Intertwined Novels by John Linwood Grant and Alan M. Clark

Is the image above a picture of Jack the Ripper’s last victim, Mary Jane Kelly? No, probably not. The woman in the photo is an attractive woman from the late Victorian period. Based on her clothing, makeup, and hair style, I’d say she might have been a prostitute. I placed the picture in this post to give a face to Mary Jane Kelly. Miss Kelly was a 19th century prostitute, a ladybird, she might have said. As far as I know, there are no pictures of her face.

I have been collaborating with author, John Linwood Grant in the past few months on two novels involving Mary Jane Kelly. They are related pieces with linked storylines, but written separately—he’s writing, The Assassin’s Coin, concerning the professional beginnings of his wonderful character, Mr. Dry, the Deptford Assassin, and I’m writing, The Prostitute’s Price, the fifth novel in my Jack the Ripper Victims Series. The links between the two stories are plot elements involving some characters, with the time period, and the environment common to both works. Some scenes occur in both novels, written from the POV of my main character in my story, his main character in his. The goal is to have two novels that, when read together, intertwined as we’re calling it, give the reader a broader understanding and a larger experience of each story. When published, the book will have chapters alternating between his novel and mine. The novels will possibly also both be published independently because each one is designed to be a complete standalone story.

The Jack the Ripper Victims Series

My Jack the Ripper Victims Series is about the lives of the murderer’s victims, depicting what we know about each of the women in dramas that are fiction, but well-researched and meant to give readers a sense of what life might have been like for them in London of the time. There are five canonical victims of the Whitechapel Murderer. Before I started this project with John, I’d written novels about the first four: A Brutal Chill in August, about Mary Ann “Polly” Nichols, Apologies to the Cat’s Meat Man, about Annie Chapman, Say Anything but Your Prayers, about Elizabeth Stride, and Of Thimble and Threat, about Catherine Eddowes. The fifth book in the series is The Prostitute’s Price.

Although I’d intended to write the novel about Mary Jane Kelly, the Ripper’s last victim, I found myself shying away from the effort and then avoiding the work entirely for a time.

Miller’s Court, just outside the room where Mary Jane Kelly was murdered. Artwork by Alan M. Clark copyright © 2018

If you’ve seen the crime scene photos, perhaps you’ll understand why. At least two exist, one that is perhaps the primary taking in the whole scene, the other a close up. Much of the “trash” in the photographs exists because the images now available are from photographic products that have deteriorated with age. Those materials would be going on 130 years old. They have what looks like dust and scratches or perhaps water damage that led to mold, mildew, fungus. Whatever the cause, the deterioration has a very dirty look, making what is a disgusting scene, usually seen in a brown sepia-tone, look even worse. Taken in London’s East End in 1888, the images seem to speak accurately of what was a very filthy part of the world in the late Victorian period, indeed a place and time with some of the most impoverished people the world has known. Yet when the photos were first created, they probably had much less trash in them, and would have provided a clearer view of the victim, Mary Jane Kelly.

I considered showing the grimy photos here, but decided that those who haven’t seen them are better off. Unfortunately, these words may pique the curiosity of some who will look for the photographs.

Here is a photograph of the outside of 13 Miller’s Court, to give you an idea of what the photography of the time looked like.

Photograph of the exterior of 13 Miller’s Court taken around the time of Mary Jane Kelly’s murder.

The mutilation of the corpse in the photo is so extreme that it somehow wounds my sense of human worth and dignity. The outrage of the wasted humanity is bad enough, but seeing those pitiful remains on a bed in a small, squalid single-room dwelling, I also suffer an odd claustrophobia, a feeling of being trapped in that tight space at 13 Miller’s Court, where true horror took place. That gives me such a cold, dreadful feeling, I didn’t want to begin the work on the novel about Mary Jane Kelly.

Despite my revulsion, having written novels about the first four victims, I had to complete the project with the fifth.

“Miller’s Court” copyright © 2016 Alan M. Clark

In the midst of considering how best to start, John Linwood Grant asked me to write an introduction for, A Persistence of Geraniums and Other Worrying Tales, a wonderful collection of his short fiction that he calls Tales of the Last Edwardian.

