I love foreshadowing in all its guises. When done subtly it can be masterful. But I have a special fondness for it where it appears in shamelessly unsubtle form – and, in fact, ceases to even be foreshadowing but is, instead, a direct reveal of something that will happen. The Rules Police would frown on such authorly intrusion, I know.
In this extract it’s totally unsubtle. I’m thinking of having a few similar scattered here and there in the early chapters. Elsewhere I’ve gone for the more subtle approach, which I don’t have any doubts about, but I’m curious to know how others see this unsubtle form.
In this example, where it appears in the novel, only the characters of Aelita and the earl are known to the reader – the others are being mentioned for the first time. This extract morphs into a scene where George tries to dominate a meeting of the town committee – the reader therefore meets him knowing in advance he’s going to kill the barmaid at some later point… but not knowing why.
Is it too much? Does it irritate or intrigue?? Any comments welcome!
In The Anchor, Lizzy uncorks a bottle of red and winks, pointing towards its twin, a third-full and already open on the counter.
“That’s probably off,” she says to Aelita. “I’ll give it Boswell, he won’t mind.”
The indiscriminate drinker, Boswell, is a town character. Nobody knows his real name or, indeed, whether ‘Boswell’ might just be it. He claims to have a home but spends few hours in it – certainly not long enough to bathe, change or pass any time with the wife he also says exists. Each day is, instead, a rhythmic shuffle through town, stopping to chat where conversation can be found, gravitating ultimately to The Happy Haddock where he eats dinner alone. At nine o’clock he’s at The Anchor. Locals keep time by him. Once in the pub, he buys himself one large glass of house wine and chances the rest of the evening’s drinking to luck.
Aelita knows Lizzy with the usual illusion of familiarity that comes of these things. She couldn’t give a reference beyond cheerful, hard-working and talkative, but doubts Lizzy will ever need one. The barmaid is as much a part of the pub as the flotsam hanging from its walls – the select pieces of broken boat, the stretches of netting, the framed photographs of those who once laboured even longer hours, out there, on the dark unforgiving sea. Everyone and no-one knows Lizzy, just as they know these other familiar objects yet cannot say where they came from or where they’ve been.
When George Delaney furiously beats this popular girl to death, her last thought will be of Bertie Boyde – Lord Belafry, thirteenth earl – her secret lover for some eight years. The final cloudy image in her mind will be his kind face, his smile, his affection, his sweetness. She is very fond of him.
“George is on top form,” she says now, just a barmaid with no past.
“Who’s he with?”
“The other one.”
The rear snug is used for committee meetings. George’s voice reaches Aelita a fraction before the contents of his pipe – tobacco imported specially, and described by him with its plum and wood-smoked undertones as though it were fine wine. The room is small and not suited to heavy fragrance. This pungent fog, combined as it is with his mistress’s perfume, sets the real agenda. George only ever brings Lucinda when on the attack.