• Richard James

Diary Of A Short Story

To mark the release of the second novel in the Bowman Of The Yard series, The Devil In The Dock, I wanted to produce another short story from Bowman's Casebook (the previous two are already available for free to subscribers). All I knew was that I wanted it to be set just after the second novel and feature some kind of echo of the explosive events of The Devil In The Dock. And I had a title that I really liked; The Hampstead Garrotting. I liked it because it has a wonderful Victorian feel to it, and because, if it was set in Hampstead, then the murder could happen literally on Bowman's doorstep. As I thought about it more, I decided to set the murder in the porch of a local church. And so I began.

Day 1; 3,000 words. We discover Bowman in a state of distress following the events of the previous novel. A young lad is sent to call him to church where the verger has been discovered with a wire around his neck. Some of the more grisly details of the murder might prove to be irrelevant, but they'll stay in for now, namely; the discovery of the poor man's severed fingers nearby. I'd set the murder at St Peter's Church in Belsize Park, but a quick bit of research told me that it can seat 1,100 worshippers. That's far too many suspects for a murder, so the search was on for another location! Looking around a map of the area from 1891, I found St Mary's Chapel in Holly Place. A much more intimate venue, we can reasonably assume the congregation to be quite small. Perfect. Except, as its Roman Catholic, the verger becomes a sexton and the vicar a canon.

Day 2; 1,500 words. I've always known what general shape the story would take, but I'm happy to discover the details as I go along. Today I settled on the culprit, so went back and placed them in the initial group of characters we meet at the chapel. Also, Bowman is put in an awkward position when it comes to observing communion. I wondered how he would feel in such a situation, carrying so much guilt. Graves and Hicks won't feature in this one, so I'm considering lending Bowman a young side kick for the duration of the story. The fingers are still in, but might be moved to a later point in the action.

Day 3; Life got in the way, 0 words.

Day 4; 3,000 words. The young boy who assists Bowman has been fleshed out somewhat. He's a local scamp who knows the lie of the land. It's Bowman's territory, too, but Robert Tompkins knows where everyone lives and - crucially, as you'll see - what trains they catch! I've thinned out the congregation even more, and included some local landmarks in the story. Today, I had to research the Soldier's Daughter's Home. The fingers, for now, survive. But I'm really not sure. Day 5; 6,000 words. Up against it, I devoted most of the day to writing. The result is that The Hampstead Garrotting is now finished. I had to research the Midland Railway and cemeteries in St. Albans, and just pop back to give Tompkins more of a back story. He's a great replacement for Bowman's usual side-kicks, and I might well use him in the future. In the meantime, Bowman is confronted with just how much he's let himself go since the events of the last novel, The Devil In The Dock. Some of the congregation are investigated further and one in particular has a secret to hide. And so, I've finished, and hit 'publish' just in time. Oh, and the fingers have gone.

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