A PERSISTENCE OF GERANIUMS by John Linwood Grant

The Edwardian period begins after the end of the Victorian period. We were both writing stories that take place in similar eras, and each of us enjoyed the other’s work. Several of the stories in A Persistence of Geraniums and Other Worrying Tales are about his character, Mr. Dry, the Deptford Assassin. I’d read at least three stories involving the character already, but loved them enough to read them again. In one, John gives a brief backstory for the assassin in which Mr. Dry has dealings with Jack the Ripper during the Autumn of Terror. Brief though it is, knowing quite a bit about the crimes and investigation, I found the backstory quite plausible and that gave me an idea of how to approach my novel about Mary Jane Kelly. I asked John to collaborate, and he accepted the challenge.

Here is a representation by artist Walter Sickert of Miller’s Court from very close to the time of the murder.

Illustration by Walter Sickert that appeared in the Penny Illustrated Paper about a week after the murder of Mary Jane Kelly.

I won’t say more about the backstory of Mr. Dry here, because that is at the heart of the two novels we’re writing and I don’t want to give anything away.

I’ve always loved discovery in creative endeavor. Collaboration, with two or more imaginations coming together, is chocked full of it. This collaboration of intertwined novels is truly a strange one. Our assumptions about it have evolved. At the beginning, we intended to write one novel and work on that together. I presumed we’d both contribute to each chapter. Then we decided, that since we each had our own POV characters to deal with, John would write every other chapter and I’d write the rest. I’d done that with Jeremy Robert Johnson in our collaborative novel, Siren Promised. The approach worked well. Our different writing voices gave our characters distinctly different personalities. Then I proposed to John the idea of writing the separate, but related novels that could be intertwined.

Here’s why: Over the years I’d learned that frequently readers shy away from collaborations because they might know the work of one author of a collaborative novel, but not both. If they like the work of one of the authors, and don’t know the other, they sometimes think that if they buy the book, they’ll get a piece of writing by the author they do know that is watered down by the contribution of the author they don’t know.

With what were doing, one can read the novels together or separately, read one and not the other, and still have a whole experience. Of course I suggest readers enjoy both.

Writing separate novels, we are truly only consulting with one another about how to address the elements common to both works. That has taken some doing, and has been a fun process, involving much consultation via email, chat, and skyping, with an eight hour time difference between us, as John lives in Yorkshire, UK, and I’m in Eugene, Oregon in the United States.

The second image in this post is an expanded view of Miller’s Court, part photo manipulation, part drawing. If you click on it, you can see it larger and in greater detail. It is the core image in the short animated film, I did titled “13 Miller’s Court.” The broken window belongs to the room I spoke of in this post, 13 Miller’s Court, where Mary Jane Kelly was murdered. The image is derived from the black and white image with this post titled ”Miller’s Court,” and photographs of the actual Miller’s Court, also posted here, taken in the 19th century. The drawing is my reimagining of he illustration by the artist, Walter Sickert, that appeared in the Penny Illustrated Paper about a week after the murder. It is colored pencil on gray paper.

Because of my background as a horror illustrator, many who have not read the novels in the Jack the Ripper Victims Series presume they are horror novels. They are not, though they certainly have horrific elements. They are tales of survival within a harsh environment, dramas with strong female leads. They are, in fact, written for women, yet not exclusively so. Men like them too. Each one is from the singular POV of one of the victims. As a male author, it has been a great challenge to write from these feminine POVs, one that I’ve enjoyed immensely, and has helped me to love women all the more.

Thanks to John Linwood Grant for helping me enlarge the series with his own amazing contribution. Visit his blog GreyDogTales.

The novels The Assassin’s Coin, by John Linwood Grant, and The Prostitute’s Price, the fifth novel in my Jack the Ripper Victims Series will come out later this year in a book tentatively titled 13 Miller’s Court.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 97

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise (Warning – explicit sexual content). Since this week’s workout is so close to the holidays, Robert Devereaux was asked to lead the exercise with material inspired by his series, The Santa Claus Chronicles. Using the cover artwork for the existing three novels as inspiration, he has written the captions below to deliver a seasonal delight! There are links to the books on amazon.com in this post.

Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the images, and allow your imagination to go to work on them. Please don’t expand on the story lines in your comments. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

At the height of their passion, Saint Nick remembered having left his genitals in some needy grown-up’s stocking

Once retrieved, which could be accomplished in a flash, how might he conclude this fiery encounter with a genuine money shot?

Artwork: “Santa and the Tooth Fairy” copyright © 1992 Alan M. Clark. Cover art for Santa Steps Out, by Robert Devereaux, published by Deadite Press.

Hmmm, a pooper of coins.

How might he give such a gift to deserving tykes worldwide, without turning them into scorned freaks?

Artwork: “Santa Remote Viewing” copyright © 2011 Alan M. Clark. Cover art for Santa Claus Conquers the Homophobes, by Robert Devereaux, published by Deadite Press.

Elevated to Son-of-God-ship, what a time to pop a boner!

All the heavenly host has noticed and stopped singing my praises, turning their eyes to the Big Boy Himself.

Artwork: “Santa’s Wet Dream” copyright © 2013 Alan M. Clark. Cover art for Santa Claus Saves the World, by Robert Devereaux, published by Deadite Press.

Captions are original to this post and are not excerpted from the novels.

 

—Alan M. Clark and Robert Devereaux

Dilation 69

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

Alister regretted his decision to turn his imagination into a laundry hamper since his socks were all stretched out of shape and growing insect elephant heads.

Still, he enjoyed reading the prehensile nasal passages while on the toilet, and because they were filled with mucus, they slipped onto his tiny feet more easily.

Artwork: “Hot Head Lends a Hand” copyright © 2008 Alan M. Clark and Steven C. Gilberts. Cover illustration for Lost in Cat Brain Land by Cameron Pierce, published by Eraserhead Press.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 58

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

I awakened during surgery to the sound of the doctors laughing while they made jokes and wagers about my condition; however, the anesthesiologist caught me, and I fell into unconsciousness again before I got my odds from the betting.


Later, in the recovery room, I knew that unless I moaned my own business, bled to myself, and took pains to appear recovered, I’d never make it out those double doors.

Artwork: “A Chorus of Moans” copyright © 1994 Alan M. Clark. Interior illustration for The Pain Doctors of Suture Self General, by the Bovine Smoke Society, published by Arts Nova Press, and Pain and Other Petty Plots to Keep You in Stitches, by Alan M. Clark, Troy Guinn, Randy Fox, Mark Edwards, and Jeremy Robert Johnson, published by IFD Publishing.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 56

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires an idea, please use the comment feature to tell us something about it. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

He had darkened each day and poured down on her relentlessly, and yet, held fast to the ocean floor, she eagerly anticipated his visits, always lifting her chin, offering a kiss.


Today, the pressure in the magma chamber of her heart had finally melted through the stolid rock that had kept her quiet for so long, but she patiently held herself back, awaiting his arrival.

Artwork: “Crosley (colorized)” copyright © 1998 Alan M. Clark.
Cover illustration for “Crosley” a short story ebook by Elizabeth Engstrom – IFD Publishing.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 49

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires a story, please say something about it in a comment. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

They shared many hours together in the bed, passionate hours, hours of rest, hope, dreams, nightmares, illness, and finally the moment of death.

Once they were gone, the bedding could not be changed and the room could not be used, as the memory of their love and passion for each other demanded privacy.

Artwork: “Frontispiece for ‘Candyland’” copyright © 1998 Alan M. Clark.
Interior illustration for “Candyland” by Elizabeth Engstrom, which appeared in The Alchemy of Love, by Elizabeth Engstrom and Alan M. Clark, published by TripleTree Publishing.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 47

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires a story, please say something about it in a comment. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

The commute was a bitch, but it gave Goatman and his pet snail, Tilde, plenty of time to read and rehearse together for their demanding role.

“One day,” he said, glancing up at Tilde, “when I’m famous as the guy who saved the princess by devouring her horrid brats, we’ll move out of the slums of West Fairyland and get a place in town.”

