Frequently Asked Questions about Strange Case of Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel
How did you get the idea for Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel?
The full answer is in my essay on “The Making of Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel.” The short answer is that I re-read Jekyll and Hyde in 2009 and was intrigued by a specific passage from “Henry Jekyll’s Full Statement of the Case”:
Had I approached my discovery in a more noble spirit, had I risked the experiment while under the empire of generous or pious aspirations, all must have been otherwise, and from these agonies of death and birth, I would have come forth an angel instead of a fiend. The drug had no discriminating action; it was neither diabolical nor divine; it but shook the doors of the prison-house of my disposition; and like the captives of Philippi, that which stood within ran forth.
After seeing that an adaptation like Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel didn’t already exist, I conceived of a companion novel that would do just as Stevenson said: bring forth an angel instead of a fiend. This was in 2009, when financial scandals were hot news topics, so I selected a morally-conflicted banker as my protagonist. Once I started researching charity in the Victorian age and learned about the Charity Organisation Society and Charles Stewart Loch, I had the thematic elements of my story and began writing.
How long did it take you to write Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel?
I conceived the idea in late 2009 and began drafting the book shortly after. The process of researching, writing and editing the manuscript took about two years.
What parts of Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel are factual?
Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel is a fictional story incorporating real people and events from Victorian England. Charles Stewart Loch (1849–1923) is a real person and his views on charity and poverty that I depict come straight from his own writings. The Charity Organisation Society was a real organization, and I have presented its operations and ideologies as accurately as possible. Some of the grimmer parts of Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel are also historical events, including the murder of prostitute Rose Millett in Clarke’s Yard.
How did you publish Strange Case of Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel?
Working with a professional editor and other consultants, I independently published the book through my entity GZI Productions, based in Philadelphia. It is printed and distributed by Lightning Source International, a subsidiary of the Ingram Group. Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel is available through all online booksellers and in select bookshops. (You can read more about my independent publishing process in my guest blog post for Wise, Ink.)
Should I read Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde before reading Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel?
Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel is a fully self-contained story and you do not have to read Jekyll and Hyde to understand and/or enjoy my book. However, if you are planning to read both, reading Jekyll and Hyde first will likely enhance your experience and help you see the parallels between Stevenson’s story and my own.
How are you allowed to publish the full text of Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde along with your new adaptation?
All works published before 1923 are now in the public domain, meaning that anyone may reprint, distribute and sell copies of that work. (This only applies to the original text—not translations, introductions, or explanatory notes that are less than 100 years old.) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde was published in 1886 (in the English language). Here’s a site with more details on copyright law.
What happened to the Charity Organisation Society (C.O.S.)?
With its emphasis on self-help and organized giving, the C.O.S. was an important voice in philanthropic ideology until the 1930s. However, by the 1940s, its influence waned in the face of the Progressive movement, which worked to improve conditions among the working poor through social reform and policy change. In 1946 the C.O.S. was renamed the Family Welfare Association and technically still operates today in the UK as Family Action, a family support charity.
How did you pick the name “Mr. Bodkin?”
While researching the Charity Organisation Society, I discovered there was, at one point, a member of the Society named “Geoffrey Bodkin.” There is no information on this person, but I used the name because it is easy to spell and pronounce.
How did you write in the Victorian “voice” for Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel?
A popular question, but alas, the answer is a bit mundane: long hours of research into the Victorian language and lots of revising and polishing—as well as quelling my inclination to smooth out the somewhat stilted prose of the Victorians. In my research, I tried to read exclusively primary-source material, in its original form. (For example, I was able to access PDF facsimiles of Times articles from the 1880s, along with C.S. Loch’s diaries.)
I also used Stevenson’s original words whenever I could. This technique is not without controversy, but I conceived my novel not as a modern-day remake, but a genuine companion volume that is the mirror image of Stevenson’s novella. Achieving a Victorian voice meant writing the story as, I believe, Stevenson would have written it, so whenever there was a phrase or a description in Jekyll and Hyde that was appropriate for my story, I used it, or a modified version of it.
Are you going to write more companion novels or adaptations?
I hesitate to conclusively say “no”—but it’s unlikely. Writing Mr. Bodkin and Father Whitechapel was a great experience, but I never expected to write an adaptation or companion volume, and I also don’t consider myself an historical fiction writer. My work-in-progress is neither an adaptation project nor is it set in Victorian times.