRROR, my brand new cyber-age take on the legendary story THE STRANGE CASE OF DR JEKYLL AND MR HYDE is officially published on 1st January (although you can get it early from Amazon by clicking here!)

I thought it might be interesting to write a series of short blogs about the origins and inspirations for the book. I often get asked ‘Where did you get your idea for your latest book?’, and the answer is almost always – lots of different places! It’s very unusual for an entire book to spring from just one source, and that is very much the case with Jekyll’s Mirror.

Over the course of a few blogs, I’ll be describing these different origins and influences, but let’s begin at the beginning: the first thrill of terror I felt at the idea of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Now, don’t click on the video below until I’ve explained what exactly this clip means to me…

Like most people, I suspect, I’d been vaguely aware of the idea of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous tale: a good doctor drinks a potion he’s concocted and transforms into the evil Mr Hyde. Of course, that’s a bit of a misunderstanding of the story. Dr Jekyll isn’t a saint and Mr Hyde has many more layers than those of a simple bogeyman. I discuss some of the false ideas about the story and what I consider to be its true meaning in Chapter 5 of Jekyll’s Mirror, and will probably write a blog about it, but let’s go back to my childhood and my first encounter with these characters…

Like Dracula and Frankenstein, Jekyll and Hyde has become part of cultural mythology and is deeply ingrained in our shared idea of ‘Story’ and the world around us. Newspaper headlines scream ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ when some foul but hitherto unsuspected murderer has been discovered; we use those richly suggestive names to describe people we know who have behaved out of character; in essence, we use and abuse the idea of the story while many of us probably haven’t read a single page of the original book.

scooby

Mr Hyde encounters those ‘pesky kids’

I’m not sure when I first encountered the good doctor. That introduction is lost in the mists of memory. It might well have been courtesy of that wonderfully batty Scooby Doo episode (I was a Mystery Inc nut when I was a kid), The Ghost of Mr Hyde, in which the great-grandson of the original Dr Jekyll uses his Mr Hyde alias to embark on a career as a jewel thief. Or the notion of the double-personality and the transformation might have come my way courtesy of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s thinly-veiled comic book version, the Incredible Hulk, Dr Bruce Banner now using gamma rays rather than those infamous ‘powders’ to unleash his inner monster.

hulk

Stan Lee’s comic book take on the story

However that first meeting occurred, I remained conscious, fascinated (at terrified!) by the  idea of Jekyll & Hyde. A horror story in which the monster isn’t something ‘other’ – isn’t something ‘out there’ waiting to find you – but is hiding (hyding?) inside your very skin.

By the age of eleven I still hadn’t got round to reading the original book, but late one October evening in 1988 I begged my parents to let me stay up and watch a new TV movie starring Michael Caine. On the centenary of the most infamous murders in British history, ITV had produced JACK THE RIPPER, a thriller in which Caine played Inspector Frederick Abberline, one of the real-life policemen who had investigated the Whitechapel killings.

mansfield

Richard Mansfield, the first actor to portray Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

The programme is a rather unconvincing account of the Ripper murders, using the silly idea of a royal connection to ‘Jack’, but it did feature a moment I found truly mesmerising. In 1888 the renowned American actor Richard Mansfield brought a stage version of Jekyll and Hyde to the West End. I’ll talk a little more about Mansfield and other actors who have tackled the role(s) of Jekyll & Hyde in another blog, but in the TV movie there is a moment where a modern-day actor Armand Assante recreates Mansfield’s transformation scene on stage. For the eleven-year-old me, the scene was absolutely terrifying –

The arrogant Dr Jekyll wishes to prove to his friends that his story is true: that he has shaken ‘the very fortress of identity’ and is able by his genius to transform his features. Assante channels Mansfield in a terrifying way, and it’s easy to imagine how, when the original play premiered in London in those hellish Ripper months of autumn 1888, people fainted in the theatre and the show was eventually banned. This short scene from the TV movie stayed in my mind: Jekyll’s hooting laughter, the bubbling skin, the pulsating face as the dark Mr Hyde begins to emerge.

assante

Armand Assante’s Dr Jekyll prepares to drink the potion…

This was my first proper introduction to Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Afterwards, I rushed out, bought the book and, in horror, devoured it. Since then I’ve reread it perhaps fifty times and have even written a stage version of my own. I find the ideas behind it – the nature of who we are and the dangers of repressing parts of our personality – absolutely fascinating.