Artwork: “Scholar and Goose” copyright © 2004 Alan M. Clark.
IIllustration for “At the City Of Rectified Errors” by Jay Lake with Alan M. Clark & Paul Groendes. This is one of four pieces of art produced by Alan M. Clark during a multi-media, collaborative endeavor which included writer, Jay Lake, and sculptor, Paul Groendes. The effort was to produce a fully illustrated story in front of customers during five working days at Borderlands Books in San Francisco. Paul Groendes produced a sculpture to help illustrate as well. Later, the painting appeared in the art book, Alan M. Clark, The Paint in My Blood, Fine Art and Illustration, published by IFD Publishing.

Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 40

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires a story, please say something about it in a comment. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—The Dilation Exercises.

There wasn’t much time left for any of them, but with Russell being taken, Kurt saw his chance.

Heather and Gage, driven mad with terror, were beyond caring what he did, but Kurt still had to work up the courage–or was it cowardice?–to take what he’d wanted from Audrey for so many years.

Artwork: “Cookie Jar” copyright © 1997 Alan M. Clark.
Interior Illustration for Imagination Fully Dilated, Volume II: The Literated Works of Alan M. Clark, edited by Elizabeth Engstrom, published IFD Publishing. Inspired by the artwork, David Bischoff wrote the story “CD OM” for the anthology. Captions are original to this post and have nothing to do with the literary project with which the artwork first appeared.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Dilation Exercise 34

Below you’ll find Alan M. Clark’s weekly Dilation Exercise. Please look at the picture, read the caption, above and below the image, and allow your imagination to go to work on it. If the artwork inspires a story, please say something about it in a comment. Need a further explanation? Go to Imagination Workout—What is This?

Fear shone through the ancient weariness in the boys eyes upon his first glimpse of us moving cautiously through the trees.

I could only wonder if he would accept that all he had known was long gone, that of all mankind, only he remained, and that we had become the stewards of the Earth.

Artwork: “In the Tree” copyright © 2008 Alan M. Clark.
Interior illustration for Scrubs by Simon Wood, Bad Moon Books.

—Alan M. Clark

Eugene, Oregon

Boneyard Babies Catches Reality with Its Pants Down

Released on an unsuspecting world, this surreal tome catches reality unawares in its underwear! My new book, Boneyard Babies, published as a paperback by Lazy Fascist Press, an imprint of Eraserhead Press, is now available at AMAZON.COM.  It  will debut at BizarroCon, November 11-14, Edgfield Manor, 2126 S.W. Halsey St., Troutdale, OR 97060.

Click here to find it on AMAZON.COM

The collection consists of ten collaborations and six solo efforts. They are all surreal and dreadful tales of the oddest sort with characters living and dead, biological and mechanical, superhuman and god-like. It is, I believe, a charming companion for lovers of the bizarre and another small statement for the preservation of the grotesque.

“Alan Clark has one wicked sense of humor.”

—Elizabeth Massie, Stoker winning author of Sineater.

“We all know Alan Clark is one hell of an artist — in fact, one of the best the imaginative field has ever produced.  Turns out he’s one hell of a writer, too.  If that’s not a one-two punch that will knock you out I don’t know what is.”

—Al Sarrantonio, author of Moonbane and editor of 999, Portents, and Stories (with Neil Gaiman)

“If you think Alan Clark’s art is darkly delightful, just wait until you read his twisted and fantastical tales.  I promise you it will make weird and wonderful pictures in your head!  And isn’t that what we all really want?

—Ann VanderMeer, Hugo-award winning Editor-in-Chief of Weird Tales magazine

“This is brain-melting stuff.”

—Jeremy Robert Johnson, author of Extinction Journals and Siren Promised

My Author’s Note in the front of the book:

There are two types of stories in this collection, ones that make sense and ones that do not. I’ll let the ones that do make sense speak for themselves. The ones that do not deserve a little explanation and with it a little history.

