Lord John and the Hand of Devils

BOOK: Lord John and the Hand of Devils
11.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

To Alex Krislov,
Janet McConnaughey, and
Margaret J. Campbell,
sysops of the Compuserve Books and Writers Community
the best perpetual electronic literary cocktail party in the world. Thanks!


The author would like to thank

…Maxim Jakubowski, for inadvertently launching Lord John on his solo career.

…Marte Brengle, whose mention of her infamous ancestor Sir Francis Dashwood supplied me and Lord John with the basis of his first adventure.

…Karen Watson, of Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise, for patient sleuthing through the byways of London in search of plausibly revolting locales and interesting historical trivia.

…Laura Bailey and Becky Morgan, for helpful suggestions regarding clothing and daily practicalities.

…Barbara Schnell, for making sure the German bits are accurate (well, they started out that way; we hope they still are).

…Steven Lopata, Piper Fahrney, Janet McConnaughey, and Larry Tuohy, for useful information on explosions, cannon-loading, fracturing metal, and other violent phenomena of the battlefield.

…Lauri Klobas, Eve Ackermann, John S. Kruszka, and the dozens of other kind, intelligent people from the Compuserve Books and Writers Community (whose names I have unfortunately misplaced or forgotten over the last ten years), who are always on hand with suggestions and information ranging from the mundane to the bizarre, and then some.

…Silvia Kuttny-Walser, for the title of this book.

…the excellent editors who have worked with me on this book, both piecemeal and entire: Max Jakubowski, Betsy Mitchell, Bill Massey, and John Flicker.

…Virginia Norey, aka the Book Goddess, for her wonderful design.


…the unsung genii of the Random House art department, who came up with the marvelous covers for the new Lord John books. Thank you!




Dear Reader—


1. The book you are holding is not a novel; it’s a collection of three separate novellas.

2. The novellas in this collection all feature Lord John Grey, not Jamie and Claire Fraser (though both are mentioned now and again), but

3. I did want to assure you all that there
another Jamie and Claire book to follow
A Breath of Snow and Ashes.
I usually work on more than one book at a time, and have been working on that one, too. It’s just that this one is shorter, and therefore got finished first.

Awright. Now, for those of you still with me…

Lord John Grey has been largely accidental, since the day he rashly decided to try to kill a notorious Jacobite in the darkness of the Carryarrick Pass. His association with Jamie and Claire Fraser (and with me) dates back to that passage in
Dragonfly in Amber.
While he did have small but important parts to play in subsequent books of the Outlander series, I really didn’t intend to write books about him on his own. (On the other hand, I never intended to show Outlander to anybody, either, and here we are. You never know, that’s all I can say.)

Lord John began his independent life apart from the Outlander books when a British editor and anthologist named Maxim Jakubowski invited me to write a short story for an anthology of historical crime that he was putting together in honor of the novelist Ellis Peters, who had recently died. Now, I had never written a short story—barring things required for English classes in school, which tended to be pretty lame—but I was fond of Ellis Peters’s Brother Cadfael mysteries, and I thought it would be an interesting technical challenge to see whether I could write something shorter than 300,000 words, so…“Why not?” I said.

It had to be the eighteenth century, because that’s the only period I know well, and I hadn’t time to research another time adequately, just for a short story. And it couldn’t involve the main characters from the Outlander series, because a good short story has high moral stakes, just as a novel does; thus, it would be difficult to write a short story involving the Frasers that would not include an event significant enough to have an impact on the plot of future novels involving them. Since I don’t think up plots in advance, I thought I’d just avoid the whole problem by using Lord John; he’s a very interesting character, he talks to me easily, and he appears only intermittently in the Outlander novels; no reason why he couldn’t be having interesting adventures offstage, on his own time.

Enter Sir Francis Dashwood and his notorious Hellfire Club, plus the murder of a red-haired man, and Lord John made his first solo appearance in a short story titled “Hellfire,” which was published in 1998 in the anthology
Past Poisons,
edited by Maxim Jakubowski, and published by Headline.

The stories for this anthology had a limit of 10,000 words. “Hellfire” was a hair over 12,000, but luckily nobody complained. I thought the ending was a bit rushed, even so—and so later rewrote the ending, expanding it slightly. Things turn out the same way, but with a little more style and elegance, I hope.

