I guess I wasn’t really back to business, was I?
There’s just so much going on at the moment and that, combined with a laptop that won’t recognise the internet – oh it accepts that it’s there in theory but in practice doesn’t want to know – means that I have been even scarcer than usual.
What’s going on? LOADS and it’s making me make this kind of face:
However, nobody loves a whinger and since we writers are all about the UNreal lives over which we do have a little control here’s what I’ve been doing.
Eleventh Hour is finished bar the double checking. I’ve been checking back through my files and I started writing it on September 8th 2011! Didn’t make a note of when I actually typed the last few words, because there’s always a LOAD of changes to make, but it was a couple of weeks ago. So two and three quarter years to produce about 50k words. Not very good, is it, when there are so many writers who write 3 or 4 books a year. I’ll just comfort myself with the reminder that we do what we can when we can. The only way I could write more is by giving up reading and I really wouldn’t want to do that!
But, since Eleventh Hour is finished I’m going to celebrate by posting a little snippet from chapter two. London, 1928, Allerdale, a tough field agent, returns to England with news that an anarchist cell has moved to London and may be planning an assassination. He needs a partner to observe one of the cell members – cue Miles Siward, well bred, well connected sponge for languages and a keen amateur actor in the Traditional Shakespeare society. His Portia was sublime!
Miles knew that he was keeping Allerdale waiting and didn’t much care. He also knew that it was unfair to blame the man for his present plight but he needed – really needed – to direct his ire somewhere and Allerdale didn’t look as though he would be bothered by a little professional terseness. No, he could take it. His shoulders were broad. He was probably outside now, drinking coffee and sniggering over Maugham’s secret service stories, having performed feats himself that made Ashenden look like a village bobby.
“Too tight?” his helper asked and Miles shook his head.
“It’s fine,” he said and eased the frock down over the light padding they had applied to his hips. It was a good frock from a great Parisian designer and less than a year old. Just the thing for a well-bred provincial miss to have worn on her honeymoon. In two tone grey wool, with long sleeves and a high collar, the pleated skirt skimmed a little below his knees. It fitted well. Miles tilted his head and studied his reflection. She – he – Millie looked good. Smart. Miles adjusted one of his spit curls and let out a long calming breath. He deliberately lowered his shoulders and felt the first easing of tension as he began to relax into the role. The excitement would come later. “How is that cut?”
Throckmorton – who had been in the flickers before the Great War spoiled his looks – pursed his lips and lifted the hem away from Miles calf. “Fine,” he said. “The styptic pencil stopped the bleeding. Tonight, when there’s time, do your thighs and the rest of your chest. You can’t be too careful. And for pity’s sake buy a safety razor. That sabre of yours is only fit for cutting throats.”
“It cuts closer than anything else,” Miles said, “and then I don’t have to wear so much slap.”
“All I can say is, thank God you’re blond.” Throckmorton grabbed Miles’s chin, turning his face towards the light. “Shall I do your eyebrows?” he asked.
Miles groaned. “All right. But not too thin. I’m supposed to be a not too bright, provincial lass from the Home Counties not Theda Bara.”
Throckmorton snorted – as well he migh,t because Miles had to admit that he looked nothing like Theda Bara. Elissa Landi, perhaps. Millie would be a handsome girl if not conventionally pretty. He closed his eyes and tried not to wince as Throckmorton plied the tweezers.
“How much do you know about this Allerdale chap?” he asked after a few moments.
“Not much,” Throckmorton replied. “And what I do know is classified as ‘most secret’. But I can tell you that he’s sound. You’ll be fine. All you have to do is watch and keep notes. Allerdale will do any of the active stuff. You’ll come to no harm.”
“That wasn’t exactly what I meant,” Miles snapped.
Throckmorton clapped him on the shoulder. “Well, I don’t want you to come to any harm. You’re the only person who fits that set of clothing and it cost a pretty penny. Take care of it. You’ll need these too.” He offered Miles a leatherbound case and Miles snapped it open and nodded glumly. Adam’s apples were inconvenient things but a pearl choker would camouflage it in the evening. By day a scarf would do.
“If you’re serious about this, you should have your ears pierced.” Throckmorton flicked one of the accompanying pearl drops with a fingertip. “Clip-ons give one the most frightful headache.”
Miles shut the case with a snap and slipped it into his handbag. “I’m not contemplating having to wear them for that long,” he said.
Once his tamed eyebrows had been darkened, ditto his eyelashes, Miles applied powder and a little discreet lip colour.
“Pinch your cheeks,” Throckmorton advised.
“You pinch yours,” Miles growled. He got up, gave himself a little shake to settle his pleats then picked up his hat and set it carefully on his head. With a scarf – silk printed with peonies in the Chinese style – snugged up under his chin, he draped his coat over his elbow and picked up his handbag. He looked into the mirror and Millie Carstairs, blonde but nobody’s moppet, gave him a cheeky grin.
“Will I do?” he asked.
“You’ll do. One last thing.” Throckmorton gave Miles a squirt of Arpege then tucked a smaller bottle into his handbag. “Break a leg, darling.”
The rather splendid person in the photo is Barbette a drag artist circus performer on the trapeze and high wire who was glamorous beyond belief.