Completed March 2023: Dear Louis
Frances Sitwell remains a mystery woman in the life of writer Robert Louis Stevenson, whose numerous letters to her are imbued with a young man’s passion. We will never know exactly how she felt about him because she insisted all her letters to him were destroyed. This is perhaps not surprising, considering she was already in a longstanding relationship with Stevenson’s mentor and friend Sidney Colvin.
What emotions simmered between Mrs Sitwell and Stevenson during their heady encounter of 1873 and where did it leave her and Colvin twenty years later, when, after Stevenson’s death, he undertook to publish the writer’s entire correspondence, including his letters to Frances?
In this short video prepared for Robert Louis Stevenson Day 2021, I explain what intrigued me about this Victorian love triangle and how I’ve tried to finally give a voice to his famous muse.
Video prepared with the help of Jeremy Hodges, author of the Stevenson biography Lamplit Vicious Fairyland and courtesy of the RLS Day website.
In the Blink of an Eye
He had Edinburgh at his feet, but who would be by his side?
Listed Association of Scottish Literary Studies Best Scottish Novels, 2018
In 1843, Edinburgh artist David Octavius Hill is commissioned to paint the portraits of 400 ministers of the new Free Church. Only when he meets Robert Adamson, an early master of the new and fickle art of photography, does this daunting task begin to look feasible.
Hill is soon bewitched by the art of light and shade. He and Adamson become the darlings of Edinburgh society, immortalising people and places with their subtle and artistic images.
In the Blink of an Eye is a multi-faceted story, using the voices of those who knew Hill and Adamson or were affected by their work. They are mostly women: an architect’s wife held captive in his fairy-tale creation; the woman who has only a calotype of her missing husband for comfort; the fisherman’s wife who feels her life change in the blink of the camera’s eye.
In the Blink of an Eye is a record of Hill’s life and loves. Tender, tragic and sometimes humorous, these voices build a portrait of a man who knew art and science, love and loss, friendship and photography.
In e-book or paperback
ISBN (paperback): 9780993599729; (digital): 9780993599736
Order now from Linen Press, Amazon UK, Amazon USA
Praise for In the Blink of An Eye
“This is a wonderful book: well researched, beautifully written, original in execution and often deeply moving.”
Catherine Czerkawska, author of The Jewel
“… the novel brings texture and colour to a story that had only been known in black and white.”
Roger Watson, Curator of the Fox Talbot Museum, world authority on early photography
“Poignant and charged with hope”
Vanessa Gebbie, author and judge of Evesham Festival Short Story Prize 2017 (Chapter 3, The Bird of Wax)
“That moment of dawning self-consciousness, so delicately rendered, yet so resonant … just knocked my socks off”
Nick Bellorini, photography publisher and judge of Magic Oxygen Prize 2017 (Chapter 6, Silver Harvest)
“Written with insight and passion. I couldn’t put it down” Rob Douglas, 21st Century Calotypist http://papershadowsandlight.com
A Kettle of Fish
She’s running as fast as she can but the past is catching up
Ailsa is eighteen and saddled with looking after her mother, Lorraine, who suffers from some kind of illness no doctor can put a name to. Then there’s the stigma of Ailsa’s Dad Tom, who left home years ago for reasons Ailsa has never dared to ask. Ailsa’s passport to freedom comes in the shape of local fishmonger Ian. He is happy to assist Ailsa in her quest to lose her virginity and her desire to visit favourite sea-side haunts. But after one trip too many down memory lane, facts come to light that give off a very bad smell indeed.
A Kettle of Fish moves from the towns and fishing ports of East Fife to the fringes of the Edinburgh art world, where Ailsa casts her net for the truth about Tom, only to land stories that get fishier all the time.
BUY e-book or paperback from Amazon UK
Paperback also from bookshops, ISBN 9781781768624
Reviews of A Kettle of Fish
“A compelling coming-of-age-story,” Debbie Young, author and publisher
“Wonderfully colourful characters. Highly recommended!” J.B. Johnson, book reviewer
“You can practically smell the sea air,” Catherine Czerkawska, author and playwright
Stroud Short Stories Volume 2 (2015-2018)
Declared by the Cheltenham Literature Festival to be “possibly the best short story event in the South West”.This, the second Stroud Short Stories anthology, covers the period from November 2015 to May 2018. That’s six events and nearly 60 stories written and read by the cream of Gloucestershire’s authors. Stroud Short Stories organiser John Holland has edited an anthology of stories in a diverse range of styles and with an extraordinary array of themes, which will in turn amuse, enchant and challenge the reader. Available from local bookshops and Amazon UK.
For a full list of anthologies in which my stories have been published, please visit my Amazon author page.