Hector Crane is a funeral director with no-one to bury. Business is at a standstill, he's on the verge of bankruptcy and his delinquent apprentices are stealing both from him and his dear departed clients. Just when he thinks things can't get any worse he receives a letter from a man whom he thought long dead, who owns half of his business, and who will be knocking on his door very soon looking for answers.
Enter Thaddeus Moribund, arriving from God knows where, and who by Hector's reckoning should be at least ninety years old but appears half that. As the weeks progress, Hector can only watch powerless as Thaddeus overturns every aspect of his life in a bid to pull the business through. But there's more to Thaddeus than this, immeasurably more. Thaddeus' story unfolds in a series of revelations that span two millennia, beginning in Biblical Jerusalem and ending in modern day England.
Thaddeus Moribund is on a mission of his own that has nothing to do with Hector Crane but which will nonetheless challenge Hector's patience, his strength, his concept of good and evil and finally his sanity as the connection between them is ultimately revealed.
Originally titled : 'The return of Thaddeus Moribund' - Thaddeus is effectively book one of the Luddensley chronicles although admittedly it didn't start out that way. The initial idea for the story was prompted by a simple question: why do people do the things they do?
I have a friend, she's young, attractive and intelligent, and yet she's chosen the role of mortician as her profession. Every day she goes to work and puts makeup on dead people, she washes their naked, limp, blue-white bodies, drains their cold black blood and replaces it with a cocktail of nasty chemicals, she takes frequently nauseating, possibly fly ridden, cadavers and puts a great deal of effort into making them look presentable for their final journey.
This begs a question though doesn't it? Why the hell does the average person want to do a job like that?
Of course it has to be done, I won't dispute that, but why does someone who has the choice want a job like this in preference to say, bar work for example? Wouldn't you suspect, upon meeting the aforementioned young lady in a night club, that she was perhaps a little askew?
I mean, if you ever meet a middle aged overweight, stubble chinned man standing behind a bush in the park, wearing a big overcoat in mid summer and squinting at you through thick, wire framed glasses, who drools as he tells you that he's always wanted to work with children, you're not going to let your kids within twenty miles of the bloke are you? You may immediately begin to suspect that he has motives other than being America's next top nanny and you make a mental note of his facial features in case you're ever questioned by the police.
In Thaddeus I decided to take all of the above implications and stereotypes and then turn them on their heads. Just as the reader is sure who the heroes and the villains are, the entire tale does an about face and everyone is suddenly cast into doubt.
I like my villains to be complex. I like them to be nasty of course, but the reasons for their behaviour must also be known which leads to some degree of empathy with the reader and thus the victory of the hero is inevitably tinged with remorse.
My style of writing usually involves several timelines and characters that intertwine and affect each other without neccessarily being aware of so doing, and Thaddeus is no different in that the character of Thaddeus himself is on a mission that is tangential to that of Hector Crane but in the end changes Hector's life forever.
Thaddeus is at once a very tragic tale and darkly comedic. It opens with one of my favourite lines:
'Death is as popular now as it's always been...'
I remember being very much into the work of Terry Pratchett (an author capable of tremendous dark insight) at the time of writing and I think that his talent for the double entendre influenced this sentence. That's not to imply that Thaddeus is in any way Pratchettesque (new word alert), far from it, because it doesn't involve the parallel world fantasy that Mr. Pratchett is famous for. It does have a very strong supernatural backdrop to the main character however, a plot line which is uncovered quite late in the day but which serves to enlighten the reader about who Thaddeus actually is. I changed the title in favour of Thaddeus prior to publication because I feared that the original title implied that the book was a sequel, and who would want to read a sequel if they hadn't read the one before it?
Thaddeus' characters are motivated to do the wrong (often quite despicable) things for the right reasons, and vice versa, which leaves the reader unsure how to feel about them. This is deliberate because I'm attempting to explore their motivations to add depth and interest to the story line.
Hector Crane. A funeral director with a family business that's fading fast. He can't figure out why, with people dying all over the place, he's not getting any trade. He receives a mysterious letter heralding the arrival of an even more mysterious visitor and from then on his life begins to spiral out of control.
Thaddeus Joshua Moribund. The mysterious visitor who can't possibly be as young as he appears. He seems determined to revive the ailing business but his ideas fly in the face of Hector's more conventional outlook creating instant distrust and no small degree of resentment on Hector's part. As the plot develops Hector feels increasingly helpless and frustrated, a situation of which Thaddeus seems entirely ignorant, but Thaddeus has been in this business for a very long time and has no regard for Hector's petty whining.
Janice Feathers. The company accountant. She's a middle aged woman with a nineteen year old soul who is looking down on life from a very high shelf. Desperate for love she is comedically needy and everyone knows it, but there's something in store for this gold hearted lady - something big.
Philip 'Ginger' Wilson. One of the company apprentices. A not too bright but nonetheless extremely cunning young man who, in partnership with his cousin Gordon, is determined to steal everything that's not nailed down. Things get bad for him when Thaddeus arrives and Ginger decides that there just isn't room in the company for two villains and that Thaddeus must go. He then dreams up an elaborate plan aimed at Thaddeus' demise. In several ways he bites off considerably more than he can chew.
Gordon 'Gordy' Wilson. Ginger's even less intelligent cousin. The villainous side kick who is the Laurel to Ginger's Hardy. He's not really a villain as such, just deeply misled and fiercely loyal. He is left, toward the climax of the tale, at a fork in the road of his life, whereupon he chooses to shine - as the darkest of things often do.
The extras. A plethora of characters, many of which are dead, that suffer the fallout from the dark machinations that define the relationships between the above people.
As an early work Thaddeus was a grand experiment. I like to think of myself as a fairly normal person and when I read I tend to pick a character to identify with. So what happens when, having picked such a character and become accustomed to sitting inside their skin and living their life, that person, who is by now as comfortable as old shoes or a warm bath, suddenly turns out to have bodies in the basement? This was the process that I aimed for when writing the story. So pick a character, any character, but don't get too comfortable, and just in case you select Thaddeus Moribund himself as your ride, there are some excellent recipes in the back of the book.
Alternatively it can be bought in print from any online bookstore or ordered by your local book seller using ISBN: 978-1-906755-18-8.
'Am I right in thinking that... you actually intend to eat him?'