Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery, my debut novel, is all about child abuse and the secrets we as observers, witnesses, if you will, to crimes and horror within our own communities, sometimes within our own families, keep in order not to upset the equilibrium. Oddly enough, these fundamental aspects of the book are not something I have ever flagged, rather describing the story as true crime meets Grimm fairytale, which is also true.
I have said that the true crimes that inspired my story included elements of those carried out by Rosemary West and Amelia Dyer (the Victorian baby-farmer) but I have never really talked about the nitty gritty aspects of what that means in terms of the story.
At the very beginning of my horror story, a fire rages through Phooka Wood and leaves in its wake a giant fossilised piece of toffee that clearly has human remains embedded within it. The mystery that then unfolds is a no-holds barred journey through Mortal End (life), where the magnifying glass is held over society in general. What is clearly illustrated is that under our very noses children (and adults, too) are being abused in all sorts of heinous ways and oftentimes those closest to that abominable action are not blinded to it but are the actual perpetrators of that misconduct.
I suspect we are all guilty of ignoring the public actions of others that may strike a nerve, when perhaps we see a parent continuously ignore a child as they chat away on their mobile ‘phones and then harshly admonish that child who is about to step into the path of a car, or the parent is aggressive towards them because they whine for attention because no one is minding them.
Worse still, perhaps we see a child being struck, or touched inappropriately and instead of stepping forward to challenge the culprit, we tell ourselves that we must be mistaken and that what we saw was something altogether more innocent. We then walk away, possibly still questioning what we saw, but walk away nevertheless.
The fact is that all around us, even including in some homes of those we know, things that ought not to be happening are and nothing is being done to stop it.
In Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery, a young girl child is abused by all of her male siblings and her parents, too. This sweet innocent child soon realises that in order to survive, her sweet and innocent ways will have to change and almost overnight she not only becomes unrecognisable as the child we first met, but she outdoes the horror that was once inflicted upon her and wreaks bloody revenge upon those who have wronged her.
The evident change is enormous and the consequences more so and extremely visible to all and sundry and yet no one sees. As no one sees, no one does anything to curtail this awful behaviour and the sweet and innocent child grows up to be a vicious and crazy psychopath; a bedlamite who then has children of her own who suffer even worse atrocities at the hands of their mother, who by this point knows no bounds.
Why do we hesitate, stop ourselves from saying or acting when we see maltreatment? Perhaps we are afraid of the abuser, or we are not entirely sure that we have read the situation correctly. Personally, I am afraid of not being heard and suffering the consequences of inaction but still….I have spoken up, regardless and hope that I always will.
I once called the NSPCC about a two year old little boy that was obviously being mistreated. His parents were of limited intelligence and they clearly did not have the wherewithal to bring up this beautiful child. He was screamed at and beaten (that you could clearly hear) and was terrified of the two adults within whose care he was left.
I was told by a neighbour (the one I was visiting) that they were all aware that his mother would fill the little one’s mouth with burning chilli peppers to shut him up and that they caused blisters and more screaming. Obviously. And on it went. I couldn’t bear what I saw and heard and when I returned home took a very deep breath and made the call that I hoped would change this angel’s life. I was extremely nervous and emotional but tried to be clear, concise and objective. The person taking my call was clearly uninterested and from what I heard, no one intervened or even investigated further and the abuse went on and on.
I often wonder what kind of a man that poor child grew into; who he was taught to be by his familial violators and those around him who did nothing to stop the violation.
Every day for the past few years, headlines have astounded us with their constant revelations of those in the public eye being questioned, arrested and tried for child sexual abuse. Some have been found guilty and imprisoned and still, rather than everyone be truly horrified by the crimes that took place, many people seem to be affronted by the fact that time has passed and that these offenders have been brought to book by adults who didn’t speak out as children, deciding that they can only be speaking up now for the financial compensation. Not once questioning why those who were grown and able at the time to step up, did not.
Mortal End: A Simmering Pit of Jiggery Pokery is written in a gothic horror style and has many dark comedy moments to enable readers to digest the moments of pure wickedness that is carried out and to question whether the maniac be held responsible for her actions, or whether she herself is a victim, too?
Is evil born or created and moreover, what part do the rest of us play in watching the embers of nefariousness smoulder and the flames of wrongdoing eventually take hold?