The Floozy in the Park: history, hats and small islands

The Floozy in the Park by Ellie StevensonAt last! My third novel (ebook version) is finally available.

You can find it on Amazon.

But what’s it about, you ask? Oh, all the usual things, mystery, history and the occasional ghost. We also have an unsolved murder.

But rather than tell you all about it, read my interview with Jane Davis (author) on her blog.

And if you have any questions, please get in touch below.

Obea (Sark)

The Forgotten

SS Atlantic disaster (Currier and Ives Lithographs)When I wrote my first novel, Ship of Haunts, the focus was on child migration, ghosts and Titanic. Titanic is well-known for being a major maritime disaster. But there have been many other tragedies, also with significant loss of life, and in Ship of Haunts, as well as Carrin, whose ghost haunts Titanic, we meet someone from the Empress of Ireland and a man called Aaron who was drowned on a ship called the SS Atlantic. Aaron gets bored staying by his ship under the sea, after it sank and wanders off and finds Titanic. Aaron and Carrin become ghost-friends, bound together by their shared tragedy and current home under the ocean.

I recently did a talk on the Atlantic and its sad history, because I felt that it’s important we remember all shipwrecks, not just the ones which are most obvious. Here, below, is a summarised version of that talk.

The Forgotten.

What makes a ship sink? When people talk about Titanic, and how she sank, they cite many things such as Captain Smith’s failure to navigate the iceberg – he wasn’t even on deck at the time, but instead eating his supper inside. There are numerous other things they cite, such as the repairs to Olympic, a sister ship, which delayed the departure of Titanic – had it not been for this, Titanic might never have hit that iceberg. And the list goes on.

But what if no-one remembered Titanic? All those people (1,500) tragically dead; it’s unimaginable, isn’t it?

The Atlantic is a ship very few remember, despite the enormous loss of life. At the time it was a terrible tragedy. It should be remembered.

‘The world’s worst single vessel maritime disaster, before Titanic in 1912.’

The wreck of the SS Atlantic – divers recovering bodies and cargo, 1873So what happened

The Atlantic sank, somewhat ironically, on 1 April 1873, near Halifax in Nova Scotia. The weather was bad, the wind was high and the sea very cold and decidedly choppy.

She left Liverpool on 20 March, heading for New York, but the Captain ran into a bout of  bad weather and also feared a shortage of fuel so he decided to head for Halifax (Canada, not Yorkshire!).

At that point the tragedy happened. She ran aground after striking a rock which left a vicious gash in her side. The ship began sinking.

Officers tried to get lifeboats out by chopping at ropes frantically with axes. But sadly the boats were washed away in what was now a terrible storm. It’s doubtful even if they’d been lowered properly whether they could have floated off. Conditions were dreadful.

People died, up on the deck as the ship began sinking, taking in water, and worse still, those below were trapped in the rush to get up and escape.  There was no way out.

The Final Death Toll

Reports vary as to the numbers. The official Canadian report of the time says more than 500 people died. This was out of 957.

Deaths included all of the women and all but one of the children on board. Many men were heroes that night, refusing to leave their wives to their fate. Others climbed the rigging to escape, as part of the rigging was still above water.

SS Atlantic disaster. Officer BradyWorst of all, the SS Atlantic wasn’t far from shore. Officer Brady, an enterprising man, swam out to a rock, probably part of the one the ship hit, and with two colleagues, engineered a system of ropes, so men could swim, first to the rock, and then from the rock to a nearby island. Fifty men were saved this way, but many others died. Brady and the others did their best.

Early in the morning, around 6 am, people from the island sent out boats to rescue those on the rock and the rigging. The rescue continued until midday. Meanwhile the wild and stormy weather raged on.

So who was to blame?

At first it seemed to be only the weather but…

The ship was due to arrive in New York in early April, but made little progress due to the weather. The captain decided to head for Halifax, fearing conditions and a shortage of fuel.

