Updated: Apr 18
A Victorian Tragedy
Publication Date: 12 November 2020
Publisher: Publish Nation
Page Length: 234
Genre: Historical Fiction
In the Victorian era, for many young women, going into domestic service was a significant source of employment where they found suitable work but with extended hours for a reasonable salary, receiving free accommodation as well as enjoying the perks and prestige of working for the aristocracy or other members of the upper or middle-classes. As a matter of course, employers had a moral obligation, but one without a legal requirement to ensure their servants were kept clean, healthy and well-nourished. However, for one poor girl, that, unfortunately, was not the case. In 1896, Jude Rogers, a wide-eyed but vulnerable sixteen-year-old from Woking, Surrey, secures a position as a domestic servant at a large terraced house in Half Moon Street, near London's Piccadilly. Following a brief settling-in period, she quickly realises everything is not quite as it seems. As time moves ruthlessly forward, what happens next is almost beyond comprehension. Jude finds herself in the most impossible of situations and finally succumbs to the pure evil dealt out by her employer. This story is NOT for the faint-hearted!
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It was the Saturday before the trial was due to start at the Old Bailey, and I had a rare day off. I had arranged to meet with Albert and Eddie at the bar in the Railway Hotel after they finished work at lunchtime. They were changing the template whatever that was, but it was something to do with next week’s edition having more pages to accommodate the story about Jude.
‘The editor is expecting it to be a bonanza week for the Tribune, extra copies are to be especially printed, and my articles will also appear in some other regional newspapers, like the Chertsey Times, for instance. I need to be on the ball and Eddie here has been assisting. We must outdo the Surrey Advertiser and News & Mail. We need to get the better story; it helps sell more papers,’ said Albert defiantly.
‘As journalists, we’re all in it together. There’s a lot of rivalry between the papers, and the number of copies we sell depends on a good story, that’s where Albert comes in,’ added Eddie as he came to the table with the drinks.
‘Thanks, Eddie, it’s true. We have an advantage this time though. It’s you, Harry, you are our secret weapon. We have certain knowledge about Jude and the rest of your family they don’t have. I’ve noticed that’s what has been lacking in their stories since the first hearing at Chertsey. Now it’s gone to the Old Bailey; they will be trying to up their game,’ said Albert.
‘What Albert is getting at, is, don’t speak to any other reporters.’
‘Ah, so Eddie, that’s why you’ve become my friend.’
We all laughed.
‘Seriously’, said Albert, ‘We can do your sister justice and write up the better piece and with compassion. Other papers will just look for the sensational angle to sell their editions. We will have a more personal approach. We know what you and father have been through, other reporters won’t know that. They will just report on gossip and rumour, which will mean a lot of what they write will lack true grit.’
‘Don’t all journalists write the same story, depending on what goes on in court?’
‘Not so, Harry. It’s not just about what goes on in the courtroom; it’s about what happens beyond it. It’s also about how different reporters interpret the players. Certain suppositions can often take over from reality. It becomes a circus, if not a horse race.’
‘Who are the players?’
‘People in the court, like the judge, the prisoner, the barristers. I’ve heard Lord Justice Jonathan Stenhouse will be the judge who’s hearing the case. He’s quite a colourful character, and one of my favourites. He had me in stitches when I was covering a case for the Pall Mall Gazette a few years ago.’
‘I thought you worked for the London Illustrated News?’
‘I was freelance at the time. I submitted stuff to both. Being a freelance journalist means you only get paid for what gets printed, not necessarily for what you write. That’s why I came to the Tribune. I needed a regular income. I work for an editor now. I needed peace of mind so I could pay for my house and keep Gladys happy.’
‘So, what’s the difference between Bow Street and the Old Bailey?’
‘The Old Bailey, of course, is much bigger. There are more men in wigs for a start, and then you have the jury.’
‘How many people will be in the jury?’
‘Well, it won’t be a grand jury, so expect twelve.’
‘Is it them who will make the final decision about what happened to Jude?’
‘They’ll decide whether Moynihan is innocent or guilty, after all, it’s their verdict which matters. However, they will be guided by the judge before reaching their conclusion.’
Mal Foster was born in 1956 in Farnham, Surrey and grew up in nearby Camberley.
A former local journalist, his first novel The Asylum Soul, a historical tale of incarceration was published in 2015. A second book, Fly Back and Purify, a paranormal drama appeared in 2017. Described as an explosive conspiracy thriller, An Invisible Nemesis was published at the beginning of May 2019.
In November 2020, his fourth novel, Jude & Bliss, was published and marked a return to historical fiction for Mal. "This book is close to my heart, it's the one, I think, which will define the course of my future writing," he told one observer.
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