the Victorian era, for many young women, going into domestic service was a
significant source of employment where they found suitable work but with
extended hours for a reasonable salary, receiving free accommodation as well as
enjoying the perks and prestige of working for the aristocracy or other members
of the upper or middle-classes.
As a matter of course, employers had a moral obligation, but one without a legal requirement to ensure their servants were kept clean, healthy, and well-nourished. However, for one poor girl, that, unfortunately, was not the case.
In 1896, Jude Rogers, a wide-eyed but vulnerable sixteen-year-old from Woking, Surrey, secures a position as a domestic servant at a large terraced house in Half Moon Street, near London's Piccadilly. Following a brief settling-in period, she quickly realises everything is not quite as it seems.
As time moves ruthlessly forward, what happens next is almost beyond comprehension. Jude finds herself in the most impossible of situations and finally succumbs to the pure evil dealt out by her employer.
This story is NOT for the faint-hearted!
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I used to belong to an amateur musical society in Camberley, Surrey, called CAMUS. In 1983 I was invited to play the part of Lt Joseph Cable in their stage version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s ‘South Pacific’, singing solo for the first time ever. ‘South Pacific’ was one of my late mother’s favourite films, so I gave her two tickets for the show, but didn’t tell her I was appearing. The look on her face when she saw me walk on stage was something else, and to this day, I still don’t know whether it was one of shock, horror, of just plain pride in her son who had obviously duped her.
Gozo, Malta, I regard as my second home. My third novel, ‘An Invisible Nemesis, published in 2019, is predominately set on the islands. I made my first visit to Malta alone in October 1988. The second day I was there, I was walking down a street in the capital, Valletta when I heard a voice, I recognised behind me. It was Mr Wilkinson (or Rodney), a teacher I hadn’t seen since leaving school some fifteen years previously. He somehow recognised and remembered me and with his wife, we spent the rest of the week sharing stories, ‘what might have beens’ and drinks together. He said, “one day I might make it as a writer!”
In 1984 I joined the railways fulfilling a series of roles before taking early retirement in 2014 after 30 years. In November 1998, as a station manager, I was on Royal Train duties. It was my task to escort HRH Prince Charles on to the train at Hampton Court railway station. It had passed midnight and a little worse for wear, he had been celebrating his fiftieth birthday at Hampton Court Palace. The train had been prepared for a trip to Sheffield where the prince had an engagement the following day. The media were at the station in numbers, expecting the prince to be with Camilla, it was just after he had started seeing her in the aftermath of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, just over a year before. Camilla wasn’t there, and the only thing the press photographers got, was an image of HRH Prince Charles and me walking along the station platform. It was quite amusing seeing myself labelled as his Royal Equerry in some of the national newspapers a couple of days later.
It’s no secret that I had left school at just fifteen-years-old before taking any formal qualifications. My ambition was always to be a journalist but without the necessary qualifications that was never to be. Well, not until I had reached my late fifties anyway. In 2015 I was attending a local football match near where I live when I struck up a conversation with the new editor of the Woking News & Mail. She had seen some of my work on the local community website and was impressed with my style of writing. Within a week I joined the paper on a freelance basis. So, never, say never!
I have a bit of a reputation for going to the pub. I’ve also been married three times, and by pure coincidence, I met all three of the ex-wives in pubs. (Two of them were barmaids). Towards the end of each marriage, all of them said, ‘Mal, you can never stay out of the pub.’ One good thing to come out of the recent Covid-19 restrictions is that I’ve been able to prove all of them wrong!
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Mal Foster was born in 1956 in Farnham, Surrey, and grew up in nearby Camberley. He was educated at secondary modern level but left school at just fifteen years old to help support his single mother and younger brother. It was around this time that he began writing, and indeed, his first poems were published soon after.
In 2007 his most widely read poem The Wedding was published in the Australian Secondary Schools anthology Poetry Unlocked' a book that formed part of its English Literature exam curriculum. The irony of its inclusion has always amused Mal considering he left school before gaining any formal qualifications himself.
A former local journalist, his first novel The Asylum Soul, a historical tale of incarceration was published in 2015. A second book, Fly Back and Purify, a paranormal drama appeared in 2017. Described as an explosive conspiracy thriller, An Invisible Nemesis was published at the beginning of May 2019.
In November 2020, his fourth novel, Jude & Bliss, was published and marked a return to historical fiction for Mal. "This book is close to my heart, it's the one, I think, which will define the course of my future writing," he told one observer.
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