Gibbous House

By Ewan Lawrie

Nicholas Nickleby meets Psycho in a gothic, 19th-century noir

Saturday, 4 October 2014

How it all began...

[Picture was a image of a 19th century painting of a "rookery" in London]



I started Gibbous House with a 3rd person omniscient narrator. Quite a few scenes were written in this style and the central figure was going to be a sub-Holmesian, Mr Whicher type named Wilson. The project ground to a halt and as an experiment I wrote an introductory chapter with Moffat as the narrator. Eventually I couldn' t let him go.

Anyway, reproduced here is a few hundred words to show what might have been. I've tidied it up a little, but it's more or less how it was. I think I made the right decision, but maybe there's a little curiosity value. Comment below and say what you think


He dared not lift the brass. One blow from the knocker and the door would break into its component planks. The tarnished lion's head held as much value as anything likely to be found beyond the door. Wilson had decided on a malacca cane with a brass head for that morning's excursion into St Giles'. The sword inside this cane was of inferior quality to that inside his silver-topped stick, but the Rookery was no place to bring one's own objects of value. Wilson gave a knock, a single rap of the knuckles on the flimsy wood.

The door opened instanter. A bent-backed figure looked up at the visitor. He twisted a grimy neck through a near half-circle and bellowed into the murk behind him,

'Gennelman cawwww-ler, Hippolyta!'

The bellow engendered a shrieked 'Who-oo?' of such extendure as to have been emitted by a demented owl.

Wilson shouted his own name into the gloom and received a cackle in response. This he took as permission to enter. He moved the crook-back aside by means of brandishing the cane.

There were no passages - nor more than a single room - in the hovel. It was one of the few buildings in the rookery to have but the one storey. Wilson had taken only a few steps before he placed a kerchief to his mouth and nose. In the centre of the room a candle was burning on a cracked plate atop a deal table Eyes accustomed to the crepusculine light, he perceived a large sopha behind the table. Said sopha was filled to overflowing with the form of what might once have been merely a substantial woman. For the nonce, Wilson was uncertain what manner of beast it was. If the seated creature could move, an earthquake might be the least of the consequences.

The shrieking, hooting voice emerged from the gross figure once again,

'Wilson? Wilson! You are far from Grovesnor Square.'

'As far as ever I have been, that's true.'

The woman's tiny eyes glinted in the candlelight and Wilson hoped she would not laugh.

'Well, to business. What can I do for you? A girl? A boy?'

'I have not come to buy flesh.'

This time the laugh did erupt - from the woman's own mound of flesh,

'Selling then, Wilson? I might buy some of yours myself.'

Wilson swallowed several times before answering,

'Information, Mrs. Trasseno.'

'Hippolyta. My gentlemen callers have always called me thus. They were many once.'

Wilson could see no trace of any allure the woman might have had.

'I'm looking for a snoozer, a sometime speeler and dipper. Name of Moffat.'

The obese woman laughed again. Wilson shuddered.

'Him? You'll never catch him. The toffs see him so square-rigged that their money jumps out of their pockets. Been robbing sleeping hotel guests now, too? I didn't know that.'

'Something new, I agree. He's disappeared.'

'Then let him go, Wilson. There are enough rogues in London to chase.'

The woman made a show of fondling her own bosom and Wilson fled before he embarrassed himself.


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Jack O'Donnell
 Jack O'Donnell says:

speeler indeed. Who'd have thought of such a thing?

posted 7th October 2014

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