The Bristol Savages Trilogy
The Bristol Savages is a beast...
How did the story come about?
A friend and I had begun making short films. In the time since I'd left college, to when I was in my thirties, technology had advanced enough so that you could edit a film on your computer...with the right software. We had the right software, and we were both avid film films. We'd started making ten minute comedy shorts - terrible, terrible travesties of celluloid - but we had enthusiasm, and the will, and we were seriously debating (or at least semi-seriously debating) the reality of making a full length feature film. The question arose over a meal in a popular restaurant chain: how could you make a movie with zero budget that people would enjoy, would find interesting? How could you make something exciting with hardly any effects and a limited - and inexpensive - cast? It was a question that required some discussion. A crime thriller starring a returning Hollywood icon had recently been released, and we were both impressed by it...and by the simplicity of what was involved. The concept interested us, but how to make it our own? The most immediate and obvious choice was to make the main character a woman. That was interesting. The film that inspired this discussion had a male psychopath killer as its central protagonist, who is far from sympathetic. The idea that a female lead could be a businesswoman, a wife, a mother, and a serial killer was intoxicating.
But as you may already know, female serial killers are their own beast, and employ different methods than their male counterparts: usually poison. Poisoning doesn't come across as particularly dramatic on screen, so we decided that our anti-heroine had to have a more violent past to account for her ability to adopt more...vigorous methods of dispatching her victims. This would give her license to act with prejudice...and of course be more entertaining to watch.
Suffice it to say, the film never got made, but the idea would not go away. Instead, like a hypnotic melody, it went around and around in my head and refused to be still. The antidote for this sort of distraction is usually to put pen to paper, but there was an inconsistency that had to be addressed: how could such a woman exist, and why would people want to read about what she was doing? The answer was almost child-like in its simplicity: a support group. She could talk to like-minded killers, and that would provide the scaffolding for her life. And there would now be multiple killers to play with, not just one! It was too good an idea to ignore.
Not long after that fateful meal, Bristol Open Doors Day came along, an event which allows the public to access otherwise inaccessible historic buildings in and around Bristol. The Red Lodge is a fascinating place, and tacked to the back of it is the "Wigwam", a building in which artists and creative types would congregate to write, paint, and enact plays. They were called - yeah, you guessed it - the Bristol Savages.
Here we go again...
Continuing a book I had never thought to continue was a new experience for me. Luckily, I have a habit of leaving slightly ambiguous endings to a lot of my novels, so at least there was room for a sequel. Sort of.
The inspiration for Masks of Sanity, the 2nd book in the Bristol Savages Trilogy, has a surprising and, some might say, pedestrian source: an episode of a well known medical drama. I can't remember which episode, but a young girl escapes her kidnapper, arriving at a hospital and being promptly attended to by a number of good looking medical professionals. Immediately, even before it had really begun, I could guess how the episode would henceforth unfold: the kidnapper would follow the young girl to the hospital and then cause absolute havoc in his attempt to recapture her.
Well, I couldn't have been more wrong. But unbeknownst to me, the seeds to Masks of Sanity had been laid.
Constructing something around this germ of an idea was the real work. The King George Infirmary is integral to the plot of Masks, and its inspiration was an old building not far from the harbour called the Bristol General. Its gone now (at least in its original form), converted into high end accommodation, but it was perfect for what I needed. So I set off for the Bristol Archives, a fantastic place to visit if you are truly interested in the history of the wonderful city of Bristol. Here, I was able to take notes and draw reproductions of some of the plans of The General (because photocopying it was too expensive) but from this information I was able to build the King George Infirmary from the ground up, a place suitably Gothic and Baroque for the exciting and terrifying events in the continuing adventures of Anna Lewis.
And once more unto the breach...
Despite the Kindergardener's obvious importance in Masks of Sanity, he was conspicuously absent from its proceedings. Puppet Psycho was the book almost solely devoted to his madness and the pursuit by FIRRST to capture him.
But as is often the case in the "world" of the Bristol Savages, even a straight forward police investigation is not...well. Straight forward. With more twists and turns than a Formula One racetrack, Puppet Psycho felt like a natural conclusion to a trilogy that might never have been, had it not been for the comments of one reviewer.
Like any human being, I'm a sucker for praise, and graciously humble when it unexpectedly arrives on my doorstep. But I felt that this praise had to be earned and so, to earn it, I set about writing two sequels, back to back (oh, if only I knew what pain it would cause!). If it weren't for Grethe O' Sullivan's review on Amazon spurring me on, this trilogy may not have come about at all. So thank you Grethe. I really hope you enjoy this odd and unusual collection of crime thrillers. In fact, I hope everyone does.
"what a read. i absolutely loved it. quite a few strange twists. i'm sure there is a sequel as sarah tries to find anna."