If you were to ask me what was the proudest thing I have ever achieved it has to be, without any doubt, the writing of my first book, based on a true story of my great grandfather, nicknamed Harry Killbuck.
I had never planned to write a book, quite honestly I did not think I had it in me to go the distance. You read so many stories from successful writers saying how they would tap away at their keyboards in the early hours consistently producing thousands of words every day. Not being a consistent type of person, writing a book needed the skill I never considered I had. That was sixteen years ago.
When a story unexpectedly jumped into my lap, one that screamed, ‘The world needs to hear this’ I became consumed with its tale. It was the kind of story that made you want to dig feverishly asking ‘Why” “How” “When” and Oh my God! I had still not reached the conclusion, I must write a book about this. That came later.
So to help you along, I am going to start at the beginning.
My maternal grandmother died in the UK, and it was left to me and my sister to clear out the last few bits from her bungalow. I was living in Spain at the time so I travelled over to lend a hand. My Uncles had already been there and taken most of it so there was not much left to do..
In her bedroom, there was a laundry box full of papers that one of my Uncles had pulled from her airing cupboard. He had remarked to us that it was just a pile of old bank statements and useless bits. We may like to go through it in case there were any photos. As time was getting on we decided to put it in the car and go through it at my sisters’ house. Later that night, after dinner, we started to go through it.
There were plenty of old receipts and bank statements which seemed of little interest however, there were lots of old handwritten notes and it was these that sparked our interest. The first piece of paper was written out neatly and on it was written:-
these are the names of the blackmailing and forgery gang who have broken into my room stolen my pictures and are about to move a woman’s body.
‘Read that again” I said to my sister and we proceeded to dig into the box further for more notes. “These are about Harry, the grandfather nobody seemed to know much about. I smirked, my grandmother had all his noted hidden in her airing cupboard. They dated back to 1953. She had been hiding them for over 50 years. And so the task of un-ravelling the mystery began,
I am not going to say too much but what I discovered over the next ten years as I looked into his story kept me up on many a night.
Harry Killbuck, Petty criminal from Brighton, an artist and a vagabond who painted on the pavements outside the present Queens house when she was a young girl. Survived WW1 and suffered shell shock. We discovered a possible four murders had been committed before he was left to rot in West Park Asylum in Epsom, Surrey.
As I wrote about Harry, I got to know him. Sometimes I loved him and sometimes he became infuriating but all the time he pushed me to tell his story.
To try and understand his war-torn head and re-live some of his darkest moments he was able to use his creativity to paint pictures of the Garden of Eden and children picnicking on a hillside.
My research led me to hours in records offices and going through sites like Ancestry.com. I met family members from as far away as Poland, Australia and Tasmania. I visited and made friends in Brighton which became one of my favourite places. Genealogy became a hobby and my knowledge of social history increased. One page after another was written and gradually my story emerged as a novel until finally it became bound as a book.
Primarily I wrote it all down for my family so they would have all knowledge of him. However, people have come back to me entirely un-related and have been taken with Harry’s story
It has been written into a film script and we are now adapting it into episodes. This could take another ten years but really, it will be so worth it.
how to get a copy
Notes from the Edge by Lauren Staton is available on Amazon.
If you buy it, please leave me a review.
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