Hello, Dear Readers. Wilkie Collins here. In case you’re unfamiliar with me, I was a best selling English novelist during the mid-1800s, and a friend and frequent collaborator with Charles Dickens. I’m also the narrator of this new novel Drood despite the fact that this Dan Simmons fellow is trying to claim the credit when it clearly states that I left this manuscript to be published one-hundred and twenty-five years after my death.
Something I should confess immediately is that I use laudanum and opium regularly as treatment for my physical ailments. In fact, I tend to swig the laudanum like spring water on a hot day, and while I was initially a bit frightened by the opium dens, I soon found them quite inviting. Oh, and my physician was also giving me regular doses of morphine. I admit to using the medicines freely so that the readers will know that I’m still a reliable narrator. I’m also haunted constantly by apparitions like a frightening doppelganger who tries to take over my writing and my life. However, I’m quite sure these are visions are real and have nothing to do with the laudanum. Or the opium. Or the morphine.
The other thing you should know is that my good friend and colleague Charles Dickens was immensely popular in his day. (This chap, Kemper, informs me that in current terms, Dickens was ‘like a f------g rock star’.) Not that I was jealous, mind you. Even though he was always more popular with critics and the public, made far more money than I did, and always got the lion’s share of credit of projects we collaborated on, I can assure you that I always stayed above petty concerns like envy. Even as he treated my brother, Charles’s son-in-law, quite terribly and had a habit of being a bit condescending when we discussed writing, I still bore Charles no ill will. (At least, not until near the end.)
Anyhow, it’s well known that when Charles Dickens died he left an unfinished novel called The Mystery of Edwin Drood. What isn’t known is the story behind that novel and Charles’s odd behavior during the last five years of his life.
In 1865, Charles was on a train that had a terrible accident. While he was unharmed, many other passengers were injured or killed. Charles confessed to me that while helping with the wounded, he met a very strange man who called himself Drood. Charles noticed later that most of the injured that Drood appeared to be helping were later found to be dead.
Charles wanted to track down this Drood character and enlisted me as a companion while following clues through the worst slums of London, including an entire underground society existing in the numerous crypts beneath the city.
This began a nightmare period for me that lasted until Charles’s death. A former police inspector began blackmailing me to report on Charles’s activities with Drood, and this inspector claimed that Drood was the leader of a vast criminal organization responsible for hundreds of deaths. Charles became obsessed with murder and mesmerism. Despite his failing health, he insisted on embarking on a series of readings in Europe and America that frequently shocked and terrified his audiences. Worst of all, Drood began to take an interest in me also.
So I highly recommend you read this tale of our tragic involvement with Drood and how it impacted our friendship, our writing and our sanity. Again, I’ll dispute Kemper’s theory that my medicine may have had some impact on my perception of these events, but I will admit that when you have two prominent fiction writers involved in a story, it’s wise to be wary of embellishments.
As a bonus, you’ll also get to read how Charles and I always conducted ourselves as English gentlemen. For example, when Charles’s wife and mother of his ten children had the audacity to complain about his mistress, Charles forced her to apologize to the woman and then exiled her from his house and family. Or how I lived with a woman I claimed as my housekeeper for years, but would never let my mother visit because I obviously couldn’t allow Mother to associate with such a harlot.
Ah, those were the days.