But I will never forget this moment from the TV movie – that eerie hooting laughter has found an echo in one of my main characters Doreen Lackland who, when she transforms into her very own ‘Hyde’ in JEKYLL’S MIRROR, recreates the laughter of Richard Mansfield…

TO SEE THE TRANSFORMATION GO TO THE 57th SECOND OF THE VIDEO. It’s creepy… you have been warned!

 

 

 

 

 

 

BBC School News Report Interview

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Hi all

At the invitation of English teacher Mr Green, I recently took my creative writing workshops into Monks’ Dyke Tennyson College.

After a fun day of plotting stories and creating characters with the students, I was lucky enough to be interviewed by budding reporters Holly and Amy, who are taking part in the BBC School News Report project. Holly and Amy came up with some interesting questions and you can hear my responses by clicking on the audio below. Together we covered what my inspirations are for plots and characters, the history of my writing (including comic books), and my new book Jekyll’s Mirror.

You can also visit the school’s BBC report page by clicking this link

Many thanks to Holly, Amy, Mr Green and the school for allowing me to use this clip.

Exclusive preview of JEKYLL’S MIRROR chapter titles!

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Hi all

Only a few weeks now until my new psychological thriller JEKYLL’S MIRROR hits the shelves!

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You can pre-order the book by clicking this link, and as a taster of the scares to come here’s a rundown of the chapter titles:

1. Wrath & the Fire Girl

2. The Gorgon’s Invitation

3. Blazing in the Wasteland

4. The Devil Behind His Eyes

5. Gathering of the Four

6. The Experiment Begins

7. This Hungry Path

8. Reach of the Puppet Master

9. A Family of Liars

10. Through the Forgotten Ways

11 Hideously Human

12 Drawn by the Bad Man

13 The Boy and His Troll

14 Dark Revelations

15 Sam Inside the Mirror

16 The Face of Something New

17 Hyde Unbound

18 Secrets Told, Secrets Kept

19 A Curious Confession

20 The Talented Mr Tooms

21 They Are Here

22 Down Among the Monsters

23 Chaos Swarms

24 Retched Ratface

25 Tooms’ Gift

26 The Truth of Flames and Serpents

27 Into Madness

28 His Hellish Game

29 The Secret Potion

30 Sam Unmasked

First JEKYLL’S MIRROR review is in!

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Hi all

Well, JEKYLL’S MIRROR, my new update on Robert Louis Stevenson’s classic thriller of a man battling his inner demons, is out on 1st January!

Dr-Jekyll-y-Mr-Hyde

Not long to wait! This is always a slightly scary time for writers. You’ve worked for months, even years, on a book which you hope readers will enjoy. Many people have helped you along the way – in the case of Jekyll’s Mirror, my brilliant editors and a few experts in the field of cyber-bullying (which is the central theme of the book). But ultimately the book must be judged on its own merits.

Which means you, the writer, must be judged. Eep!

Thankfully, most of the reviews of my books have been very kind, and I’m hoping that other reviewers enjoy JEKYLL as much as the first reviewer has. Here then is an excerpt from that review, which appears on the brilliant Book Bag website. Check out the full review at the link here:

‘The horror side of the story is great – full of blood and guts and nasty villains with evil intentions. But the story also tackles some very kitchen sink themes – cyber-bullying and domestic abuse.
It’s not easy to marry these very different strands but Hussey manages it really well. You race through the story, thoroughly entertained by the schlocky narrative but underneath that, you’re always hoping that Sam will find a resolution for his “real world” problems.
We all have a dark side. And Jekyll’s Mirror shows us how pernicious it can be if we don’t acknowledge it…

Mirror Mirror…

Friday, October 31st, 2014

JM2

Something very dark has decided to make an early appearance this Halloween, bursting from the cold, dead earth of the local cemetery…

I’ll have to wait until midnight and try to rebury this gruesome treasure.

It isn’t due to be born until January 2015!

But you can preorder it by clicking this link

 

MARVEL Heroes Help To Stomp Out Bullying!

Thursday, September 4th, 2014

Hi guys

My next book, JEKYLL’S MIRROR, will be coming out in January and a central theme of the story is cyberbullying. With every book I write, I feel that it’s really important to research the characters and the situations they’re in so that, although the story might be fantastical or supernatural, the problems of the characters seem real.

starlord

For Jekyll, I had to do some very upsetting research into cyberbullying. Now, I was very badly bullied while I was at secondary school, but this was in the dusty old days before the internet (yes, there really was such a time!). The bullying I suffered was horrible. It made me feel scared and humiliated and worthless. But at least I knew, when I went home from school, the bullying would stop.

