I’ve finished the first part of Harris in Exile.
I’ve just reviewed it, and made a few changes to get rid of the most obvious bad writing, and so forth. But I’m reasonably happy with it.
I started with a strong short-story idea, that I thought could make a good novel beginning: Karl Marx and an anarchist leader, Charles Malato, fight a duel. The reasons are preposterous, but it’s tolerably good comedy.
Also, I’m quite proud of the way I’ve got the duelling pistols to fire wide, without resorting to blanks or similar tricks, so that both protagonists get out of their duel unharmed. As far as I know my solution is new.
The problem is that it made the book feel like it started with a strong story, but when the story ended the book had to pick itself up and begin building again. So I revised it to put more of the main plot in before the duel takes place. So when the high farce of the duel is over, there are still plenty of other plot points to follow, that I hope readers will want to follow.
My anti-hero, Frank Harris, is unwittingly involved in a plot to kidnap Queen Victoria. He rescues our Vickie, not out of any loyalty to her (he thinks of himself as American, and disapproves of monarchy), but to prevent a backlash that would get all of London’s political exiles from France, Germany, Poland, Spain and so on, expelled back to their own countries, where their secret police would do them harm.
So the stakes, saving the queen, would seem quite high in many books, but to Harris they’re minor. He’s much more interested in the well-being of his foreign friends and lovers. I’m looking forward to writing the dialogue between Victoria and Frank.