Hello, nocturnal readers!
Something Wicked Strikes is slowly coming to an end. Only three more days remain, three more authors to support and celebrate.
Today I am thrilled to welcome the marvelous Cherie Priest to The Nocturnal Library. Her latest novel, Maplecroft, tells the story of Lizzie Border, the infamous maybe-murderer of her father and stepmother. Maplecroft is a Lovecraftian horror, a perfect read around Halloween.
About five years ago, I went on a vintage True Crime binge—spending entirely too much time reading books about Victorian murders, and poking around the websites that discussed them. Naturally, many of these outlets focused on some of the best known and/or most salaciously gruesome murders of yesteryear, which is how one evening I found myself reading through the transcripts of the Lizzie Borden trial.
The case was deeply weird on a number of levels, but that wasn’t what stuck with me in the long run . . . it was the way Lizzie handled herself, and how she lived after her exoneration. Outside of court, she never spoke a word about the murders to anyone—no interviews, no speaking tours, not even any confessions to friends or relatives that anyone knows about. She lived the rest of her life silent and (more or less) alone, a subject of mockery canonized in a nursery rhyme.
Then, the very week I went poring through those trial transcripts . . . Michael Jackson died.
I realize that sounds like a weird subject shift, but hear me out. The child sexual abuse allegations against Michael Jackson—and the ensuing court case—had been headlines for years, and when I read about Lizzie I was sharply reminded of the terrible ambivalence I’d long felt about Jackson. It goes like this: If Lizzie Borden and Michael Jackson were guilty, then they got away with their crimes and that’s awful; if they were innocent, they sure as hell didn’t deserve what happened after their trials. And that’s awful, too.
Anyway, it got me thinking.
Lizzie Borden was wealthy, and she was free. She could’ve gone anywhere to begin a new life . . . but she didn’t. She stayed put, right there in Fall River. She bought a house just across town from where her parents were brutally murdered, although obviously, no one wanted anything to do with her. At best, she was a tourist attraction. At worst, she was a pariah who was driven to a life of isolation by her critics.
But she stayed.
So was it some kind of weird penance? Was she, like Hester Prynne and her scarlet letter, serving her sentence one way or another—in the very place she committed her crime? I don’t know, and nobody else does, either. Likely, no one ever will.
When all was said and done, I suppose I wished to somehow resolve my terrible ambivalence. Could Lizzie be guilty, but justified in her actions? Could I imagine a scenario of self-defense so wild, so strange, that she had no choice but to commit those famous murders . . . without ever adequately explaining herself—to the law, or anyone else?
The answer eventually turned into Maplecroft.
I hope you enjoy reading it, and that it makes you think. Or that it gives you really cool nightmares. Either way, I’ll call it a win.
CHERIE PRIEST is the author of over a dozen novels, including the steampunk pulp adventures The Inexplicables, Ganymede, Dreadnought, Clementine, and Boneshaker. Boneshaker was nominated for both the Hugo Award and the Nebula Award; it was a PNBA Award winner, and winner of the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel. Cherie also wrote Bloodshot and Hellbent from Bantam Spectra; Fathom and the Eden Moore series from Tor; and three novellas published by Subterranean Press. In addition to all of the above, her first foray into George R. R. Martin’s superhero universe, Fort Freak (for which she wrote the interstitial mystery), debuted in the summer of 2011. Cherie’s short stories and nonfiction articles have appeared in such fine publications as Weird Tales, Publishers Weekly, and numerous anthologies. She lives in Chattanooga, TN, with her husband, a big shaggy dog, and a fat black cat.
Thank you, Cherie, and a huge thank you to Feri from Le Non Design for our Something Wicked buttons and banners. Visit her at www.le-non.com
Thanks to the lovely people at Penguin Random House, we're giving away a copy of Maplecroft. The usual rules apply. This giveaway is US only.