In the modern world bullying doesn’t always stop when children go home. It can happen to them virtually twenty-four hours a day. The reasons why and the consequences of this I tried to explore in Jekyll’s Mirror, and it gave me a real understanding and sympathy for victims.

That is why I’m thrilled that the brilliant MARVEL COMICS has taken this issue head-on by supporting the STOMP OUT BULLYING organisation in the United States. Check out this link to see the Hulk, Captain America, Starlord, Rocket Racoon and Gamora all supporting the campaign against cyberbullying. Not only is it super-cool in a geeky way (GEEKS RULE!) but it highlights a serious issue.

hulk

If you’re reading this in the UK and you’re suffering from bullying of any kind, there are lots of places you can get help and advice. Check out the links below:

http://www.childline.org.uk/

http://www.bullying.co.uk/cyberbullying/

http://www.beatbullying.org/

http://www.cybersmile.org/

Ghoulish Goings On At St George’s College!

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Hello all

Before the summer holidays I visited the brilliant St George’s College in Weybridge. Mr Waight kindly wrote up this report of the events for the school newsletter and has allowed me to reproduce it here (names of students have been removed due to school policy):

‘On July 3, author William Hussey visited St George’s College to give three presentations. He started the day by discussing the writer’s craft with the Sixth Form English students, followed this with a terrifying mock witch trial with the First Years and finally gave a haunting talk on the Gothic genre to the Second Years.

The First Year students were immediately engaged by William’s presence, learning how he became interested in writing and the historical events surrounding witchcraft in Civil War Britain. Having been educated on the traditional instruments used by witchfinders of the time, including the terrifying bodkin, the students were ready for their very own witch trial. [student name] was the unfortunate student accused of being a witch – and with the help of townsfolk, his fate – guilty! – was sealed by the jury of 120 first years.

When the Second Years arrived in the afternoon, they were given a brief history of the horror story before William focused on the classic novel ‘Dracula’, dispelling certain myths about vampires – Stoker’s original creation CAN walk in sunlight. This was followed by the ultimate battle: Dracula versus Van Helsing.

In all three sessions, the students were totally engaged with William, which is testament to his fantastic public speaking ability. All of the lower school students were treated to a reading from one of William’s books, where new meaning was given to the phrase ‘bringing words to life’. The students asked thought-provoking and interesting questions once each presentation was completed, although the Second Years did have a strange obsession with discovering William’s favourite horror film (The Shining).

The students and staff at St George’s are incredibly grateful to William for giving up his time. The queue of students lining up to purchase a signed copy of his novels speaks volumes as to the impact that William had on his young listeners. The event was a roaring success and was described by Mrs Rowlatt, Head of English, as: “thoroughly entertaining and spine-chilling; William Hussey has the gift of stimulating and surprising his audience in equal measure”.

A Shout Out To Terrific Teachers & Their Crazily Creative Kids!

Friday, January 31st, 2014

 

A creepy reading in the school hall – lights off, of course!

A quick post to say a BIG thank you to the children, the staff, and especially brilliant English teacher Miss Andrew of Christ’s Hospital School in Lincoln.

I always get a kick out of visiting schools with my events and workshops. Getting kids excited and engaged with reading and writing has been one of the unexpected joys of being a children’s author, and I think I speak for a lot of that crazy crew who write kids’ books when I say, although school visits can be exhausting, the buzz and energy we get from enthusing young people about stories sends us scurrying back to our keyboards, full of fresh zest and new ideas! (I also enjoy making whole assembly groups leap out of their skins at the JUMP! moments in my books, but that’s just my evil mastermind side speaking. Mwhahaha!)

hospital school

Christ’s Hospital School Library Display (thanks to the awesome librarian!)

Anyway, last Friday I had the pleasure of joining a group of very creative students at Christ’s Hospital and, over the course of an hour, we came up with a frankly terrifying idea for a zombie novel crossed with Les Misérables and touching on the issues of slavery! Brainstorming, the children devised a really interesting central character and the outline of a breathlessly exciting plot. I really hope they continue with it – I can’t wait to see how it turns out for Joe and his zombie friend Claire (or 24601 as Joe’s despicable dad calls her!).

