Monday, 11 September 2017

Jones Minor Prophet

 Tycanol Wood, a place of magic and enchantment, but also a place of terror and death.  Some of the most dramatic episodes from the Saga occur in this place of mossy stones and gnarled oaks......

Another of my favourite characters from the stories -- this time Amos Jones, the hero of "Flying with Angels."

Amos Jones, preacher and prophet

Amos Jones, itinerant preacher, minor prophet and last great love of Martha’s life, is another character of whom I am very fond. He is, like Wilmot Gwynne, a product of his age. Wilmot comes from the white heat of the industrial revolution, and Amos comes from the white heat of religious fervour, as a man intent upon spreading the gospel and saving souls.  He is an unlikely lover, for he and Martha have a wide social gulf between them, but they make immediate and easy contact when they first meet, and in some ways Martha finds him similar to her great friend and mentor Joseph Harries.  Both Joseph and Amos are fiercely intelligent, radically inclined and lacking in respect for the establishment.  They have a similar sense of humour, and speak in a way which Martha finds attractive.  They are also instinctively drawn to fight against injustice and to help the poor.  Maybe Martha has learned some lessons from her relationship with Joseph, which might have developed further had it not to been for his determination to  hide his love, and to protect her from the challenges that would have accompanied an inappropriate marriage.   Martha never says this directly to her diary or to anyone else, but maybe, as she felt drawn towards Amos emotionally, she thought  “To hell with convention!  Now I am going to live dangerously! “   And live dangerously she does.

One of the reasons why Martha and Amos are drawn together is their shared awareness of the world of the supernatural - and that is of course one of the reasons why Martha and Joseph have a natural empathy for one another.  But Amos combines a familiarity with ghosts and the other residents of the spirit world with a firm Christian conviction and devotion to his calling as a pastor and itinerant preacher.  In an age when many of Martha’s acquaintances specialize in self-indulgence, Amos specializes in self-denial and seems to take pleasure in suffering.  This makes him into an ascetic or prophet, and it makes him a very unlikely companion for Martha, who is not particularly religious and who has a long history of conflict with the church and with various rectors over tithe payments and other church matters.  But Martha has already had a flirtation with Methodism, and maybe she is excited by the idea that she might learn more about the nonconformist community and its system of beliefs as a means of self-improvement.  She has had conflict with the Baptists before, but she does not set out in Flying with Angels to fight with these good people or to humiliate them.   I have tried to portray Martha in this story as a more mature and tolerant figure than she was in her younger days, and as a person who genuinely wants to support Amos in his chosen and difficult calling.

The core episode in Martha’s relationship with Amos, namely the episode in which she seduces him in Tycanol Wood, is one of the most crucial episodes in the whole of Martha’s life story.  What follows next, tragic and gruesome though it is, leads on to high drama and considerable comedy in the big meeting in Brynberian Chapel. In a book such as this it is always very difficult to juxtapose horror and comedy so closely, and I faced a challenge in writing it down.  I am not sure that I have got the balance exactly right, but it was fine fun to try!

Like most of the other men in Martha’s life, Amos is essentially a tragic figure, involved in a loveless and unconsummated marriage and trying to find contentment and even salvation through good works, preferably a long way from the home that he has set up with his frigid wife.  Martha gives him happiness, and a good deal of pain as well.  He loves Martha with an intensity which he has never experienced before, so that is a sort of fulfillment for him.  As the story unfolds Amos realizes that it is his destiny to sacrifice himself in order to save Martha from those who have put a price on her head.  He does make the ultimate sacrifice, having arranged things in such a way that his friends are powerless to stop him.  So, as pointed out in Chapter 9 of the last book, he is a Christ-like figure who is too good to be allowed to live in an evil world.  He has many weaknesses,  and Martha is much stronger than he.  His destiny is to attract enemies who feel threatened by his goodness, and to suffer an unpleasant death at the hands of vicious men.

(An extract from "Martha Morgan's Little World")

Saturday, 2 September 2017

On the servant's staircase

One of the more moody photos from the gallery.  Taken on one of the staircases at Rhosygilwen......

Photo:  Steve Mallett
Model: Rhiannon James

Friday, 1 September 2017

The Dastardly Moses Lloyd

 I hope Dyfan Dwyfor doesn't mind me using his pic here, but he is a pretty well 
perfect fit for the part!

Moses Lloyd, servant and murderer

Moses Lloyd, the villain of On Angel Mountain, is the disinherited third son of the old Squire of Cwmgloyn.  He has a very murky past, which is gradually revealed as the story unfolds.   He has a gigantic grudge against the world in general, and against the Morgan family in particular.  He has upset his father and alienated his own brothers, but he refuses to admit to his own shortcomings and blames  Martha and her family for his own miserable station in life.  He feels that he has gentry blood in his veins and that he therefore deserves respect from those around him whom he considers to be inferior.  They give him no respect, apart from the respect which is accorded to all of the servants at the Plas who know their jobs and who work hard, and as time passes his resentment grows deeper and darker.

He has committed truly sickening crimes against the Morgan family, and before the story starts he has already killed six people. He lives in a state of denial regarding all of his crimes, considering that the Plas Ingli fortune is rightly his, and that murder and arson are somehow justifiable as part of his strategy to take possession of it.  He stays at the Plas only because he is quite determined to drive the family away from the house and to dig up the treasure which he has buried in the ground.  He has a hatred of hard work and an instinct for a life of debauchery, and although he despises the labouring class he is happy enough to drink with those who belong to it and to be involved in petty crime in the disreputable taverns of Newport.

He is probably mad even at the very beginning of the story, but he is not unattractive, and at first Martha is quite intrigued by him. He has striking eyes and strong features, and a bronzed and fit body.  He is also well educated and well spoken. He is attractive to women, and he knows it. He believes that he is much more handsome and more cultured than David, Martha’s husband, and therefore expects that it will not be too difficult to prise her away from the man to whom she is married.  His problem, and indeed his tragedy, is that he then falls in love with Martha and becomes obsessed with the idea of possessing her. When she rejects him, and ultimately humiliates him in front of all of the inhabitants of the Plas, he flees, cursing the family that has given him shelter and work, and swearing that he will have his revenge.  He also swears to himself that he will possess Martha, if necessary by force.  With insane logic he also decides that he must cut Martha’s face in order to destroy her beauty and thus destroy the source of her power over him.

Moses may or may not know that Martha has worked out for herself the extent of his evil, and he certainly underestimates the strength of her character.  He cannot tear himself away from the Plas, and so he stays in the vicinity, living on and off in Martha’s cave while he awaits an opportunity to fulfill his appalling ambition. The final scene of On Angel Mountain was a very difficult one to write, because I had to portray a pregnant woman in extreme danger and a man who is brutal and deranged - and who might sound rational but is actually quite mad.  The explicit descriptions of the brutal sexual assault in the cave took me a very long time to get right,  but on looking back I’m reasonably content with it.

Once Moses has been dumped into the cleft in the rocks by an exhausted Martha, he is gone but by no means forgotten, for the experience leaves Martha deeply scarred physically and mentally. She hates Moses for what he has done and what he has tried to do to her, and indeed she admits in her confession that she killed him intentionally, that she knows no remorse and seeks no forgiveness.  But later her hatred is ameliorated to some degree when she discovers something about his childhood. There is madness in the Lloyd family, and Martha discovers that when Moses was young he was subjected to extreme cruelty by his father, and had expectations dumped upon him which he could not possibly fulfill.  Whether a childhood destroyed by abuse is sufficient to excuse the villain’s abominable behaviour is down to the reader to decide.