The Villains of N&H
At the moment I’m working on more Newbury and Hobbes, writing the fifth novel in the series – which is currently entitled The Revenant Express.
As I write, I’ve been thinking a lot about the villains of the stories, the sorts of people Newbury and Veronica find themselves going up against on a regular basis. In the first three books the tendency was toward mad scientist types, people who wanted to use their bizarre creations to seize power or political control. There’s probably a bit of a theme there, now that I come to think about it, but it’s true – Chapman & Villiers, Doctor Aubrey Knox, the Bastion Society and Lucien Fabian. Different, but cast from a similar mould.
In the fourth book, The Executioner’s Heart (out next Summer, I believe), they face someone very different, with an entirely different agenda. It was a joy to write, despite how dark the story actually gets at times. I enjoyed getting inside the head of someone entirely new, someone that neither Newbury or Veronica could begin to understand. It led to an interesting dynamic. Hopefully people will agree when they read the book.
The villains in The Revenant Express (there are two) are different again, and I’m having great fun delving into their motivations. I’m not going to give anything away here in fear of spoilers (and there’s some pretty significant stuff that happens in The Executioner’s Heart that’s being dealt with in the fifth book), except to say that the whole thing is set on a massive steam train hurtling across Europe towards St. Petersburg, where a very particular cargo awaits collection by Newbury. Inevitably, things take a turn for the worst.
There’s another villain lurking at the back of the Newbury & Hobbes saga, too, and she hasn’t really come to the fore yet. Her name is Clarissa Karswell, and she goes by the nom de plume ‘Lady Arkwell’. She a sort of nemesis for Newbury, but also a love interest who complicates matters with Veronica. She’s dazzling and intelligent, and dances very much to her own tune. Sometimes she finds herself opposed to Newbury, but sometimes – much to Bainbridge’s dismay – they find themselves joining forces against a common foe.
Lady Arkwell has appeared in a few references, as well as a couple of short stories, but it’s with the series of drabbles that I’ve been mapping out her story. Here’s the first one in the sequence:
“There’s a woman,” said the Queen, “who is proving to be something of a thorn in our side.” She emitted a wet, spluttering cough, and Newbury saw a trickle of blood ooze from the corner of her mouth. She dabbed it away. The bellows of her life-giving apparatus sighed noisily as they laboured to inflate her diseased lungs.
“A foreign agent?” asked Newbury.
“Perhaps,” murmured the Queen. “Perhaps not. She operates under the alias ‘Lady Arkwell’. It is imperative that you locate her and bring her to us.”
“What has she done?” enquired Newbury.
“Ignored our invitation,” replied Victoria, darkly.
Her first full length appearance will be in ‘Lady Arkwell’s Deceit’, which will feature in The Casebook of Newbury & Hobbes, a forthcoming collection of shorter cases. I’ll keep you posted when this is properly announced!