Lately, I have been discovering new online journals that have introduced me to terrific and strange fiction -- and even stranger nonfiction. If you are feeling adventurous, stop by and fall into this serialized offering from Christopher Heaney, a doctoral student at the University of Texas, Austin and an interesting new writer.
Death of a Sailor: A Novel History of Murder in 1830s New York, War and Forbidden Love in the Age of Napoleon, and Captivity and Freedom in the Last Days of the Atlantic Slave Trade; in many, many Parts.
I have read part 1 and part 2, and I am eagerly awaiting the rest of the "many, many" parts which will be published monthly. The story's literary style has a detached and noirish flavor with tantalizing bits of fiction mingled with even more astonishing bits of historical fact. At times it reads like a deposition for a criminal trial, where the answers to questions tease out the increasingly complex narrative in suspenseful morsels. Part 2 adds additional layers of intertwined stories of hoaxes, mysteries, and the inexplicable impulses of humanity.
For example, part 2 reveals that in 1835, amidst riots against the abolitionists, Richard Adams Locke, a reporter for The New York Sun, fabricates a hoax about an astronomer who with the aid of a powerful lens, discovers a paradise on the moon, filled with man-bats. The story so captures the imagination of the rioters, that they stop rioting to await the newspaper's promised installments of more sensational information. (see the image above Leopoldo Galluzzo Altre scoverte fatte nella luna dal Sigr. Herschel , 1836). But there are still murders to be plumbed and solved, and I am certain the cross hatching of old and new murders, of characters engaged in hoaxes and discovery is bound to multiply in wondrous fashion.
Heaney takes the reader on a ride, leaving one uncertain as to what is real and what is fiction, and it is fitting that the series is being published in The Appendix: A New Journal of Narrative and Experimental History , a terrific highly interstitial journal, that combines in a unique fashion history and narrative. And on a side note -- go here to see all of the incredible images of the moon's paradise, the planned exhibition with helium balloons, and of course the Bat Men and delightful ladies printed in 1836.