It's 1820, and the physicians of London are on fire to unlock the secrets of human anatomy, some consorting with criminals to get their scalpels into a fresh body. Job Mowatt has become such a criminal-a body snatcher, a resurrectionist. The wages are just enough to keep his brilliant daughter, Ivy, clean and safe in London's worst slum. When anatomist Percival Quinn asks Job to dig up a rare specimen-the wife of a powerful and dangerous man-Job knows instantly he is inviting trouble, but knows, too, that the payment would allow Ivy to escape the brief, miserable existence that awaits women of her class. All it will take is a single night's work. A single night that will bring Job deeper into darkness and closer to death than he has ever been. Lords and ladies in their glittering mansions, six-bottle men and opium eaters in foul tenements, they all take their secrets to the grave...and sometimes the resurrectionist brings them back.
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The rising sun is no match for the sickly yellow fog of London.
It remains an indistinct thing on the horizon, rendered hazy and subordinate by the exhaust of the city: the effluvia of tanyards, of breweries, sugar bakers, and soap-boilers.
All of them belching smoke and gas and unknown chemistries into the air in hopes of progress.
Of lifting the masses.
Even at this early hour, it is like breathing through hot wool.
The boy and Fife are gone—the boy back to his boarding- house, Fife back home, a guinea in hand, the promise of a bed and those half dozen pints to inaugurate the following day.
The resurrectionist hurries, dodging livestock, sedan chairs and their porters, the cess in the street, the cess dumped from windows above.
He is bound for the hell of St. Giles.
That squalid rookery of narrow lanes and cholera, of whorehouses and gin shops.
Thirty thousand souls are crammed here in the few short blocks that link the gambling dens of Covent Garden to the alchemists and astrologers of Seven Dials.
His Irish neighbors call it the Holy Land because they must call it something.
Must find hope or humor in the fact that they have fled
the rural poverty of their own country for an even more crushing poverty here.
Scattered among them are African faces, French, Ceylonese.
The flotsam of the world that have ended up on English shores because of persecution, their own crimes, or the naive belief that the greatest empire in the world might offer them opportunity they would not know in their homelands.
They have been shuffled from neighborhood to neighbor- hood in London, serially rejected.
They live twenty and thirty to a cellar, with no windows to suggest the wheel of night and day, no walls to allow privacy of thought, emotion, or body.
Job is headed home.
Even as he crosses Great Russell Street, he can hear the din.
The drunks and the fights and the catcalls of the prosti- tutes.
The world doesn’t know it, but the greatest luxury a man can have is silence.
That is why the resurrectionist does not fear the graveyard.
For something is forged in those places of the dead, burnished and perfected by the fear that drives all others away.
An immaculate silence.
He shutters his mind to the early-morning bombast, the muck and filth.
By most measures the night was not a success.
His pay came in at a fraction of what he’d anticipated.
The boy’d nearly gotten them caught.
And they’d crossed with Beauchamp and Gray outside Quinn’s estate.
They would be a problem at some point.
Their souls more rancid than anything in that giant’s corpse, anything in the abandoned cesspits of this place.
But there was one thing, as always, that redeemed the night.
The reason he hurries, as he does now, on aching, aging legs.
The book tucked under his arm.
He ducks down into the dark, cool interior of the cellar.
The dirt floors are so pounded by foot traffic that they are like pavement, though dank and dark with moisture, as all
soil is below street level in the city.
Even in summer, London wears her winter beneath the surface.
There is a single window here, small, broken, patched. Huddled within the claustrophobic space—no more than a man’s wingspan twice over in both directions—is a rudimentary table, a bathing barrel, two chairs, and two chaff- filled mattresses.
He has fought for this place, sometimes with fists.
Neighboring families put as many as eight people in similar cellars.
But he shares his with only one person. She is still asleep on one of the mattresses. She is Ivy, his daughter, all of seventeen.
A burgeoning world of possibility in that sleeping form, though she does not know it.
A future illimitable, unconstrained, if she would but believe it.
He looks at the book in his hand.
The words on the cover are a hopeless jumble for him. They are the province of the gifted, the ones that can read, like his daughter.
He will not wake her, not yet.
He quietly places the book beside her so it will be the first thing she sees upon awakening.
He hefts a couple of jugs and makes his way over to the standpipe in Covent Garden, where he will wait his turn among the ever-present crowds to get his fill.
Then he will return and fill the barrel and repeat the trip twice more.
First she will bathe, then he will.
And for a moment, they will feel clean.
This excerpt is from Paul T. Scheuring’s new book, “The Resurrectionist.” Reprinted with permission from One Light Road, Inc.
PAUL SCHEURING grew up in Davis, California and attended the School of Theater, Film and Television at UCLA.
Scheuring's first produced film project was the Vin Diesel picture, A Man Apart (co-written with Christian Gudegast). After that he went on to write and showrun the hit TV Drama, Prison Break from 2005 to 2009.
Prison Break received the People’s Choice Award for Favorite New Television Drama in 2006, and has been nominated for a string of awards since its inception such as the Golden Globe, the People's Choice Award, and multiple Teen Choice Awards.
He subsequently directed The Experiment, starring Oscar winners Adrien Brody and Forrest Whitaker.
Scheuring is publishing his first novel, The Far Shore, in March 2017, and is already hard at work on the next one.
He currently resides in Mill Valley, California with his wife and two children.