Books

Here you can begin a journey into science themed fiction, written by Roy Baldwin. The submenus highlight all individual book details, with buying options.

The background and the inspiration: Mauveine – a contemporary ghost story

Conceived, written and published in the 30 days of November for NaNoWriMo 2013, a winning novel.

Aged sixteen, wayward Victoria McKenzie flees desperate and confused from home in West Lancashire to a commune in Amsterdam and never speaks to her parents again. Now aged thirty five, single and fancy free, she is settled as a senior polymer chemist working in the ailing Ahrendolie refinery in Rotterdam. Following a serious and unsettling plant incident, she is forced into a long recovery break and plans to take off on holiday with Abby, her best friend and designer flatmate, always up for a new challenge. But Victoria is startled to suddenly learn of an unusual inheritance, Orsbrick Hall, taking her mind back to childhood events and places alongside the Leeds and Liverpool canal she never hoped to experience again.

Intrigued by her news, she is summoned to a strange meeting with a Liverpool solicitor and bumps into the quaint Julian, an introverted steampunk writer, all grey hair and flying scarves. But what is it about the creepy Orsbrick Hall that nobody wants to talk about? Why does her past now unravel into an unexpected explosion of crazy scientific revelations and discoveries a hundred and fifty years before, which she would never have believed possible or credible? With Abby and Julian she must track down the source of past family secrecies and find out who the terrifying woman in the purple shawl really is. But will this unleash evil and powerful forces hell bent on her eternal destruction and damnation? And is Julian all he makes out to be?

Mauveine is genre fiction but defies genre classification so I would describe the novel best as a science themed mystery, drawing on suspense, historic fantasy, adventure, fashion, the supernatural, art, textiles, heritage and romance, a mashup of Roy Baldwin’s fertile imagination with a touch of Sarah Waters frivolity and a sprinkle of Susan Hill ghostly dilemmas. The book is light-hearted, humorous and travels back and forth, initially from 1990 back to the 1860s and then onwards to the present, set in 2010. Probably the best summary is two female protagonists, single, mid-thirties and fancy-free embark on an emotional journey to try and discover their true selves. Unfortunately a third joins them on the trail, but not quite of this time!

The plot mystery  unfolds quickly, essentially this is very much a novel driven by colourful characters and zany scenarios, but within the story and the gradual unravelling of the ghostly mystery, there is a genuine host of interesting history. In addition, not having the time during the NaNoWriMo period, to either reflect or research extensively except to write continuously on the go, the novel draws on an array of personal observations and knowledge lurking under the surface, past and present.

Foremost is the setting, based on the Leeds and Liverpool canal in the rural hinterland of West Lancashire from which my family came from originally, going back many generations. I have now done a census trace to my great great-grandfather, right back to 1805 and they were all boat people, itinerants, permanently living and working on gaily coloured barges and hauling coal, the barges drawn slowly by horses, from Yorkshire to Liverpool. It was only from 1891, when my grandfather and four young siblings (he was 17, his elder sister, head of household was 19 and his remaining sisters at school) were ‘orphaned’ in mysterious circumstances and moved from the boats to live in a small terraced house in Burscough, that a family home base for the first time ensued He continued as a boatman until the 1920s when motorisation and post World War One recession drove him and many boat people onto the docks in Liverpool for work. But this is fiction, so the family ancestry also has landed gentry and entrepreneurial wealth mixed in. So much of the flashback draws on what life for boat people would have been like in that mid-Victorian period. The coming and going meanders between the canal and Liverpool, with scenes and colourful descriptions providing an insight into the city, past and present, which I have never shared before.

The science is a fascinating story which weaves true discoveries of dyes from coal tar products in that period around the massive influence the dying industry had on textiles and fashions. The chemistry of the first artificially made dyes in the early 1850s is fascinating and all the science is correct, although there is of course fictional latitude around the science activities of the main protagonist’s in the McKenzie family. There are also interesting integrated references to contemporary art of the time and the crossover between dyeing and textile art as well as a fictionalised intervention with Rossetti the painter and his famous associates, Thomas Wardle, dyer and William Morris, artist and bon viveur. Descriptions of Victorian science laboratories and the role of women chemists in that period are pretty accurate and fascinating.

Finally the three key protagonists are colourful and very clearly defined and you may recognise bits and pieces of all kinds of people, woven in and strung into a mashup of characterisations.

Victoria McKenzie, (Vikki) highly academic but coming from a very dysfunctional family, as a rebellious teenager, fought against the reactive old-fashioned values of her parents and eventually runs away from her home in West Lancashire to the Netherlands. Self made and determined to succeed as a scientist against the odds, she matures into an independent and successful professional, self assured, fashionable, serious and posh, losing her Lancashire accent and ending up living and working in the centre of Rotterdam with a luxury apartment and lifestyle to match. Single, mid thirties and no serious relationships, Victoria flits from one short term or casual encounter to the next; underneath she hankers to find who she really is … and then the fates intervene to push that wish along.