You can find a fun report on the visit by clicking this link

Now, I don’t post after every school visit – it would get a bit repetitive if I did! – but I thought I’d take this opportunity to highlight the wonderful kids & staff at Christ’s Hospital and, in so doing, send out a big thank you to ALL the schools I’ve recently attended. Contrary to what we often read about in the press and see in certain TV documentaries, the teenagers I encounter up and down the country on a weekly basis are considerate, polite, engaged and VERY hardworking. Similarly, the teachers I work with (and enjoy cups of tea with in the staffroom) are tireless champions of education who put 110% (I was never good at maths!) into their work and care about each and every child they teach. So thank you again Christ’s Hospital, Miss Andrew, and all the teachers and pupils who’ve been so kind as to invite me into their school!

The Case of the Exsanguinated Sleuth

Sunday, January 5th, 2014

As promised, in honour of the return of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ brilliant SHERLOCK, here is my cheeky Sherlock Holmes story… with a supernatural twist (Sherlockians, see if you can spot all the references to the Conan Doyle stories, and check out my previous post on Holmes and the supernatural below…)

sherlock3

Mr Sherlock Holmes, who was usually very late in the mornings, save upon those infrequent occasions when he was up all night, was seated at the breakfast table. I stood upon the hearthrug and picked up the article our visitor had left behind the night before. Embossed in deepest crimson upon the calling card was a gothic letter ‘D’.

“Well, Watson, what do you make of it?”

Holmes was sitting with his back to me, and I had given him no sign of my occupation.

“I believe you have eyes in the back of your head,” I remarked.

“I have at least a well-polished, silver-plated coffee pot in front of me,” said he, and touching the lid he let out a sharp hiss as if the scalding metal had burned his elegant fingers.

As my eyes shifted to the pot itself, Holmes reacted with lightning speed and threw his napkin over it. Still, I had a fancy that I had glimpsed something curious before the linen descended. I had the strange idea that, although the chair in which he sat had been reflected, the face and form of Sherlock Holmes was missing.

“Watson,” he said, dragging me from my reverie, “would you have any objection to drawing the blinds?”

“None at all.” I crossed the room, all the while keeping a concerned eye on my old friend. “Tell me, Holmes, are you afraid of something?”

“Well, I am.”

“Of what?” said I, shutting out the morning glare. “Not air-guns again!”

“No. I no longer fear… air-guns.”

The detective gave a dry chuckle and curled up in his chair, knees drawn to his jutting chin. Despite his good humour he was even more gaunt and pale than usual. I approached, took hold of his wrist and attempted to gauge his pulse. I could find none. Similar difficulties had frustrated me when examining him after one of his cocaine binges, the soporific effect of his customary seven-per-cent solution having depressed the rigour of his circulatory system. He did not protest as I rolled up his sleeve and checked for the telltale signs that his miserable addiction had been indulged. Again, I could find nothing. And then I noticed something very strange: there were two puncture wounds, but not upon his arm.

“What have you been doing to yourself, old fellow?” I exclaimed.

“Peace, Watson,” Holmes muttered. “You will be pleased to hear I have no further use for the cocaine bottle.”

“Hmn. Well, something very odd has happened since I saw you last. Perhaps it is all to do with your visitor of last night. I am sorry I could not be at your side, my practice is rather busy of late. But come, tell me about him.”

Holmes stretched his long legs towards the fire and a great shiver ran the course of his body.

“Can’t get warm for the life of me,” he said. “As to my client, he was a nobleman of eastern extraction. A Count, no less.”

“Indeed? Well, I suppose we have hosted hereditary kings of Bohemia in Baker Street before, but what did this illustrious client want with you?”

“A trifling, if puzzling, business of persecution. He arrived in the town of Whitby on the Yorkshire coast some weeks back and was immediately set upon by a ragtag band made up of a wild frontiersman, an asylum physician and the eldest son of one of our noble families.”

“Good God, what had the man done to attract the hostility of such an unlikely crew?”

“That is somewhat unclear,” said the detective. “He is a foreigner, of course, and that may have been against him from the first. The Count is of the opinion that, as dangerous as these men are, their leader poses a far greater threat to his safety.”

“Who is this other man?”

“A Dutch professor with a very particular idée fixe that borders upon insanity. He is, however, a brilliant fellow with half the letters in the alphabet after his name. This obsession with the Count and his ‘kind’, as the Professor in his narrow-mindedness might term them, has diverted him from his true calling as an expert in obscure diseases.”

“Prejudice is a horrid thing,” I said shortly.

