By Pete Langman
Three 17th Century female spies work secretly to restore Charles II to the throne.
Publication date: January 2020Support this project
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Killing Beauties is a tale of espionage, treason, and plot set in 1650s England. In it, three women spies, or she-intelligencers, as they were known, attempt to infiltrate the parliamentarian secret service in order to help restore Charles Stuart to the throne.
Killing Beauties is inspired by the true-life stories of Susan Hyde and Diana Jennings, both active female spies: the former acting as postmistress for royalist secret society the Sealed Knot; the latter an altogether more shady character. They travel to London to carry out the mission given them by Susan's brother, Sir Edward Hyde, one which will test their friendship and their reputations as both ladies and subjects.
In this audio extract, Diana and her escort, Captain Duggan, stay at the estate of the late Sir Robert Filmer, a royalist sympathiser. Only his youngest son, Samuel, is at home, and Diana, as is her wont, asks for rather more than he wishes to give:
Some things other people have said about my writing:
‘Langman is a fine writer. Dark yet witty, both light and profound. I found myself frequently both amused and disturbed. It’s a rare gift.’ Anthony McGowan, author
‘Pete Langman’s stories invite you into a cold, unsettling world in which ugly things happen. His writing, however, is clean and perceptive; you are transported into strange minds and settings and you leave feeling like you know a bit more about the human condition.’ Araminta Hall, author
Pete Langman is nothing if not a renaissance man, but no matter what he does, it always seems to come down to words. It was his first career, as a professional rock and roll guitarist, which led him into the world of the wordsmith, as he was asked to write an article about playing rock guitar. He ended up writing them for Guitar and Bass Magazine for five years, before deciding to take a degree in English Literature. He graduated to writing features and interviews about guitarists, and essays about literature, quite often doing so in theatre lobbies in-between the shows for which he would mix the sound. The degree got out of hand, however, and turned into a PhD, which he was awarded in 2006. He then embarked on an academic career, lecturing at Goldsmiths, Queen Mary, Brunel, and Sussex Universities as well as the Central School of Speech and Drama but his diagnosis of Early Onset Parkinson’s in 2008 led him to reassess his priorities and since then he has worked as a writer, editor and teacher. His prose has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Prospect, The Wellcome Trust, All Out Cricket, and Cricinfo.com, as well as in several academic collections. He also teaches early modern literature at the Centre for Continuing Education in Oxford.
He is the author of the critically acclaimed Slender Threads: a young person’s guide to Parkinson’s Disease, and The Country House Cricketer, which was longlisted for the MCC/Cricket Society Book of the Year 2015.
Killing Beauties is his first novel.
Susan awoke late. The events of the previous day, and perhaps, more unexpectedly, the evening that followed it, had taken their toll. She had not been able to leave Thurloe’s chambers early on account of her indisposition, but equally it had allowed her to avoid staying late, as well as ensuring that he postpone his parsley-sweetened plans. On arriving back at her lodgings Susan had taken a sleeping draught of her own concoction. It was both swift and long-acting. The sun was well past its zenith when she finally stirred. The fog in her head took a little longer to dissipate, but as it did so, it presaged a day of revelation.
‘I must visit the apothecary, today,’ she said. Not for the first time did she bemoan the fact that her current circumstances did not allow for a lady’s maid. There appeared to be little that she was not having to sacrifice in order that the Knot might survive. Or, she thought to herself, perhaps it was more accurate to say that there was little that Edward was unwilling to have her sacrifice.
Susan washed, dressed, and sat at her makeshift desk in her room. She sharpened her quill and opened her pot of ink. It was dried-up. A splash of urine failed to revive it suitably so she placed paper, ink pot, wax and seal into her medicine bag, slung it over her shoulder and set off to the Bailey. It was an area which made a chill run down the spine of anyone who tended to live at odds with the law of the land, for it was here that the capital’s criminal courts resided, and the resultant flow of miscreants along its streets made the Covent Garden regulars appear to be positively shining examples of urban health and moral rectitude. Her journey was without incident, in itself rarely to be remarked upon other than she was not in a state of mind that would have allowed her to react in the manner she would usually choose. Her fatigue and general confusion with regards recent events made it more likely that she would respond to, say, an attempt to relieve her of her purse with instinctive force rather than considered subtlety.
- 7th October 2019 And then ...
Well, isn't this exciting? (I know, try to contain yourselves, ladies and gentlebeings).
We are done with editing and proofing and setting ... that means anything odd will just have to learn to live with it. Or we will, naturally.
Which means we are onto production time: y'know, arguing about covers and suchlike.
Just thought you'd like know ... schedules will be appearing soon.
Cheers…17th September 2019 Proof of the pudding
Is one thing, but the proofs of a book are quite another.
That's right, after a summer of editing, we are done with such fripperies. Now Killing Beauties has been typeset, and quite delightful it looks, too. You are all going to love it - and that's before you even start to read it. I cannot quite express how happy it has made me to see it on paper. Or how excited I am to know that you will all…23rd August 2019 Closer and closer ...
Patience is ever rewarded, or so they say, and your patience is on the verge of receiving a bumper crop of female spy action. Why is this? Well, the copy edits have just come through. Let's just say they're on the minor side of little. Which means that we'll be typesetting and proofing before you know it ...
I must say that I'm very impressed by the Unbound process, as thus far it's been pretty…7th April 2019 Les Filles d'Ophelie - the significance of the locket
The locket shows membership of Les Filles d'Ophelie (the daughters of Ophelia), the all-female secret society to which both Susan and Diana belong. On the front it bears the image of a nightingale, the symbol of the sisterhood, while on the reverse, the sisterhood's motto: ego avis enim cantans inaspecta (I am the bird that sings unseen),
The locket is a vital part of the plot of Killing Beauties…19th March 2019 Diana meets an old friend and gains a new one
In this audio extract, Diana Jennings is en route to London, accompanied by her escort, Captain Duggan. They stay overnight at the estate of a family of royalist sympathisers but things do not go quite as planned.9th March 2019 Life begins at forty
Well, they do say life begins at 40, and now that we’ve hit 40% in just 21 days, we’re starting to run out of clichés ... a huge thank you to all of you who have pledged already, and to those about to. The campaign is starting to spread its reach, and the special pledges are starting to go live, too. Helen’s glorious crow is getting a lot attention, and for those of you umming and ahing about it,…20th February 2019 Now that was a good start
25% in the first week is a great start, and a big thank you to everyone who has pledged in support of Killing Beauties so far. There’s still a way to go, mind, but confidence is high. The print will be ready for display very soon, as the awesome Helen Masacz has been working on it for the past few days. It’s worth checking her out on the internet to get a flavour of what she does. We think the prints…13th February 2019 It has begun!
I imagine that this is the most terrifying part of it all ... the beginning.
It's going to be a little like watching a pan of water come to the boil. Or perhaps like the old Blue Peter appeals indicators ... let's raise it up to ...
Thank you for reading, pledging, sharing. It will all be worth it in the end.
These people are helping to fund Killing Beauties.
Sonja van Amelsfort