Finding the right title for my novel was a real challenge. I’d written at least three drafts before I managed to alight on a title I was comfortable with.
For a time it was going to be The Marlowe Connection, until someone pointed out that could be mistaken for a book about railway travel in Buckinghamshire. For a while I considered Cut is the Branch, a line from Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus. But then… might someone think it was a gardening manual about pruning trees? Or that we were back to railways again, with a critique of cuts to rail services?
But Marlowe did supply the title I finally alighted on, Unlawful Things. The full quote, from the epilogue to Doctor Faustus, has the chorus moralising on Faustus, whose pact with Mephistopheles results in him being dragged away by demons to hell:
“Faustus is gone: regard his hellish fall,
Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise,
Only to wonder at unlawful things,
Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits
To practice more than heavenly power permits.”
In other words, profit from Faustus’ example and stay well away from the ‘unlawful’ necromancy he used to pry into secrets that should only be known by ‘heavenly power’.
I liked the title because one of the themes of the book is the price we risk paying when we try to uncover secrets. And Unlawful Things has an unsettling, mysterious ring to it, which is always an asset in a mystery novel.
As a journalist, prying into unlawful things is pretty much in my job description, so I don’t have much sympathy for the idea that we should all just mind our own business. Humanity has risked much and gained much from the pursuit of its curiosity, down the ages. But there can be a high price to pay, whether it’s Marie Curie succumbing to cancer after discovering radium, or contemporary journalists murdered in the pursuit of corruption and organised crime. One of the questions I wanted to explore was, how high a price should we be prepared to pay?
Unlawful Things will be available to buy on Amazon next week, at a very reasonable price. I do hope you’ll take the opportunity to discover it for yourself.