Iain McLaughlin

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Blood And Hope

Telos Novella
The American Civil War... a time of great unrest, when fathers found themselves in conflict with their own sons and when lawlessness and slavery was rife. The Doctor, together with his companions Peri and Erimem, arrive in the middle of the conflict. The Doctor manages to cope in his own inimitable manner, but Peri -- an American -- and Erimem -- a dark-skinned Egyptian -- find themselves faced with all the bigotry and hatred that typified the war for some.

Published by Telos Publishing in February 2004


I had always been a bit nervous about writing prose. It seemed terribly grown up. I'd spent more than fifteen years writing scripts before I wrote one for Big Finish. I had tried prose but I hadn't enjoyed what I'd written. The truth was, I just hadn't found my voice yet. I hadn't realised that the best way for me to write a novel was simply to think I was relating a story to a friend. I hope that now that I've written more than twenty novels and a couple of dozen short stories I've finally got the hang of it. I'm certainly more confident and a damn site quicker than I used to me. These days I like to experiment, working with multiple narrators in the first person or using a staccato noir style of prose.

I didn't have that confidence when I wrote this book.

I also knew that I wanted to write this story in the first person. A lot of it was to be about people going through very personal problems. I wanted to get right into their heads to deal with what they were thinking. No, I knew that I wanted the story to be set in the American Civil War and I knew I wanted to explore the limits we'll go to for friends and those we love. 

I worked out the plot before I'd decided on the format, but as research, as well as reading a lot of books, I watched Ken Burns' Civil War series, which is one of the most remarkable pieces of TV you can ever see. It's right up there with The World at War. Those shows shared one really important thing - they used the words of the people who were there. Both shows told the stories in broad strokes but supplemented that with personal anecdotes or recollections. The World at War interviewed survivors. Civil War focused on letters, diary extracts and newspaper reports. They are both extraordinary pieces of TV and they both give a human insight into what it was like being in those wars. Watching that made the whole thing fall into place. If I did it as an epistolic novel, which was a popular style in the Victorian era - Bram Stoker's Dracula being one of the most notable examples - then I could get into the heads of the characters, use multiple viewpoints and relate the narrative from a lot of perspectives and locations. When I plotted it out, the whole thing came together very nicely.

It's mentioned in a lot of reviews that this is a very emotional book. That's true. It was always intended to be. Why did I put Peri through such mental anguish? Well, the truth is that it was a sort of therapy for me. I was diagnosed as a depressive in 2000 or 2001. These days I count as bipolar which sounds far more exotic, as though I'm heading off on a trek with Michael Palin. From the Arctic to Antarctica: Michael Palin's Bipolar Adventure. No? Oh, please yourself. But back in 2001-2002, I was coming to terms with that diagnosis.and what it meant for me and for some of the decisions I'd made. I wanted to explore some of the things I'd felt and writing about them seemed the way to go, so I put Peri through Hell. Sorry, Peri. Obviously, I didn't kill anybody in a barn but I didn't give her the sense of isolation I'd felt and the guilt for some of her decisions and a very odd sense that she deserved to feel as awful as she did - that is a sensation that many sufferers of bipolar disorder will recognise. So, yes, it was therapy for me, and it did help. I haven't suffered greatly from my bipolar disorder in the past 15 years. There have been two moments that have been bad but I'm immensely fortunate that the medication works and I recognise the signs that it's coming. I'm lucky for that and I'm lucky I was able to use this book to exorcise some early demons. Not everybody is lucky. If you're struggling with it, keep on fighting. See a doctor, demand help, and most of all, don't hold it all inside. Think of it as a boil. If you lance it you let the poison out. If you don't, it can poison you. Talk to people, burst that mental boil and get the help to get better. If you broke your arm or had kidney stones you'd see a doctor. This is no different. See a doctor, get better and be aware you're not alone. There are a lot of us in this boat with you.

Because the trials Peri was facing were so personal and her story was about hurting herself to help her friend, I wanted a second plot strand - a parallel plot-line using characters set in that era. Brothers wouldn't really work - besides which, The High Chaparral did that with Big John and Uncle Buck. It also felt a bit contrived if they were to be close. Cousins, on the other hand, would allow them to be from different states but still close... so we had Will and Paul. If they both had girlfriends and the war affected those relationships... there we go...

I won't go into detail on the plot. The book is out of print and it's unlikely to go back into print in the near future. It's a bit serious and uncompromising for current Doctor Who, but you might find it on ebay so I won't go heavy on spoilers.

Several of the characters borrowed the names of real people. Claire Bartlett was named after my regular writing partner. Kenneth Smith, the journalist, was named after Kenny Smith, a good friend who has written books for Big Finish. There are a few others, too. Why? Partly because I'm crap at coming up with names and partly because I like using people's names as a tribute to them. My Uncle Alec is immortalised as Sergeant Sandy Cowie in Mind of Stone. My sister Fiona is Aunt Fiona in Last Year... there are many more.

An epilogue was cut by editor, David Howe. I liked it, everbody else who has read it disagreed. Find out for yourself by reading it here when I post it later..
Walt Howarth's frontispiece artwork for the deluxe edition of the novella.

Article and interview about the book on the official Doctor Who website.


Archived reviews at Outpost Gallifrey.
Review at Infinityplus.
Reviews at Goodreads.
Ratings at timelash.com.

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