In this trio of novellas, three game young ladies enter into dangerous liaisons that test each one’s limits and force them to confront the most heartrending issues facing society in the early twentieth century. The Phantom Glare of Day tells of Sophie, a young lady who has lived a sheltered life and consequently has no idea how cruel public-school bullying can be. When she meets Jarvis, a young man obsessed with avenging all those students who delight in his daily debasement, she resolves to intervene before tragedy unfolds. Mouvements Perpétuels tells of Cäcilia, a young lady shunned by her birth father. She longs for the approval of an older man, so when her ice-skating instructor attempts to take advantage of her, she cannot resist. Not a month later, she realizes that she is pregnant and must decide whether or not to get an abortion. Passion Bearer tells of Manon, a young lady who falls in love with a beautiful actress after taking a post as a script girl for a film company—and is subsequently confronted with the pettiest kinds of homophobia.
London, 29 September, 1917.
In the dead of the night, Manon returned to her hotel suite and lay down in bed. Please, no more nightmares.
At dawn, she had a terrible dream.
A long, plump, phallic, pulsating Zeppelin approaches the city.
Like every other tenant, she exits Chelsea Court Hotel. Alas, as she races past one of the refuge islands rising above the thoroughfare, she trips and falls.
From all directions, meanwhile, various artillery units open fire—and the terrific cacophony of battle roars and blasts and rumbles and bawls.
As the shell-shocked crowds rush down into the neighboring tube station, a lady beggar approaches. “Stay where you are,” the wretched woman tells her. “It’d be your destiny to perish during a tribulation such as this.”
In time, a fragment of what looks to be the Zeppelin’s rudder plummets into the park not thirty feet from the place where Manon stands.
And now she looks up to find that a torrent of flames has engulfed the airship’s nose.
As the doomed Zeppelin drifts this way and that, the bittersweet-orange blaze spreads down the length of the passenger gondola.
With an awful hiss, the airship’s carcass descends toward her and then . . .
She awoke from the dream, quite certain that she must be tangled up in the gondola’s guy-ropes. Blinded by the morning light, she thrashed about.
Ultimately, she fell out of bed. How to go on living here?
At one o’clock, when she arrived at the offices of the London Moving-Pictures Company down on Coronation Avenue, she paused before the reeded-glass doors and debated whether she ought to resign her post. Why not go home to Manchester?
A dark presence rolled through the sky. Could it be a Zeppelin passing by overhead, the bomb bay slowly opening?
The darkness proved to be nothing more than a large skein of geese, but even so, she felt positively frantic—and now she continued through the door. Hopefully, the hall porter would be willing to tell Mr. Pomeroy that she had decided to back out. If so, she could be on her way before the production manager had even had a chance to protest.
The creation of a character hinges on a short list of things.
First, the character must embody at least some of the author’s intellectual and/or emotional obsessions. If so, the character will actually care about something and have a viable personality.
Second, the character must be based on either someone specific or a composite of more than one person. This will challenge the writer and force the writer to create someone who would not necessarily think in the same way. In addition, when an author bases a character on a real person, it affords the writer the ability to describe the character’s natural, physical traits. This in turn makes the character real—and more importantly, the specific traits make the character universal. Only by giving the character a set of highly specific physical traits can the reader find the character relatable. This probably follows from the fact that we can all recognize those precise, physical traits in very real friends and relatives and classmates and colleagues that we have known.
Third, the author must let the character make decisions that complement that character’s personality. It would be a mistake to interfere with the character and to make the character enter into the kinds of decisions that the author himself or herself might make. Remember, any character with a problem worth discussing probably won’t have the same level of maturity that the writer has come to have. As such, the character must be free to make bad decisions. For that matter, the character must be free to espouse beliefs and politics wholly different to those held by the writer. Think, too, about the question of honesty. Even if the author tends to be a sincere individual, that’s not to say that the point-of-view character can’t be inclined to deceive others.
Fourth, and finally, the author must permit the character to make moral choices that the author might not have made in his or her life. This heartrending fact alone explains why tone is so crucial. When the writer lets the character go truly free, tone provides the writer the only way to adequately show disagreement or disapproval.
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M. Laszlo is the pseudonym of a reclusive author living in Bath, Ohio. According to rumor, he based the pen name on the name of the Paul Henreid character in Casablanca, Victor Laszlo.
M. Laszlo has lived and worked all over the world, and he has kept exhaustive journals and idea books corresponding to each location and post.
It is said that the maniacal habit began in childhood during summer vacations—when his family began renting out Robert Lowell’s family home in Castine, Maine.
The habit continued in 1985 when, as an adolescent, he spent the summer in London, England. In recent years, he revisited that journal/idea book and based his first work, The Phantom Glare of Day, on the characters, topics, and themes contained within the youthful writings. In crafting the narrative arcs, he decided to divide the work into three interrelated novellas and to set each one in the WW-I era so as to make the work as timeless as possible.
M. Laszlo has lived and worked in New York City, East Jerusalem, and several other cities around the world. While living in the Middle East, he worked for Harvard University’s Semitic Museum. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Hiram College in Hiram, Ohio and an M.F.A. in poetry from Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville, New York.
His next work is forthcoming from SparkPress in 2024. There are whispers that the work purports to be a genuine attempt at positing an explanation for the riddle of the universe and is based on journals and idea books made while completing his M.F.A at Sarah Lawrence College.