“Hellfire” has had an interesting publishing history, since that first appearance in
Past Poisons.
That anthology went out of print within a couple of years (it’s since been reprinted), which is the point at which U.S. audiences began to hear about “Hellfire” and to express interest in Lord John’s solo adventure. Unfortunately, there’s really nothing you can
with a 14,000-word short story; it’s too long for magazine markets, much too short to be published alone.

At this fortuitous point, a couple of online acquaintances of mine decided to start an e-publishing business, and asked me whether I had “a boxful of old short stories under the bed” (Why do people think every writer begins with short stories? Or if so, that they would be willing to expose this juvenilia to the world?) that they might be able to publish.

“What the heck?” I said, figuring this was as good an opportunity as any to explore the brave new world of e-publishing. In addition to my friends’ business, the e-publishing arm of my German publishing company also decided to offer an electronic German version of “Hellfire,” and so Lord John ventured out into international cyberspace.

This was an interesting experience, and fairly successful in e-publishing terms (“success” in e-publishing terms does not generally mean quitting your day job, let’s put it like that). That experiment ended when my friends decided to list all their titles with Amazon.com—a very reasonable decision—but informed me that owing to the Amazon.com discount required of publishers, they would have to sell “Hellfire” at $6.50, in order to make any money. I couldn’t countenance the notion of selling a 23-page short story for six dollars and fifty cents, so we cordially parted ways at that point.

At this point, I began to think what else might be done with the story. It occurred to me that I’d enjoyed writing it—I like Lord John, and the complexities of his private life tend to lead him into Interesting Situations—and what if I were to write two or three more short stories involving him? Then all the short pieces could be published together in book form, and everybody would be happy. (Well, Lord John and I would, at least.)

“Hellfire” next saw print—retitled as “Lord John and the Hellfire Club”—as an add-in to the trade-paperback edition of the first Lord John Grey novel,
Lord John and the Private Matter.

And here it is
at last in book form, in company with two novellas: “Lord John and the Succubus,” which was originally written for another anthology; and “Lord John and the Haunted Soldier,” written specifically for this collection.

Other accidents happened—his lordship is prone to such things, I’m afraid—and I wrote
Lord John and the Private Matter,
under the delusion that this was in fact the second Lord John short story. I was informed by my literary agents, though, that in fact, I had inadvertently written a novel. (Well, how would I know? To me, a novel is just getting
at 85,000 words.) This was good, insofar as my assorted publishers were ecstatic at the revelation that I actually
write a “normal”-sized novel, and promptly gave me a contract for two more Lord John Grey novels—but it still left “Hellfire” sitting there by itself at 14,000 words.

But accidents continued to happen: I was invited to write a novella for a fantasy anthology, and presto! We had “Lord John and the Succubus,” which came in around 33,000 words. This meant that one more novella of that length or more, and we’d have critical mass.

Here, things got slightly tricky, though. By sheer happenstance, the short Lord John pieces alternated with the full-length novel: “Hellfire,”
Private Matter,
“Succubus.” And I had embarked on the second novel,
Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade.
All fine—but the German publisher, anxious to have the collection, asked whether I might be able to hurry up and write the final novella before finishing the second novel. Easygoing sort that I am, I said I reckoned I could do that—and I did. Allow me to note that writing a novella that follows a novel that isn’t yet written is not the easiest thing in the world, but if I wanted an easy life, I suppose I’d clean swimming pools for a living.

This collection was originally to have been titled
Lord John and a Whiff of Brimstone
(because of the supernatural aspect common to all the stories), but the German publisher explained that they couldn’t use that title, because my most recent Outlander novel,
A Breath of Snow and Ashes,
is titled
Ein Hauch von Schnee und Asche
in German—and German does not have separate words for “breath” and “whiff”—ergo, they’d have another
Ein Hauch…
and they thought one was plenty. They suggested instead,
Lord John and the Hand of Devils,
which I thought was wonderful, and immediately took for the English-language volume as well.

I hope you’ll enjoy it!

Best wishes,

Diana Gabaldon

BOOK: Lord John and the Hand of Devils
11.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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