I am primarily a visual artist, but in the 1970s while living and going to school in San Francisco, I began to write as yet another means of creative expression. I smoked marihuana with my roommate and then we’d tried to write bizarre stories. It was fun collaborating and laughing about what we came up with. Our tendency was to try to write a solid story with a beginning, middle and end, an antagonist, a protagonist, conflict and resolution. But being high, it was difficult for me to focus on telling a character-driven story that didn’t wander off and get lost in the thick forest of my imagination. I think he had the same problem. Over time we became frustrated as the unfinished, hopeless stories piled up.

The solution was to stop making sense. Being a surrealist at heart, I believe in the power of the subconscious to offer up creative solutions. I proposed to my roommate a writing game that would prevent us from concentrating on creating reasonable story elements.

The process put us in a position of having to find a story through free-association. What we ended up with definitely did not make sense in a conventional way, but it felt like a story and seemed complete. When reading it, my imagination did it’s best to assign meaning to the text, creating a surreal cartoon of sorts for my mind’s eye.

Here are the rules of the game I call Bone-Grubber’s Gamble:

1) Two writers each create ten partial sentences of bizarre content and then trade them with one another.
2) A simple open-ended premise for a story is agreed upon (My roommate and I decided the first one of these we wrote would be about TWO BEST FRIENDS WHO HATE EACH OTHER).
3) A coin is flipped to see who will go first.
4) The winning writer chooses one of his counterpart’s sentences and begins the story. The sentence can be kept as is and completed or changed in any way or it could be just a spring board for ideas. Sentences don’t have to make sense, but they should still have good structure.

When the first writer is finished, the other writer takes a turn and they alternate turns until the story finds its own end. This usually occurs within the first two pages. As the writers take turns, they keep in mind that connective tissue in the form of repeated words and concepts helps tie sentences, paragraphs and ultimately the story together and give a sense that the story is whole even if it is truly nonsensical.

Below is an example of a set of partial sentences of bizarre content that I generated this year while looking through a book on torture devices. I sent them to Eric M. Witchey to use when we wrote the story titled “Conrad’s New Shoe Goo.”

1) where harmless humans, roasted and boiled to little cubes

2) every apology a death penalty

3) fervent prayers became an iron gag and a drunkard of gin

4) four claws and a high-end adultery appliance

5) a heresy of corn dogs and chocolate-dipped

6) hankered after the older and more popular atrocities

8)bespectacled himself by stretching out his naked erection

7) would have four testicles instead of the usual tub of lard

9) hadn’t screamed puppet warnings in over a decade

10) wake unto waist rings and pyramid points

This is not about the story. After all, some of them don’t make sense. It’s about how nimble the imagination is, that of the writers’ combined with yours.

The table of contents is broken into three sections. The first, titled Older, more Popular Atrocities, is made up of stories that are more traditional and are not arrived at by means of the Bone-Grubber’s Gamble. The second section, A Heresy of Corn-Dogs, is composed of stories that were arrived at by means of the Bone-Grubber’s Gamble, but developed with an eye toward making more traditional stories. The third section is pure Bone-Grubber’s Gamble. Several of these stories I wrote by myself. This required me to assemble at least twenty partial sentences and to pretend to be two writer.

Table of Contents:

Author’s Note
Introduction by Eric M. Witchey

Older, more Popular Atrocities
“Brittle Sticks and Old Rope”
“Ready or Not”
“Naked From the Grave” (w/ Mark Roland)
“Crewcuts” (w/ Troy Guinn)
“Just How Expensive a Free Lunch Can Be” (w/ Mark Edwards)

A Heresy of Corn-dogs
“Opacity and the Death Editor” (w/ Eric M. Witchey)
“Mama’s Maw and the Paws” (w/ Bruce Holland Rogers)
“Mousenight” (w/ Jill Bauman)

Bone-Grubber’s Gamble
“The Musty Cow’s Teat of Death” (w/ Jeremy Robert Johnson)
“Conrad’s New Shoe Goo” (w/ Eric M. Witchey)
“Her Name”
“Just a Wet Last Name”
“Applewide”
“His Grandmother’s Eyes”
“Where Pink is For Poodles, Appliance Genetics Applies” (w/ Kevin Ward)
“Frankly” (w/ Kevin Ward)

Here are links to information about BizarroCon and Eraserhead Press.

Alan M. Clark
Eugene, Oregon