Archive for the ‘Foreword’ Category

What’s to come?

One of the best books I have read in years is Secrets of Hawking Manor.  I’ve read it more than a half-dozen times.  You see I wrote that novel, and each time I read it I set out attempting  to proofread its manuscript carefully.  I can tell you I got sidetracked by the story many times.  My editors claimed they had the same experience.  But I want you to judge for yourself.  In the days to come I’ll post a chapter or two for your consideration and hopefully for your enjoyment.   For today and tomorrow let the “Foreword” below be sufficient. 

Have you ever stood in front of a painting, and you couldn’t tear yourself away from it? The story Secrets of Hawking Manor is like that.

The novel, Secrets of Hawking Manor, is a historical adventure, not of great battles but of alliances and conflicts of individuals living in a world where, by some, dueling is still considered an honorable way to settle differences of love and hate. It is also a world where Clipper Ships can transport their passengers to places where people live a millennium in the past. Through a superb cast of characters, W. H. Manke takes us on exciting voyages to two vastly different worlds.

In Secrets of Hawking Manor, we experience the romantic pastoral England, where the beginnings of the modern world’s mechanical advances appear to be an intrusion into all that is natural and beautiful. Much of its society is refined; its people are guided by institutions, are bound together by well-defined borders, and clocks measure time.

On Packet and Clipper ships, Manke creatively transports us to a new, as yet untamed world, a world vast beyond imagination, filled with countless dangers, brimming with untapped, natural resources, and rich in majestic landscapes that defy description. Its people are at their environment’s mercy. Survival demands all of their ingenuity and most of their energies.  The seasons are the clock and calendar by which time is measured.

A noble clan and masters of Hawking Manor, the Carstairs family, with their friends and acquaintances, show us virtues and vices common to mankind. In young Benjamin Carstairs, we see the height to which individuals can rise through determination, hard work, and skill. Our emotions are stirred watching Benjamin grow from a newborn to a young man. We are filled with excitement when through Benjamin and his friend, Nelson Barkley’s eyes, we see San Francisco rise out of the fog as the Clipper Ship enters the harbor. We feel Benjamin’s rush, and we understand his fears at being seduced into manhood. With Benjamin and his friends, we strain to mine gold at the American River, and we are infected with young Carstairs’ desire to fulfill his sacred promise to his beloved uncle to search for Clarissa, his uncle’s child in the New World.

But we also suffer his loneliness on his endless travels and feel his dejection at the prospect of failing to find his kin. The hopelessness of his mission touches our heart, and with him we loathe to admit defeat. Yet our adrenalin peaks with the dangers he and Clarissa face on their separate journeys on the wintry Prairie, and we breathe a sigh of relief when their paths finally cross.

Eugene Fairham, the story’s main protagonist and one-time friend of Henry Carstairs, Benjamin’s brother, embodies a life bent on destruction. Eugene is clever, an expert marksman, and given to brawl. Although he is endowed with privileges equal to those of the Carstairs, Eugene has not their noble qualities. He loves the night. It was Eugene who disabled young Benjamin and dumped him on the Fortune Four, a Packet Ship bound for the New World, on a night when they celebrated together. At a feast planned for Henry, Meredith Carstairs, Henry and Benjamin’s mother, defeats Eugene in a contest. Feeling shamed, he vows revenge on the Carstairs. Hate begins to consume him until his plans include murder.

Fate eventually brings Eugene again together with Benjamin who, after years away, returns to England. In a deadly duel Eugene, defeated fairly by Benjamin, uses guile to wound the young Carstairs. He is about to shoot him when Henry comes to his brother’s rescue. Together the brothers overcome Eugene, and Henry proves his affection for his brother.

Along with Benjamin, Henry, and Eugene, Secret of Hawking Manor’s main characters, Manke delights us with a superb supporting cast. Clarissa is a child of both worlds. Her mother is native to the Prairie, her father is a Carstairs. Captured as a child by a band of warriors, she eventually escapes her captors and searches for her father. Meredith Carstairs is the beautiful and gifted lady of Hawking Manor who, with her husband Samuel, portrays what is best in the old world; struggling with the injustices and poverty she sees among many of its citizens. We weep with her for the brother and father Percy Millborough, a neighbor filled with hate for the Carstairs, takes from her in a planned holdup. We laugh with those into whose company George Wickendew parades. Benjamin and Henry’s friends befriend us, too. Among the other women of the novel Louisa Pennington, Virginia Harrington, Lady Lydia Holbrook, with her daughters, as well as Hannah Cardinal, Sylvia Tuttleford, and Mrs. Marlowe among others, enchant us with each of their appearances.

Secrets of Hawking Manor begins with the most beautiful and dramatic event of human experience, the birth of a child. What can equal those pages? It is the triumphs and defeats of those who are part of Secrets of Hawking Manor. The story ends with Martin Tuttleford dreading the completion of the book, a history of the Carstairs, that he was commissioned by Samuel to write. Writing the book he dreams of a love he, as a commoner, must keep secret.

What greater compliment can one give a friend than that it is enjoyable to be with him or her? Secrets of Hawking Manor is  that kind of  friend. You start reading, and you can’t put the book down until you reach its  end. And when you near that last page, you dread the novel’s completion as much as Martin Tuttleford does.

⎯Angela Bono

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