Abigail Weston, Victoria’s flatmate and slightly younger, is a past punk rock rebel from Manchester, northern to her roots, with spiky pink hair and tattoos, also clever but a gifted creative and artist, initially a painter then studies postgraduate fashion and textiles design. She ends up running her own fashion design business, but it goes belly up and she now works in a Turkish kebab shop in between freelancing where she meets Victoria and rents the spare bedroom. They become close friends and share the same carefree outlook. Abby is also single, flirtatious and even worse than Victoria with continual one night stands and notched up bed-posts. Marriage and children are the last things on her mind. She desperately would like to become a creative again but can’t see a way out of the hole, she’s in, but then Victoria’s fates become her fates as well.

Julian Endersby-Finnis (Julian). Julian is early fifties, did an English degree at Oxford and is very engaging and communicative, tall, thick grey hair, distracted and flying scarves. Once a war zone journalist, he also did a spell in the Territorial Army and is now a dreamy, obsessive steampunk writer, moderately successful, independent and a landlord, but has a very bookish and academic, dreamy air about him. Very knowledgeable about history, heritage buildings and the 19th century lives of London and Liverpool people, Julian is single, no time for relationships except casual flings and only lives for writing. He bumps into Victoria in peculiar circumstances and the fates which start to affect Victoria draw him in as well.

Finally we meet a fourth character, Lynton Grey, (Lynton) a Liverpool solicitor, ambitious, clever, own inherited family practice, forty, widower with a 19 year old daughter at Oxford doing PPE, and the person who initially unravels the direction along which Victoria has to travel. Very public school, posh, rich, arty and throws his money around to compensate for the sorrow of losing his wife, but essentially he is quite lonely. Lynton increasingly comes onboard as the story unfolds.

Now you can enjoy!

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Flight for Fenella

Published in print and kindle editions and available on Amazon Buy now:  Description: Flight for Fenella is the fourth book of the Mauveine Series when an unexpected knock at the door of family home Orsbrick Hall heralds the arrival of a most peculiar visitor. Slowly but surely this disturbing event triggers a cascade of frightening family …

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Mauveine

Published in print and kindle editions and available on Amazon Buy Now  Description: Aged sixteen, wayward Victoria McKenzie flees desperate and confused from home in West Lancashire to a commune in Amsterdam and never speaks to her parents again. Now aged thirty five, single and fancy free, she is settled as a senior polymer chemist …

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Morag

Published in print and kindle editions and available on Amazon Buy now:  Description: McKenzie family records of the early nineteenth century have strangely gone missing, triggering concern, but scientist Victoria McKenzie and best friend Abby are too preoccupied with a forthcoming break to Harvard University, sailing across the Atlantic on a cruise ship. Onboard, circumstances …

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Prism of Purpurine

Published in print paperback and kindle editions and available on Amazon: Buy now:  Description: Scientist Victoria McKenzie and her best friend, fine artist Abby, are looking forward to organising their double wedding and leading new lives in West Lancashire now that the restless spirit of Mauveine is finally content. But a clearing out of historic family …

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Rhapsody of Fate

  Published in print and kindle editions and available on Amazon Buy Now: From  A fun holiday in Rome beckons for scientist and Cassini CEO Lauren Hind to forget the recent nuclear debacle in Sicily. Looking forward to a new relationship with Philippe, her Chairman, her business and personal life should at last become rosy …

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Rhapsody of Moon

Published in print and kindle editions and available on Amazon Buy now:  Description: With baby triplets Magda, Eve and Geri, nuclear scientist Lauren Hind achieves her idyllic dream life on the Côte d’Azur with husband Philippe, finally released from a Russian prison. But she remains restless to return from maternity leave to the excitement of her …

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Rhapsody of Power

Published in print and eBook editions and available on Amazon Buy Now:  Nuclear scientist Lauren Hind returns to Brussels to find her company, Cassini Power, riven by upheaval and turmoil and her Director role threatened. Confident in her adaptability and desperately needing a change of direction, she decides to face down her antagonistic Chairman, whilst seeking …

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Rhapsody of Restraint

Published in print and eBook editions and available on Amazon. Buy Now From  Description: Professor Lauren Hind is a scientist who appears to have it all. Global recognition for her nuclear energy work, a doting designer husband who she loves and a mega salary in a large corporate so she can indulge in her joint passions …

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Rhapsody of Succession

Published in print and kindle editions and available on Amazon Buy Now Rhapsody of Succession – Description Following confirmation, scientist and Cassini Chairman Lauren Hind adjusts to the realities of becoming pregnant with triplets at the age of forty-three. But husband Philippe, struggling to return to normality after the trauma of Murmansk, loses communications on …

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