Right, the time has now arrived for me to draw back the curtain and reveal to you one of the main players in my novel Evil Deeds. He appears from the first to be a good man who is made for hard-earned toil. But is this really him or have my dear readers been labouring under an illusion all along? If they have I am the man who is responsible and should be made accountable for my actions.
There is a definite dichotomy which shows on the surface when we consider and compare James Franklin the farmer and James Franklin the ghost. They do not seem to correlate with one another. It is as if in the interim between him dying and then taking on spirit form something dreadful has happened. It is like he has become Frankenstein’s monster: an ill-defined conglomeration of strengths and weaknesses. And, just as in the case of the aforementioned monster, James the ghost seems to have turned evil. I will explain the reasons for this in due course.
Very well, my friends: that is quite enough of an introduction into the world of James Franklin. Let me settle down to specifics. After all, that is why you have gathered here inside my lair. It is cold and bleak outside but it is far otherwise in my writer’s studio. There is nothing but warmth and cosiness to be found in this place. It is in such a place that James Franklin first appeared to me. I must confess I did not know what to make of him at first. Could I trust him? Would he act as a friend to me or an enemy? And, most importantly of all, could we work together as a collective unit? For indeed an author is nothing without his characters. They form him as an artist and allow him to receive the plaudits of his adoring audience. However, as everyone knows this audience is most exacting in the horror field. For in no other genre are there so many obstacles to overcome. One must always keep a steady heart when walking through graveyards late at night and not become too perturbed when hearing the haunting sounds which are likely to come from all directions.
In many respects James Franklin is an enigma. He comes across from the first as a man to be admired. He is a farmer who has achieved much through his honest industry. Times were hard for him from the moment he began work on his farm. Nothing came easy, but he was determined to be successful in his venture into the unknown. And yes, he did indeed enter unchartered territory when renting the farmhouse and surrounding land with his loyal family behind him. His wife Ellen proved to be a constant source of support. And then there were his three adorable children. Two girls Rebecca and Emily were joined by one boy David. They made for a very close and loving family unit which could overcome any challenge it faced. Or could it?
There came a time when all seemed lost for the family. When James’s tragic death came about there seemed to be no future for the Franklins. How could they go on without their loving husband and father? He was their strength, their vitality. With his loss their world was shattered into tiny pieces.
Now we enter the dichotomy which I referred to earlier. How could such a well-respected and good man such as James and his equally much-loved family lose their way to such an extent after their mortal lives came to an end? Why did they choose to target the modern-day family who moved into their renovated farmhouse? For target them they did. They believed George Mathews was the reincarnation of Robert Jacobs and that his family went along with his dastardly plans to continue to profit from James’s demise which he, in the guise of Robert Jacobs, had brought about. But were they correct in this assumption or had they made a terrible mistake? Were they guilty of accusing an innocent man of a crime which he had not committed, not even in a former life?
This question of whether a reincarnated spirit is at play in the Mathews’ household is a theme which runs through much of the novel once the historical scenes have passed the reader by. This is not a subject I had turned my hand to previously throughout my career as a writer and indeed I have not touched on it since. However, it is an intriguing idea this prospect of having lived a previous life centuries before. Who is to say whether such things occur. As I have mentioned in other parts of this site I have always loved the Victorian age. I would have enjoyed living in this period of British history which had so much to offer. But does this passion rest solely in my fondness for reading about it and imagining it or is it based on a memory of these former times? Have I, without knowing it, lived a former life? If so, could I picture myself in the shoes of James Franklin, toiling in the fields to make a living? Or would I have been placed in a completely different set of circumstances? I really cannot say one way or another, but it is an idea which has consumed me on occasion.
James is a deeply spiritual man. He and his family are avid churchgoers. There is a scene in the book where the Franklin children gather together in their bedroom and settle down for a group prayer. This occurs following the infamous visit they had received from the land agent Robert Jacobs as he passed them their eviction orders. The children are worried as to what the future might hold for their family, not realising it will prove to be much worse than they perceive it to be. Being evicted from a home they had come to love would be bad enough, but to lose a father in such a violent way: no, that is something beyond human endurance. While the children are kneeling down to pray, their parents enter the room. At the conclusion of the prayer, James smiles at his young ones and applauds them for their efforts. He is touched beyond words by this display of reverence from Rebecca, Emily and David. He tells them that God will see they are saved from the calamity which faces them. He does not know how this will be achieved but he has the faith that it will. This bears out his deeply Christian heart.
Later in the book, when the Franklins return as ghosts and attack the Mathews family in different ways, it becomes harder and harder to see the Christian resolve in the historical family. Where has their spirituality gone, their faith, their goodness? Why have they chosen to go down a dark path when previously they had trod on lightsome, almost celestial ground? Had their hate for Jacobs so consumed them that they had turned against everything that was good and worthy?
Matters will reach a head at the end of the novel but I do not wish to give too much of the storyline away. Suffice it to say that the book is full of surprises. Just when the reader thinks he understands the direction the novel is taking there is a shift in the landscape. And do not think for a minute we have heard the last of Robert Jacobs, whether George Mathews proves to be his reincarnated spirit or not. Neither can it be said that there is no further sign of Sir Edward Jamieson, the eminent squire who is so much respected by the farming community. No, he is lurking in the background and will return in one form or another. But which side of the ledger will he be settling his accounts upon? Will he favour his long-time assistant Robert Jacobs or will he instead support the cause of James Franklin? Only time will tell on this point.