It is no secret that I have fallen somewhat behind with the next book in the PorterGirl series, The Vanishing Lord. It is true to say that I have been distracted by Tony Blair and Poirot – which sounds like the worst threesome of all time, but regular readers will know is simply a couple of reasonably entertaining side projects which have taken my attention from my actual paid work as a writer. Very unprofessional, I know, but I hope you will agree it was worth it.
Anyway, after adjusting to the significant gear change of blogging to novel writing (not to mention taking my mind out of the gutter where the satirical farce of Tony Blair is concerned) I am once again fully ensconced in the world of Old College and my word, is it good to be back. There are many positives of my recent distractions – following the ribald and razor sharp satirical repartee of Who Shot Tony Blair? and the beautifully crafted plots and dialogue of Never A Cross Word, I realised that PorterGirl really needs to up its game. Whilst I can’t promise the trouser-dropping action of the former, nor the exquisite characterisation of the latter, I can reassure you that the experience of both has brought a new dimension to the PorterGirl literary world and I hope you will agree that it has been worth the frivolous diversion.
Long time readers of the blog will already know that The Vanishing Lord focuses on the theft of Old College’s most famous and valuable art work, the portrait of founding Master, Lord Arthur Layton. This is concern enough, but when The Dean is offered the Mastership of arch rivals Hawkins College, there is some confusion – Hawkins Master Lord Bernard isn’t even dead yet… except, suddenly then he is. In very familiar circumstances, as it happens. And when Deputy Head Porter discovers the diary of one of the original Porters from Old College in 1448, several uncomfortable coincidences from across the centuries resonate with present circumstances in the way that only Old College tradition possibly could and our bowler-hatted friends find themselves once again submerged in murder and skullduggery, when all they really want to do is have a decent lunch and look after the keys. Wouldn’t you just know it?
Deputy Head Porter has yet another dashing new side-kick and Head Porter’s personal life becomes even more complex. Whilst the Porters Lodge try to placate The Master, manage the new Bursars and forever meet the demands of an ever more erratic Dean of College, Porter finds love with an inconvenient policewoman whilst the handsome Detective Chief Inspector Thompson proves more than a little distracting for Deputy Head Porter.
Much importance is placed on a crime that never happened, whilst hideous injustice goes completely unnoticed. But at least everyone gets a decent cup of tea, which is all that really matters, surely?
Here is an extract from the diary found by Deputy Head Porter in the Old Library…
23rd September, 1448
I writeth this record here for the benefit of prosperity and on behalf of all the servants at this brave new playce of learning, even though we all think it strange that it is named Old College when it is only just built this very year. It is for the historie and account of them that don’t know their letters that I make record of our works and doings, lest we be forgot by the passing years.
The mynster said I shouldn’t be working for the University as their ways of science and learnings goes against God but the mynster don’t pay no money for my work at the church on account of the fact that my reward will be in Heaven but my dear darling Lettice has her belly swollen with child and whilst the bread of Heaven can be bought with prayers, the baker on Peas Hill wants paying in silver so I have no choice about the fact. The mynster says the College is built on the ways of the occult but I heard it was built on the bodies of a thousand sacrificed peasants but then I don’t witan the ways of science, only about my letters, so happenstance that is a type of science.
It is the fearsome Lord Arthur Layton who is in charge here, but it is a man called Roger Gunby who giveth us servants our orders. He’s got the face of a smellfungus and thinks himself a proper how-do-you-do because of his hat but, forsooth, he is not so bad as all that, even if he doth give the boys a sleaning with his stick if he catches them whiffling. But The Master Lord Layton is verily worse, even if the gentlefolk in The City talk tales of him being a fine man. There is a man named Ralph Eels who is locked in the cellar without his thumbs and Maud from the kitchens says the Lord eated his thumbs in a pie, but Maud gnashgabs about everyone so I know not what I thinkest of that. I said about it to Chidiock who digs the holes and he said Ralph was lucky it was only his thumbs that got eated, the Lord and Master being as fat as a pig with the manners to match.
Today I was bidden by Gunby to count all the keys and all the locks in all of College and taketh record of the same, on account of me knowing my letters. Now that is to be my purpose – I am the keeper of the keys and woe betide me if a single one goes amiss, God help me, my life won’t be worth living, so Gunby sayest and I believe him. Lettice said the self same thing to me last week on the subject of marriage in that if I didst not make her an honest woman before the sproglet arrives, but now the mynster willst not meet my eye on account of my working for the College and the City mynster wants four groats to wed us, he might as well ask me for my arm and a leg…
In other news that I can’t tell you about, JK Rowling has stolen my Head Porter for intercontinental television and I say I hope she knows how lucky she is! But all joking aside I couldn’t be happier for my dear friend for his project that I can’t mention, but I am immensely proud.
I always knew I was out of my depth, dear chap 😉