The Inspector Drake mysteries are – so far – two novels and one short story collection set in the 1870s.
The novels are The Absinthe Club and The Assassination Codex. The short story collection is called Drake Family Mysteries. The tales feature Inspector Harold Drake and his daughter, Victoria, who ably and unofficially assists him on some of his cases. The stories can be considered to be mysteries and crime melodramas.
The first of these novels was The Absinthe Club. In fact, it was the first novel which I finished. I write the book before I got a typewriter, let alone my first computer. Everything was written out longhand, on A4 notepaper. The sense of completion I got on finishing the novel was amazing, as there were many times when I never thought that I was going to actually complete it. It’s funny because, now, I know that it really is only a matter of time and bloody-mindedness, seeing each novel through to completion.
Some time after I completed The Absinthe Club a friend gave me a typewriter. Well, I hope that it was a gift, as I don’t have it any more. I typed out the whole novel, doing a second draft at the same time, although was not all that much material with which I was unhappy.
Then I bought a computer and my first novel got its third draft, as I put it onto my PC.
I wrote The Absinthe Club because I felt like I had got a pretty good idea for a book. I had an image in my mind, of something which nobody had yet written. I never imagined, while writing that first book, that one day I might go on to write over seventy novels.
Inspector Drake may be considered to be a proto-Briggs, as he was another down at heart policeman who was pretty fed up with police work. That is pretty much where the comparison ends, as I kept fantastical elements out of the Inspector Drake stories.
At some stage I intended to do more stories featuring Drake. Perhaps I will, one day, when everything else has been completed.
Extract from The Absinthe Club
Early autumn, 1871, London. It was a warm and sunny morning, the trees already clad in autumnal hues, but yet to shed their leaves. Lord Montague of Basingstoke sat at the desk in his study, the bay windows open so that he could enjoy the warm breeze from his garden. Outside, a couple of starlings brazenly strutted up and down his lawn, playing mind games with his next door neighbour’s ginger tom. The well fed cat was perched on the dividing fence, as still as a stone statue (except for his tail), avidly watching every movement from the two birds.
Lord Montague smiled. He cast his mind back to his last appearance in the House of Lords. He had made a speech, quite a good one, he said to himself – it had certainly gone down well with other like-minded Lords – defending Parliament from the lunacy of those reactionaries who were trying to give the vote to women, of all things. As if they would know what to do with it, anyway! It was all stuff and nonsense, as far as he was concerned. It was not as if he had anything against women, he said to himself, it was simply that everybody had their place in society, and women should know their place. He liked his two Beagles, Sulla and Cato – they were good dogs, and unswervingly loyal – but he would not have given them the vote, either.
Lord Montague uncorked a bottle of fine port, and poured a small amount into a crystal glass. A bit early in the day for him, usually, but, well, why not. He felt that he still had something to celebrate. In no small measure due to his speech, he thought, he and other Tory peers had filibustered and talked out the Bill – not that if there had been a division the Bill would have been certain to be successful, but he and the other peers could not afford to take the chance that it might be. British men could sleep safely in their beds at night again, knowing that such dangerous ideas had been defeated. Giving women the vote, indeed. Where would it have ended? They would have wanted to have been Members of Parliament next. Lord Montague shuddered at the thought.
Sipping his port, Lord Montague mused as to what people saw in the Whigs, anyway. They should leave the running of the country to the Tories – especially the Tory Lords, not some of those upstart Tory self-made men who were starting to infiltrate the Commons. A Lord who successfully ran an estate – whose family had run an estate for hundreds of years – ideally suited for running the country.
“It’s in the blood.” he said aloud; loud enough, in fact, to startle the two starlings on the lawn who had found a worm to peck at. Surprised by the sudden noise, they flew off into a laburnum tree, leaving the ginger tom – who had been stalking them through the flower beds – feeling somewhat foolish as he watched them fly off.
Most of the Whig support, Lord Montague told himself, seemed to come from people who had trouble putting an X upon a piece of paper, let alone signing their name. Perhaps it was time to turn back the clock, and only allow those to vote who owned a sizeable amount of property. Weed out the riff raff. Get rid of the plebeians. Make all voters own, say, a couple of hundred acres…that should set out from the common herd those people who really understood what running the country was about. The uneducated common man, the worker, would be cared for, of course – the nobility would rule in their interest – but letting them vote? It only seemed to confuse them. Better to let the voters be the ones who really contributed to the glory of the Empire.
Lord Montague took another sip from the snifter of port that he had poured. He, in celebration of his filibustering speech, and in an act of generosity befitting a nobleman like himself, had given most of his servants the morning off. His manservant, Johnson, would be pottering about upstairs, of course, and would attend should Lord Montague require anything. Lord Montague knew that if he had given Johnson the day off, the poor man would not have enjoyed it; Johnson would have only spent the time worrying about his master. There, thought Lord Montague, there was a man who knew his proper place in society. Lord Montague wished that there were more men like Johnson.
Lord Montague inspected the copy of the Times on the side table. He smiled again, to read of more social unrest in France. When will those excitable continentals ever learn? He thought. Murder, assassination, revolution – those things were not the British way. He picked up the paper, and turned to the deaths and notices. Engrossed within, he did not see the ginger tom look up, at something other than a pair of birds. Lord Montague ruffled the paper – a shadow had fallen across it, from the open bay windows…
The Absinthe Club, The Assassination Codex and Drake Family Mysteries are available as e-books on the Amazon Kindle store.