When the ship had previously left Queenstown, she appeared to have left with not enough coal – so much so that there were strong reactions to her leaving the port. But the owners said there was more than enough fuel for the journey.

The report of the tragedy laid some blame on Captain Williams and suspended his certificate for two years.

The Captain himself blamed miscalculations of speed and the current – the ship was off course and going too fast.

The papers of the time blamed the officers on board: for not being on the lookout for land and the dangers of rocks in the area.

There were also discipline problems on board  –  some of the crew had previously broken into a room where the drink was kept. Later, when the rescue boats came, crew were rumoured to have pushed passengers aside so they could get on board the boats first. There was also theft from the bodies of the dead. It was all very tragic.

And perhaps we’ll never know the full story…

There is one sad but interesting tale

One of the women who died that night, possibly American and in her early 20s, had been a member of the ship’s crew. She’d been on board for three voyages. But everyone thought this woman was a man. As one of her fellow crewmates said

‘I never realised Bill was  a woman. He took his grog like the rest of us and was always begging and stealing tobacco. But all the same, he was a good fellow, and I’m sorry he turned out to be a woman.’

Remembering

With subsequent, more high-profile disasters, like the loss of Titanic and the Lusitania, the Atlantic tragedy has been Burial service for the victims of SS Atlantic, 1873forgotten. But in the 1990s something happened.

The Atlantic’s dead were buried in two locations, one of which was a small churchyard in Sandy Cove, not far from where the Atlantic sank. The ship stills rests there, even now, at the bottom of a slope less than 75 ft beneath the surface.

This area where the dead were buried, was sadly subject to coastal erosion. At that time, more than a century after the sinking, 30 feet of bank vanished, and waves crashing against the grave sites meant that the graves’ contents became exposed. Victims’ bones could now be seen.

Although the Atlantic had been forgotten, some of the victims of the ship made sure, apparently, that they and their shipmates would be remembered.

A final thought

Shipwrecks weren’t uncommon at the time, but the White Star Line suffered badly from the sinking. Passenger bookings were low for a year after the tragedy. The loss of lives and the circumstances surrounding the sinking almost spelt doom for the company that owned her. It’s rather ironic to consider the fact that if White Star had indeed gone under, RMS Titanic would never have been built…

Virtual Book Club Interview: Shadows of the Lost Child

Author Jane Davis BlogThis is just a quick post to say thanks to author Jane Davis for hosting me on the Virtual Book Club pages of her blog.

Here I get the chance to talk a bit about my writing but particularly about my second novel, Shadows of the Lost Child.

The book is a partly historical mystery set in a town loosely based on historic York, with a time travel angle.

The historical aspect explores the dark parts of Edwardian England, with poverty, prostitution and the pawn shop featuring; not to mention The Keepsake Arms, the local pub, where Miranda works.

We also meet Tom, a local boy, and one of the key characters, who comes from a tough part of town but is plucky, resourceful and loyal to his friends.

Then he meets Alice, and is wary but entranced.

Alice comes from the present day, but Tom doesn’t know that…

To find out more about Shadows and my writing, see the post  on Jane’s blog.

And while you’re there, you might also want to check out Jane’s books – they look very intriguing…

 jdbooks

Finally, find out more about Shadows of the Lost Child on Pinterest

Or on Amazon.

http://amzn.to/1as6vpk (UK)

http://amzn.to/1Tfu6bo (United States)

 

In the Shadows, is a House…

I’m stunned to see how long it’s been since I last wrote a post. However, I do have an excuse… my new novel is finally finished and is available NOW, to pre-order. The book comes out on the 18th!

Shadows of the Lost Child, like Ship of Haunts, is partly historical. In it, I explore the challenges of poverty in nineteenth century England, the challenges of loss in twenty-first century England and what happens when the ghosts of the past meet the people of the present. Yes, there are ghosts!

There’s also death, murder, mayhem and mystery with a touch of humour to keep us smiling. And, my favourite, an old and possibly haunted house. This is how we first meet Aleph, when he goes to view his future home.

And what a home it turns out to be!

