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Posts Tagged ‘YA’

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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”.

Headless Witchfinder Competition!!!

Monday, March 12th, 2012

Hi guys!

A competition for all you bookworms out there! Simply leave a comment below to be in with a chance of winning a signed copy of Dave Cousin’s spellbinding novel ’15 Days Without A Head’ and ‘Witchfinder 2: Gallows at Twilight’! The competition closes Thursday 22nd March – so better get your skates on! And while you’re here, why not take a look at my recent interview with Dave in the first of the ‘Essential Six’ series!

Christmas Competitions!

Monday, December 19th, 2011

THIS COMPETITION CLOSES MIDNIGHT 26th DECEMBER 2011… only a few hours to go!

 

To celebrate Christmas in a very Witchfindery way I’ve put together a competition across 3 platforms:

1. Win Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide by finding me on Twitter at WitchfinderBook and tweeting me a hello!

2. Win Witchfinder: Gallows at Twilight by finding me on Facebook at William Hussey Witchfinder and posting a howdy on my wall!

3. Win Witchfinder: The Last Nightfall by posting a comment on this site!

3 winners will be selected from all entrants and the competition closes on Boxing Day (26th December). Only 1 week to enter, guys!

In the meantime, I’d just like to wish a very Merry Christmas to all you Witch-seekers! May your cauldrons bubble and your demons dance!

(PS – the pic above is from the brilliant Finnish film Rare Exports: A Christmas Movie, well worth a watch if you’re interested in the dark origins of a certain Mr Claus…)