In 1788, exactly one hundred years before Jack the Ripper terrorizes the people of London, a sexual miscreant known as the London Monster roams the streets in search of his next victim…
Thomas Hayes, having lost his mother in a vicious street assault, becomes an underground pugilist on a mission to rid the streets of violent criminals. But his vigilante actions lead to him being mistaken for the most terrifying criminal of all.
Assistance arrives in the form of Sophie Carlisle, a young journalist with dreams of covering a big story, though she is forced to masquerade as a man to do it. Trapped in an engagement to a man she doesn’t love, Sophie yearns to break free to tell stories that matter about London’s darker side—gaming, prostitution, violence—and realizes Tom could be the one to help. Together, they come up with a plan.
Straddling the line between his need for vengeance and the need to hide his true identity as a politician's son becomes increasingly difficult as Tom is pressured to win more fights. The more he wins, the more notoriety he receives, and the greater the chance his identity may be exposed—a revelation that could jeopardize his father’s political aspirations and destroy his family’s reputation.
Sophie is also in danger as hysteria spreads and the attacks increase in severity and frequency. No one knows who to trust, and no one is safe—Tom included, yet he refuses to end the hunt.
Little does he realize, the monster is also hunting him.
My Inspiration for Writing The London Monster
As an author, I tend to gravitate toward subject matter that is rarely discussed in historical fiction. I like to write about things that some might consider uncomfortable or, rather, not the stuff of polite conversation. Provocative, perverse, salacious? Call it whatever you want. For whatever reason, I am drawn to the obscure or bizarre. If you’ve read Shame the Devil or The London Monster, then you know what I mean.
My favorite character to write is always the villain. He’s usually the most complex and therefore the most interesting—at least, to me. But naturally (and unfortunately), he must take a backseat to the other characters, especially the hero and heroine. So when the opportunity appeared to write a villain I could showcase, I grabbed it.
I’d never heard of the London Monster until I was browsing through some archived newspapers from the late 18th century and read about one of his attacks. This particular one was likely highlighted because it occurred on the evening of Queen Charlotte’s birthday celebration in January of 1790. Two sisters were walking home when a man approached them and, after uttering a series of indecent comments and engaging in a brief scuffle, pulled a knife and stabbed the older sister in the hip. His comments were inappropriate, too licentious for the women to repeat when questioned by authorities. According to records, prior to the attack of the sisters, the monster had already abused, beaten, and cut more than a dozen women. The location of the stab wounds indicated that his attacks were of a sexual nature. This made me wonder about the type of man who would target his victims in such a way—his psyche, his motives, his strategy. I also thought about the women he approached—all beauties, as they say—and how some women faked attacks to gain celebrity. It seemed bizarre that anyone would do that, but vanity can make us do things that aren’t necessarily logical or smart. I also read about the innocent men who were arrested for the monster’s crimes and then released after character witnesses and others came forth on their behalf. Ultimately, an hysteria erupted because one deranged man had a strange perverted sense of his own entitlement and sexual prowess.
Even though I knew he’d be the central character for my book, I had to figure out my other characters. Who were the types of people who might live in this highly sexualized period of London history, and how would they come in contact with this perverse miscreant? I like using main characters who are fictional yet have interactions with real historical figures. Perhaps they may never have done anything spectacular in their lives to merit mention in a newspaper or book or historical record of any kind, but their flaws and lifestyles reveal more about the time period than someone who, because of his or her social status or ranking, was more well known. In late 18th century London, a city rife with vices—gambling and prostitution being the most prominent—the most likely figures to include in the story were an aspiring journalist, an underground boxer, a prostitute, and a sexually tormented noble. It’s a strange cast of characters, all from different backgrounds and classes but, in one way or another, they all become entwined with the monster. And even more importantly, they all have their own stories to tell.
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About the Author
Donna Scott is an award-winning author of 17th and 18th century historical fiction. Before embarking on a writing career, she spent her time in the world of academia. She earned her BA in English from the University of Miami and her MS and EdD (ABD) from Florida International University. She has two sons and lives in sunny South Florida with her husband. Her first novel, Shame the Devil, received the first place Chaucer Award for Historical Fiction and a Best Book designation from Chanticleer International Book Reviews.
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