…in which Ricky Porter comes for tea…
Carrie shook her head, half-convinced this was something her sleep-deprived brain had conjured. “No, see, you’re doing it wrong. You don’t admit you kill people if you want to make me like you.”C. M. Rosens, The Crows, p. 154
Ricky frowned. “Honesty’s the best policy, that’s what they say, right? Read that somewhere.” He reached for the mince and she didn’t stop him. “The thing is,” he said, tapping the table, “The thing is, if I lied to you, said it was all herblore and starlight and all that airy-fairy crap, you’d find out eventually. I could spend my time tip-toeing around cleaning up the corpses and pretending to be vegan, but to tell the truth, love, I really can’t be arsed. It’s a lot easier for me if we all know what we’re signing up for at the start.”
I love inverting tropes, and playing with Gothic and Weird concepts. This chapter actually owes more to an early Season 1 episode of Midsomer Murders, which is a long-running British crime drama series of 21 seasons, based (originally) on a series of seven books by Caroline Graham. It first aired in 1997 after the watershed, and I was allowed to stay up and watch it. Episode 1, The Killings at Badger’s Drift, was based on Graham’s novel of the same name which was first published in the 1980s. I’ve talked about the influence of Midsomer Murders on my work before, but this particular episode buried itself under my skin as an impressionable ten-year-old, and Badger’s Drift as a place seems to have lent a lot of its vibes to Pagham-on-Sea. I can’t say too much about the episode or the book plot, but another one that really stuck in my mind and apparently gave me the name ‘Gerald’ is Written in Blood, with the eccentric writers’ circle whose members made my skin crawl off my bones. Honoria Lyddiard will haunt me forever. I have yet to read the book, where she has a point of view, and I’m not sure I’m ready.
Why do I tell you this? Well, I think by this point, you’re aware of what is going on with Ricky’s family to an extent, and this is not the central mystery of the novel. The Gothic novel is (in part!) about uncovering things that are hidden, but also can have a lot to say about class and class relations. Ricky Porter coming for tea in the big house and just… laying it all out there is a fun set piece of the novel, and it was a way of shifting the expectations of the narrative so you’re not wondering when Carrie’s going to find out what Ricky does and how he operates. It was fun to set up two people with different backgrounds – educated to University degree level versus completely unschooled autodidact, urban middle-class-aspiring working class versus rural working class – in a space designed for them to serve in [Fairwood House/The Crows] but which they both believe they have actual ownership rights to. There’s a weird power-play dynamic going on across the kitchen table [and, indeed, with the kitchen itself, which is more a working-class space than the rest of the house] and I don’t know if all that comes across, but their whole dynamic from this point onwards maintains those elements.
If you’d like me to chat more about class dynamics and take those apart a bit more, or there’s anything you’d particularly like answers or discussion on now we’ve cleared Part 1 and are galloping into Part 2 and all the fun supernatural horror it promises, drop me a line!