I am delighted to be hosting today's spot on William Sutton's Seven Sins blog tour. Lawless and the Flowers of Sin is the second book in the compelling Campbell Lawless Victorian Mystery series
From the press release
It is 1863, and as a reluctant Inspector of Vice, Campbell Lawless undertakes a reckoning of London’s houses of ill repute, a shadowy netherworld of frayed glamour and double standards; mesmerising and
unspeakable by turns. From the erotic booksellers of Holywell Street to the alleys of Haymarket, he discovers backstreet cast-offs and casualties of the society bordellos, and becomes fascinated by a
musician who has established a foundation for fallen women. But his inquiries draw the attention of powerful men, who can be merciless in defending their reputations. Lawless must unlock the heart of a clandestine network, before he too is silenced...
William Sutton comes from Dunblane, Scotland. He has written for The Times and the Fortean
Times, acted in the longest play in the world, and played cricket for Brazil. He writes for international magazines about language, music and futurology. His plays have been produced on radio and in
London fringe theatres. He has performed at events from the Edinburgh Festival to High Down Prison, often wielding a ukulele.
Today's sin that William has blogged about is Wrath; here's what he had to say.
Wrath Seven Sinful Blogs Hello, hello, I’m William Sutton, author of Lawless and the Flowers of Sin, due out in July with Titan Books. To celebrate, I’m delivering a series of Sinful Blogs.
Righteous Wrath: Dickensian London is still with us
Anger may be a sin. But aren’t there times it is right to be angry?
In my first book, Lawless and the Devil of Euston Square, I wrote about the poverty in London’s East End. “Rookeries”, the tiny streets piled with indigent workers, struggling in the cut-throat capital. Wealth rides roughshod over poverty. Ten thousand are made homeless to build the first underground train, in the name of progress, not profit (though they are not rehoused). The media whip up frenzies about crime, immigration, eco-disaster. To speak against the status quo is to be branded a danger to the nation.
1859. How unimaginably different from today...
Researching my second book, about a different kind of underworld, I expected to find that the Victorians were much worse than we are today. In terms of equality, in terms of prostitution, in terms of exploitation.
But strange things have happened while I’ve been writing it. As I was writing about press intrusion and manipulation of the news, up came the Leveson Enquiry, which shows that today’s papers are just as guilty of whipping up purposeful frenzy, careless of the individuals caught up in it.
As I was writing about police collusion with politicians and celebrities to cover up shameful proclivities, sinful habits, lies, coercions and abuses, out came the tales of Jimmy Savile. The Catholic Church. Babies buried at convents. Youths bought, sold and discarded.
A Tory whip, Tim Fortescue, boasted in the 1990s that, during Edward Heath’s time as PM, he could cover up “scandal involving small boys, or any kind of scandal which a member might be mixed up in. And if we could we did. ... If we could get a chap out of trouble, he’ll do as we ask forever more.” Fortescue, now dead, says this with no compunction. To him it is quite clear: the people do not need to know what goes on behind closed doors, whatever it may be, whoever may have been hurt.
That kind of attitude, we like to believe, is in the past. But the more that has come out about other predators in Operation Yew Tree, the more that seems doubtful.
Even in the Stanford rape case, we heard the accused’s father plea that, in a life of twenty years, it was just twenty minutes of wrongdoing. As if to say, the victim’s suffering is nothing; what matters is that important people don’t have their lives sullied by the odd error of judgement.
This is exactly the sort of thinking I found throughout the Victorian era, for example, in the mysterious Walter’s memoir, erotic epic My Secret Life. Walter forces himself on maids, cooks, cousins, prostitutes crossing the street, courtesans in fine lodgings, ladies in foreign hotels. His attitude is clear, that if they give in in the end, it doesn’t matter. He doesn’t claim that he is without fault. He just doesn’t care. And in Victorian times, once a woman is “ruined”, as we know, it’s a hard road back to decency. Though both
Walter and the social journalist Henry Mayhew write of women who pass through the netherworld of prostitution and emerge back to decency, running cafes, or as wives to lords and dukes.
The mysteries behind our doors fascinate us, as they did Wilkie Collins. The picturesque poverty of bygone days fills our TVs with period drama: Ripper Street, Jekyll & Hyde, An Inspector Calls. We pat ourselves on the back, lamenting past inequality, but confident we have risen beyond it.
We haven’t. “Give us back our country,” say some politicians. No need: Dickensian London is still with us.
Speaking of wrath, in such an unequal world, perhaps it isn’t surprising that disaffected youths turn to extremism, in their search for something to care about.
Thanks a million to William and to Titan Books. follow the rest of the blog tour this week, details below.