I’ve always been interested in old houses, and have recently returned from a visit to Sark, a small but very beautiful island, with its own share of assorted houses.

Sark, in case you haven’t heard of it, is one of the smallest Channel Islands, and has no cars, just bikes and tractors. Life in Sark can be quite primitive (despite the excellent internet connection!) – what you eat can depend on whether the boat can call and deliver the food – a boat is how you get to the island, and not a very big boat at that. And the sea can be choppy! Being in Sark is like going back to a world now lost, life in the country, a long time ago.

Sark, Channel Islands

But there’s also quite a lot of wealth on Sark, and the houses on the island reflect that contrast, and Sark’s history, with impressive manors and tiny cottages and strangely, lots of abandoned dwellings.

Sark houseThe one to the right was damaged by fire, and the house lives on, an empty shell, slowly being taken over by nature. That’s rather sad.

While the one below, and yes, there’s nothing there, was once the location of the Beauregard Hotel, itself a replacement for an earlier house, gutted by fire in 1892 and later rebuilt as a hotel. This is all that’s left of it now. Follow this link to see how it was.

Site of previous Beauregard Hotel

 

 

 

 

 

All that’s left is Le Beauregard Cottage, (to the right), rebuilt using its own bricks. Le Beauregard Cottage

Hotels on Sark have a mixed history: on the land below, stood the Hotel Bel Air, an impressive example of a country hotel, which was occupied by the Germans in the Second World War. Sadly, it didn’t survive the war, the roof caught fire and now we have to remember its beauty.

Site of Hotel Bel Air, Sark

Follow this link to see how it was.

Also previously damaged by fire, in 1957, but still with us, is Stocks Hotel, perhaps the most tragic story of them all. A wing burnt down, and the manager, anxious to recover her dog, went back in the building and didn’t survive. Neither did the dog, but several others did.

The wing was rebuilt the following year and Stocks Hotel continues to thrive.

Whenever I go to Sark for a visit, I can’t help admiring the different buildings and want to learn more about their history. One of the two prisons on Sark was meant to be haunted by a white lady (well, what a surprise!) and this proposition was bravely tested by one visitor, who spent the night in the prison in question, and apparently, wasn’t disturbed at all. I suspect the island is too grounded in reality, the practical aspects of daily living, to have many ghosts.

My new novel, Shadows of the Lost Child, has many stories at its heart, one of which is the story of a house, and while the house and the city it stands in, are fictional places, York (UK) is the city which inspired it, and the look of the house is based on a house which once existed. From that house, and from that city, I created a story which crosses time.

One day, soon, I’ll show you the house.

In the meantime, Aleph is rootless, trying to come to terms with the past, Miranda is harassed, wanting to save her mother from trouble, then along comes Alice and changes everything. And the past and present start to collide.

Shadows of the Lost Child (ebook, out 18 September) is available for pre-order now, from Amazon.

http://tinyurl.com/ks3ksng (US)
http://tinyurl.com/nbofbnv (UK)

About Shadows of the Lost Child

This is a ghost story.
It’s also the story of a tragedy that happened over one hundred years ago.
And it’s a mystery. Can you solve it?

When Aleph rents a run-down house, his whole life changes, along with the lives of the people he meets. This is their story.

The Present

Aleph Jones is running away but the house he ends up in turns out to be haunted. Or is it just him? For Aleph has a dark secret that’s changed his life.

Cressida Sewell needs Aleph’s help. Her daughter, Alice refuses to speak and a team of specialists don’t know why. But Cressida has a hidden agenda and Alice knows more than she’s letting on. About Aleph.

Guinevere James is not what she seems. Disguised as Aleph’s business client, she really wants to solve a murder that happened over a century ago. And what about the children who vanished? Aleph and Alice can hear them scream.

The Past

Miranda and Thomas live in poverty. Miranda wants to protect her mother but when she seeks help from friends Ben and Tom, they set on a path to even more trouble.

Then Tom meets Alice and the past and the present begin to collide with dangerous consequences.