Beyond the Story - Sharing Hamilton

Philadelphia, 1791. James and Maria Reynolds are flat broke. Well aware of the attraction between his wife and Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, James hatches a plan to blackmail Alexander and get rich - and sends Maria to seduce him.

Meanwhile, the mysterious Dr. Severus Black befriends the Hamiltons and becomes a close confidant of Alexander’s wife, Eliza. While Mrs. Hamilton grows fond of the handsome doctor, she also senses something different about the debonair young man.

Simultaneously, a vicious serial killer is stalking the city by night. As Hamilton’s affair with Maria runs headlong towards personal and professional catastrophe, the constables of Philadelphia draw a net around the emerged killer of young serving girls. But what connection could Dr. Black have with the murders, which a hundred years later would be mirrored in his own country... by none other than Jack the Ripper?

In Sharing Hamilton, historical romance author Diana Rubino and award-winning myster/thriller writer Brian L. Porter uniquely blend the mystery and romance genres, based on the true story of the Hamilton affair with the added spice of a serial killer stalking the streets of USA's first capital city.

My guest this week has not only stepped from the pages of this historical romantic mystery, but he’s stepped into the future.

SJJ: Welcome to Beyond the Story. Please tell our readers your full name.

SB: Well, hello there. My name, to give you my full title, is Doctor Severus Black, although for reasons that will be evident to those who have read the book in which I am featured, I am now known as Doctor Solomon Bruckman.

SJJ: I believe this is the first time I’ve interviewed a doctor on Beyond the Story. Now do I call you Dr. or just Severus or maybe Solomon? You know what I’ll just stick with doctor.

So, tell us Dr., where do you live?

SB: I am currently residing in a small township known as Queenstown in the Natal Province of South Africa, having previously lived and worked in London, Liverpool, Paris and Philadelphia.

SJJ: Wow, you sure do (or is it did?) get around. I mean it’s 1791 where you come from.

And how would you describe your personality? Who are you, Dr. Black?

SB: That’s a tricky question really as I’d say my personality is rather multi-faceted.

Most of the time, you would probably describe me as affable, some would say charming, and meticulous in all I do. There are times, however, when to be totally honest, I seem to undergo something of a metamorphosis, when another, let’s say, darker side of my nature tends to overwhelm me and takes control of my actions.

SJJ: So, what you’re saying is sometimes you’re a little Jekyll and sometimes you’re a little Hyde. (Laughs at her own joke).

Well, if that is what you’re like now, what were you like as a child? Did you have a happy childhood?

SB: My childhood was not what one would describe as a happy one. My father was a rather overbearing and dominating Presbyterian Church Minster in a small village in Norfolk, called Fenworthy Magna. He was an authoritarian and a fierce disciplinarian and his word was law in our home. I always felt my mother lived in fear of him as did I and my elder brother, Julian. The only person he showed any signs of affection towards was my little sister, Claudia. