As I mentioned on Twitter the other day, I recently finished a draft of a weird novella with the working title, “In the Company of Distillers.”
I guess the best way to explain the story is that it’s set in London at that part of the 18th century Gin Craze just prior to the government’s second attempt (and the first serious one) at Gin Prohibition…
As far as the makeup of the story, it’s probably easiest to explain it more like the way one does a gin-based cocktail, that is, in the form of a recipe:
- two parts alchemy
- one part Paracelsus
- three parts London gin (or Parliamentary Wine(*), if gin is prohibited by Parliament)
- one part 18th century brewing
- fifteen shackled, sexually aroused convicts
- a dead cat
- an army of caged, alcoholic street-rats
- one teaspoon of hardboiled pulp
- a splash of WTF?
Serves: no idea. Maybe I’ll find out once I finish revising it and send it out, assuming there’s a market for such a novella. 18,000 words is a tough sell in the fiction market these days, but it’d necessarily a bit longer than it would otherwise be because I adopted something of the prose style of the time, which I think is an important stylistic feature of the story.
It’s only a draft, but that gives a sense of where the project stands at present.
In addition to the excellent book on the Gin Craze that I mentioned recently, I’ve been reading Daniel Defoe’s Moll Flanders primarily to get a handle on that particular literary voice of the time (Defoe’s, since Defoe was a major player in the debate over whether gin ought to be prohibited by Parliament; specifically Moll Flanders, because it actually came out in 1722, about 15 years before the time when my story takes place).
Having finished the draft, I want to dive back into reading Defoe’s ridiculous, over-the-top novel now… in part so I can finish it and read something else a little more contemporary, but also, I must admit, she is a fascinating character because of her over-the-top-ness, and so she is growing on me. In some ways, I think, she is an interesting exercise in brinksmanship, with Defoe exploring just how far one can push readerly suspension of disbelief before it breaks.
(*) Parliamentary Wine was the sarcastic nickname for gin distilled sans juniper berries, during the Prohibition. I cheated and put it into the story even though it’s set before Prohibition, because it’s too hilarious not to include, but I’ll probably have to cut it anyway… or expand this thing and put it in later or something…