The Chapter That Never Was
Some Chapters of The Descent of Chloe Jackson are more planned than others. I’ve known for a long time what Chapter 6 would be about. It would be set in Dover in 1912, and a young Charlie Parkes would be wrestling with his faith and his conscience.
With the Great War looming on the horizon, I wanted to look into the character of someone who might end up being a Conscientious Objector.
Don’t worry – no spoilers coming up – because this is the Chapter that never was.
There will still be a Chapter set in 1912, and it will have similar themes, and it will still be about a character called Charlie. But it won’t be about a group of young temperance activists picketing a pub and getting caught up in a violent altercation with a drunken coalman.
It’s a fascinating period, and I had done a lot of research into militarism, the temperance movement, and drinking culture at the time. To be honest, I love the research as much as the writing. For example, there was a mass youth movement called The Band of Hope – think Salvation Army meets the Boy Scouts, with a pledge against the perils of alcohol thrown in – with over 3 million members. I’d never heard of them, but they were completely mainstream at the time. I found a wonderful old Annual of theirs, full of worthy exhortations.
They had banners, and battle cries, and songs; one of which I was going to use to wind up my drunken coalman. To the tune of John Brown’s Body, to be sung in a “Marching Style”…
I was particularly intrigued by the military language of the abstainers, and how that overlapped with the emerging pacifist movement.
I had the whole Chapter mapped out, knew exactly what I was doing. I loved my characters. I’d choreographed the fight in precise detail. Weeks of work. All ready to go.
And then I had a moment of insight and clarity.
This is Chapter 6. I already have a significant drunken fight in Chapter 4, and Chapter 2 turns around a moment of beer-fuelled violence. How could I not have spotted this massive over-emphasis on the evils of alcohol? This isn’t the book I thought I was writing.
I stand by the violence in the earlier chapters – it has its place and context. But this was beginning to look like a “Theme” – and it simply isn’t. I’m not an abstainer. Nor a preacher. And the overall mood of the book is supposed to be generally uplifting.
This Chapter simply doesn’t fit in this book.
So, this is the Chapter that never was. There will be no temperance battle cries in Chapter 6. Charlie Parkes will still face a crisis of conscience, and battle with the true meaning of “Thou Shalt Not Kill”, but it won’t be outside a pub.
And I’ll just have to do some more research.
As always, drop me a line if you’ve any ideas for a future Newsletter, or any thoughts on the rights and wrongs of conscientious objection. And, if you’re enjoying these Newsletters, do please pass them on.
All the best