I had an idea for a YA Victorian ‘crime caper’ novel that reimagines the early life of Sherlock Holmes’ nemesis.
James Moriarty is nineteen, an autodidact, intellectually voracious, extremely ambitious, and increasingly ruthless. His real name is James Arthur Moray but as he begins to reinvent himself, the local good-time girls give him the polari nickname of Morry-Arty
Then there’s Gerard Dawkins aka The Artful Dodger, lately returned to London, eighteen now and looking to make his way in the world, he’s tough and world-weary but with a soft-centre. Tiny Tim Cratchitt is in there too: he’s also on the verge of adulthood and works as an apprentice watchmaker while inventing gadgets like the handheld Difference Engine that resembles a clockwork iPhone, and wind-up drones that resemble tiny steel insects.
Add pre-Raphaelite artists such as Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Holman Hunt, real-life socially-mobile models like Annie Miller, a dash of Buffalo Bill Cody and an attempt to rob the bank of England and you have a Victorian Rude Boy adventure story featuring grime, crime, smog, the stinking Thames, dirty back lanes, anachronistic technology, a mishmash of culture, history and fiction, lewd models, crazy artists, languid ladies, and bobbies on the beat chasing after rapscallions, rascals and criminals.
Here’s how the story opens – we meet the Artful Dodger, back in town, four years after the events in Oliver Twist: