Beautiful Monsters by Brian Anthony and Bill Walker
Beautiful Monsters, a novel by Brian Anthony & Bill Walker, with illustrations by Rick Geary
In London, in the year 1916, an ailing Sherlock Holmes is attended by his old friend and colleague Dr. John Watson. Sensing that time is short, Holmes relays one final, remarkable story to his biographer, that of Holmes’s own mentor, Professor Harry Nelson Beadle.
In 1874 thirty-year-old Professor Beadle, laureate at Cambridge University with degrees in biology, anthropology, and sociology, is widely respected by faculty and students alike. But the Professor’s obsession with his theories concerning the cross-evolution of humans and insects–beautiful monsters—proves to be his undoing. Based on a spurious piece of evidence, the Professor spends years researching and writing a tome, which is eventually published to some acclaim. But the price is high; his obsession costs the Professor his position at the University, his wife, and his young daughter.
Jim Beam, an American, a former student, and an unwitting participant in the deceit, belatedly reveals the terrible truth to the Professor: that the empirical evidence was fake! Thus, begins a forty-year odyssey in which Professor Beadle, aided and abetted by his former student, searches the world for the thousand printed copies of his book, Beautiful Monsters—buying, begging, and sometimes stealing them, with the goal of eventually destroying every last copy.
Early in their journey, Beam meets a lovely young woman, Mabel, and the couple wed. Mabel is initially sympathetic to the Professor’s plight, but as the obsession with tracking down the book grows and takes hold of her husband, their marriage begins to suffer. The impending tragedy is completely lost on Beam, but not on the Professor, who sees an eerie similarity to his own failed marriage. Could the book—with its terrible invocation of insect-men—be cursed?
In his quest to erase “this published monument to my own stupidity,” the Professor and Beam cross paths with an odd assortment of characters, including Thomas Edison, a giant, George Méliès, and on the final leg of their bizarre journey, Sherlock Holmes himself.
Targeted Age Group:: All Audiences
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 1 – G Rated Clean Read
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
A decade ago an old bookbinder told me the story of a scientific tome written by a college professor. His students had created spurious "proof" of the professor's bizarre theories on evolution, and the professor based his book on the artificial fossils. Fascinated, I asked my friend the name of the book, which he could not recall. The Professor's name? Forgot it. Where was the book published? In Europe, somewhere. But in which century? The 16th or 17th… with this trove of information I wrote my story. Years later, when my book was in the manuscript stage, I discovered that our professor was actually Dr. Johann Beringer, and his "Lithographiae Wirceburgensis" was originally published in Germany in 1726. I was gratified to learn the truth but thankful it came to me after the book was finished, otherwise it would have been a very novel!
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
Our protaganist's dilemma, and how he got into it in the first place, dictated the major aspects of his personality. The others key players revealed themselves through the writing process. I greatly admire Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and always wanted to attempt a Victorian-era novel. I did not know when I began "Beautiful Monsters" that Holmes himself would become an integral part of the story. But that's one of the great joys of writing
Thomas Alva Edison resided in Menlo Park, located in Middlesex County, New Jersey, in the United States. He purchased a large parcel of land there in 1875 and proceeded to build his main laboratory building, in addition to structures that served varying functions, including a carpenter’s shop and a blacksmith shed.
The Professor and the bookseller knocked on the main laboratory door. As they waited, they resumed an earlier conversation.
“Your wife really said that?” asked the Professor.
“Yes,” answered the bookseller, “But she doesn’t understand…”
“Of course, she doesn’t understand,” said the Professor. “For a bee to have actual fists it would require opposable thumbs.”
The Professor held his hands out and wiggled his thumbs, demonstrating his point.
“I understand he’s hard of hearing,” said the Professor, “I’ll knock again.”
“I believe he has help, let’s just wait,” suggested the bookseller.
A few moments later a man opened the door and the two were led into the building.
Thomas Edison was seated at a small table towards the rear of the large open room. His work area was surrounded by a massive assortment of jars, wires and glass globes. Behind him a number of highly skilled workmen busied themselves with various projects.
“Greetings, gentlemen,” said the man, “we were expecting you. I am Charlie Clarke, Mr. Edison’s first assistant. Please, when conversing with Mr. Edison, speak loudly.”
They were led through the workshop to Edison’s table and Charlie placed his hand gently on the inventor’s shoulder to gain his attention.