“Indeed. There are some trees, Watson, which grow to a certain height, and then suddenly develop some unsightly eccentricity. You will often see it in humans.” At that last word an uncharacteristic expression of condescension passed across my friend’s features; a certain aloof inhumanity which chilled me strangely. “Whatever the cause,” he continued, “the man has begun to go wrong.” 

“Well, it seems a most interesting case,” I ventured.

Holmes smiled, and in that instant I had the uncanny impression that his teeth, particularly the canines, were of a peculiarly pointed, I might even say feral, appearance. In all the chronicles I had made of our adventures together, of all the sketches of his person contained therein, I had not remarked upon, for I did not remember ever observing, this singular feature before.

“Interesting indeed,” Holmes nodded, “though I remain sanguine as to the problems the mystery presents.”

“Well then,” said I, “shall I leave you to ruminate upon it?”

“No, Watson. I should like you to stay and give me your assistance in certain matters.”

Holmes’ eyes glowed with a sudden fire and he rose and slipped across the hearthrug. Within three steps he was at the door of our Baker Street sitting room, turning the key in the lock. Then he spun round and, fixing me with that peculiar smile, he said:

“Indeed, I fully expect this to be a three pint problem…”

With sincere apologies to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle & Bram Stoker!

 

No Ghosts Need Apply

Friday, January 3rd, 2014

 

The latest Holmes & Watson

The latest Holmes & Watson

In honour of the return of Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss’ brilliant Sherlock, I’ll be reprinting a cheeky short story from my back catalogue, a pastiche called THE ADVENTURE OF THE EXSANGUINATED SLEUTH. The story will be posted Monday, but first a discussion of that most rational of detectives and his attitude to my favourite genre, the supernatural…

The question I always get asked at signings and school events: what did you read when you were a kid? I then bore the audience to death (sometimes literally) with a huge list of favourite books and stories. Always at the very core of that list is the ‘canon’ of 56 short stories and 4 novellas that make up the adventures of Mr Sherlock Holmes.

Holmes was my first real literary passion, and I use the word ‘passion’seriously. Whenever I sat down with one of those stories, I found my young heart racing as I followed the Great Detective and his faithful companion and chronicler, Dr John H Watson (formerly of the 5th Northumberland Fusiliers) into the dingy alleys of Limehouse, over the hound-haunted moors of Devonshire and across the cantons of Switzerland, all the way to that fatal encounter at the Reichenbach Falls… (SPOILER ALERT)… and beyond!

From the age of 5 to 14, the cosy sitting room of 221b Baker Street was as familiar to me as my own bedroom. All I had to do was close my eyes to see Holmes’ Stradivarius violin propped up on his chair, his correspondence pinned to the mantelpiece with a jack knife, the tobacco-stuffed Persian slipper, that patriotic ‘VR’ done in bullet holes in the wall, Watson’s bull pup lounging on the hearthrug (probably poisoned by Holmes in one of his unethical experiments), a chalkboard covered in strange ‘dancing men’, and on the side table: a dark lantern, Watson’s service revolver and Holmes’ burglar kit all ready and waiting for the next thrilling adventure.

A lovely chill raced down my spine whenever those famous words – ‘The game’s afoot!’ – were uttered or when I read some wonderful line like: ‘Mr Holmes, they were the footprints of a gigantic hound…’

Of course, in the end (SPOILER ALERT!) there was no demonic hound haunting the Baskerville clan, just a big dopey dog covered in luminous paint. You see, unlike his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes was an arch rationalist who did not believe in the supernatural.

In The Hound of the Baskervilles, Holmes shrugs off the legend of the ghost dog as interesting only to ‘a collector of fairy tales’ while in The Sussex Vampire, another story that at the beginning seems to be dipping its toe into the world of mythical monsters, Holmes makes it clear that his work as a detective ‘must stand flat-footed upon the ground… No ghosts need apply’.

But despite Holmes’ scepticism, Watson’s accounts of their adventures together often contain a frisson of what might be called supernatural or uncanny terror, and despite this terror always being rationalised and made sense of at the end of the case, a hint of eerie impossibility seems to linger in the mind of the reader. Maybe this is because, very often, Holmes’ cases teeter on the edge of gothic literature, a sub-genre that was the first to treat the supernatural as a real threat and which did much to birth the detective story.

All of this, as I say, is by way of an introduction to my very short Sherlock Holmes story that will be appearing on the blog Monday. It’s a parody really, my way of poking a bit of fun at the Great Detective’s insistence that ‘no ghosts need apply’…