Saturday, October 20, 2018

The End Of Things At Dark Island

The Darkling Thrush
by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate,
When Frost was spectre-gray,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh
Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
The Century’s corpse outleant,
Its crypt the cloudy canopy,
The wind its death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
The bleak twigs overhead,
In a full-hearted evensong
Of joy illimited.
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt and small,
With blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
Upon the growing gloom.
So little cause for carolings
Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew,

And I was unaware.

The original photo of Sears Castle, formerly "The Towers,"
on Dark Island was taken by Ad Meskens
and may be found on Wikipedia.
The Darkling Thrush by Thomas Hardy is as interesting a poem as ever I have encountered. The foreboding tenor of it lends itself particularly to a mystery story waiting to be told. I found this comparative evaluation of the poem and Keats' Ode to a Nightingale, by Ashley Ann Albrecht, a junior at Pine Manor College in 2008 somewhat fascinating and helpful in doing the initial work for the narrative. 

The thrush, particularly the woodland thrush, is small, unassuming, and somewhat common in appearance, yet lyrical. Birds, with their quiet natures and their aerial perspectives see many of the mysteries in the natural world play out on the ground, watching with indifference and seeming helplessness, unwilling or unable to effect any other outcome than one might accept as natural and inevitable. 

When I came across this poem, it seemed to fit quite well with the NaNoWriMo project I had in mind for this year's event, to begin November 1, 2018, and I decided to incorporate it into my mystery and to make it the first of's projects.

The book will be written during November, but the first installment chapter will not be edited and released until December 1. So, if you're interested in reading The End of Things at Dark Island before it is released to the world, then subscribe on December 1. 

Here is a brief introduction to the novel and an excerpt.

When Mrs. Effie Portchester arrived in the United States from England she was determined to visit as many of the American castles as she could in a month's time. Her first stop was to be the castle at Dark Island, a place she learned of from her cousin Howard Mantry, who spent his summer months there as a child.
Howard, a retired engineer, had only recently visited Effie in England and was treated to a personal tour of Portchester Castle by his hostess, who had married a very distant cousin of the original castle owner, who was an even more distant cousin of Effie's husband, Cullen. The castle and grounds had long since transferred from the last direct descendant of the Portchester family to the government in lieu of repayment of taxes. Until his death the previous year, however, Cullen thought of the estate as his, in absentia. 
"I know its staircases and its rooms." Howard Mantry looked around, as if there were anyone to hear them in the vast emptiness of the balcony at Portchester castle. "And I know Dark Island's hidden passages," he whispered, "as well as the men who constructed them decades ago." Effie sipped at her tea and looked into his hazel eyes. "There are some things I left behind, in secret hiding places of my own, when I was there as a child, and I am now of a mind to retrieve them. The old castle house, you see, has been placed for sale once again and it's said the interested buyer intends to renovate it and keep it as a private home. It will no longer be a hotel. His workmen just may discover my 'treasures' in the process. I would never be able to retrieve them if that happens." Effie agreed that a visit was necessary and being eager to visit the castles of America, offered to meet him at Dark Island on the 17th of April.
While at Dark Island castle, Effie and Howard find themselves tagging along on the skirts of a mystery that would extend from the port country of Nova Scotia to the Catskill Mountains. What they learn places them in danger. Are they suited to solving the mystery and bringing about The End of Things at Dark Island? Effie has her doubts. 

1 comment:

  1. We authors do like taking liberties. With our pens (or laptops these days) we can alter the universe, move cities to places they've never existed, rename historical venues, reassign ownership and purpose to make a specific venue serve the story rather than the other way around. Be assured, I've done just that in this story. Those who know the venues that I've mentioned in the book will, no doubt, pick out the discrepancies. Just the same, I hope they won't take away from the enjoyment of the tale. To quote a character from one of my favorite characters, Stella, played by actress Linda Hunt ( in Lawrence Kasdan's film Silverado (

    "The world is what you make of it, friend. If it doesn't fit, you make alterations."