Next book or not?

I’ll have to write the middle book of Louis Beauregard, because I need to show you how the entitled young frogspawn (“I’d have to smack this man if I were to meet him in real life” – Goodreads reviewer) turned into the wise old warrior.

I always intended to write at least three of these.

THE LAST RHINEMAIDEN shows Louis as an elderly man, facing his death with the same courage he’d lived his entire life constructing.

SHADOWBOX is Louis as a much younger man, an over-entitled blond with an appetite for life so large he discards friends and lovers like used tissues, accumulating debts financial and human in his rakish progress across Europe while he escapes from a murder he was compelled to commit.

In between? What happens in between, to change the man’s behaviour without affecting his character?

I had a touch at this with All Roads Lead To The River. Louis is no longer young, roaming Egypt as a last resort with the latest group of friends to which he’s hitched his wagon.

But even in that short story, his character is closer to the elderly man than the youngster.

So, other than general ageing and maturing, what happens to him between 1832 and 1852 to turn him from his youthful exuberance towards a stronger, calmer personality?

What makes him into the man who gathers the Cuckoo Club around him like an offshoot of the East India Company with an unhealthy dash of the Freemasons?

And the fictional Cuckoo Club itself – with Louis at the helm – turns from a gentlemen’s club of little standing, a group of hobbyists obsessed with what we’d now consider conspiracy theory, into a titan of the British Empire’s ruling classes.

How. Does. That. Happen?

There’s a foreshadowing of how this might progress in the later chapters of SHADOWBOX.

Louis encounters a man who I now see can become a fearsome mentor – a man whose past includes time in the Grande Armée during the retreat from Moscow, an assassin, a bodyguard, and a man whose impeccable appearance hides a sophisticated and ruthless survivor.

Leo Tolstoy, 1848 - young man seated, facing the camera
Leo Tolstoy, 1848. Not the man with whom Louis will run off to Moscow, but the similarity is uncanny.

How would you like a story that takes in those characters, across the cities and landscape of Eastern Europe, across the Black Sea to Constantinople and thence the Nile?

Ooo, I’m even beginning to convince myself…

Which leaves me now with another question, one I’m approaching with my eyes half-shut and my face turned away like you would opening a shook-up can of skoosh:

One more book; or three?

Maybe I’ll have to do some research.

This week’s links, more of a note to myself:

A Dance To The Music Of Time – long, complicated story of family across generations, adapted by Channel 4 from a series of 12 novels by Anthony Powell. I guess this is the “stately home” version of all those family sagas set in pit villages or pioneer communities, none of which is to my taste. Are the stories just filled with toffs being horrid to one another? (in which case I’ll stick to Aldous Huxley).

The Duellists. In SHADOWBOX, but more so in the hidden parts of his storyline, Louis Beauregard does a lot of duelling. By the time of The Last Rhinemaiden he’s mostly delegated this to others, but he still has to fight for his elderly life on occasion. Bonus link – the film also features Robert Stephens, who played Aragorn in the BBC R4 Lord Of The Rings – now available on Fourble!

(Ooh – while looking for The Duellists, I stumbled upon Barry Lyndon (film) by Stanley Kubrick, which looks delicious…)

Les Miserables. The book by Victor Hugo, not the musical (link to Project Gutenberg version). Hugo wrote the story shortly after the events described in the book, and actually took part in the revolution so vividly described. Not sure I’d like to be so close to such historical upheavals, but then again maybe we don’t always have a choice in these matters.

And maybe we’re going through them right now.

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  1. […] began to realise that, while what I was writing had its own merits – and I’ll have to write the middle book of Louis Beauregard, because I need to show you how the entitled young frogspawn turned into the […]

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