“How do you do, Mr. Edison,” said the bookseller, loudly.
“Wha?” replied Edison. “Oh, hello, gentlemen. Please, sit down, sit down. Charlie tells me you've come all the way from England!” Edison seemed preoccupied with his work, even while speaking with his visitors, but was cordial nonetheless. “I don't usually encourage visitors, it interferes with my work. And time is the most valuable thing in the world, gentlemen. You could have a million dollars and not buy one minute of it!”
The Professor interjected. “We sent a telegram, I apologize if we're a bit late.”
“Wha?” asked Edison. “You say you shit a grape? It's probably the pits, you can't digest them…”
The inventor reached for a crystal decanter filled with a dark amber liquid and three clean glasses. “I don't usually indulge during work hours, but you gentleman must be weary from your journey. Can I offer you some brandy?” The inventor poured three small drinks.
“But I read that you never drank, sir,” said the Professor, “that you were a teetotaler.”
“Wha?” asked Edison, “Where did you read that?”
“In the London Enquirer,” responded the Professor.
“Oh,” the inventor said, waving off the Professor’s comment, “I've never heard of it, so let's have our drink!”
Edison and the bookseller drank but the Professor just smiled and took a small sip, a gesture that was not lost on the inventor.
“Not drinking?” asked Edison. “The grape pits, eh? You can't digest them. I have something that'll help. Charlie! Bring this man that new tonic, there's a case of it in the back room.”
“Mr. Edison,” said the bookseller, “we actually wanted to ask you about a book you have in your possession, it's titled Beautiful Monsters.”
“Wha? A book you say? Insects with big heads?”
“That's the one,” said the Professor.
“And hands?” With this the inventor held his hands in front of his face, clenching and unclenching them.
“Yes, and hands,” said the Professor in a loud voice.
“It's in my library,” said Edison. “I have over three thousand volumes. Gentlemen, it's going to be the largest scientific library in the world someday. That book we keep for laughs.”
The Professor bristled. “I am the author.”
“Wha?” asked the inventor. “Well, it's been nice talking with you, Arthur, but I must get back to work. I've worked on this project for over fourteen months with no success. It's an electrical powered light globe.”
Holding one of the globes, Edison noted that the Professor was leaning against a table-sized battery.
“Careful of that bank of batteries!” cautioned the inventor. “There's enough electrical current in them to set your hair on fire!”
The Professor raised an eyebrow. “Oh, by all means let's avoid a fire incident!”
“Wha?” asked Edison, examining the bulb in his hand. “Yes, it's a wire filament. You're a smart man, Arthur. And I've tried permeating it with sulfur, magnesium, phosphorous, mercury, lead, and every other element, compound and mixture I know or concocted. It's no longer science, gentleman, it’s purely a matter of trial and error.”
At that moment Charlie emerged from the back room and handed a bottle of tonic to the Professor.
“Try that, Arthur,” said the inventor, “it'll settle your stomach.”
The Professor warily took a sip from the bottle to be polite, and found himself pleasantly surprised. “This is excellent!”
“Glad you like it, Arthur. It's called Coca-Cola. The carbonation will help you with your little grape problem,” confided the inventor.
“Mr. Edison,” interjected the bookseller, “we'd like to purchase the Professor’s book back from you, for personal reasons.”
“Wha?” asked the inventor, “you want the bug book? Sorry gentleman, I'm building a library, and it's going to be as comprehensive as is humanly possible.”
The bookseller put his best negotiating skills into play. “Mr. Edison, I'm a book dealer, and I'll happily trade you a much rarer scientific journal for that one. I'll make it several books. Your library will be more comprehensive, not less, if you'll grant us this request.”
Edison pondered this. “You did travel a long way, let me consider it. Now, gentleman, I must get back to work. There must be an answer….”
The Professor finished his drink. “I could get addicted to this tonic!” He then yelled loudly, “Charlie, might I have another carbonated beverage from the back room?”
Edison's face lit up. “Wha? A carbon thread in a vacuum?” He mulled this over. “Yes! Arthur, you're a genius!”
The two men had one more celebratory drink with their host, then left, the Professor with the book in his possession and the bookseller carrying a wooden case filled with complimentary glass bottles of Coca-Cola.
“I wouldn't mind making a small investment in Mr. Edison's electric globes,” said the bookseller, “and possibly in that tonic, too. Does it really relieve the grape pits?”
The bookseller’s humor was lost on the Professor.
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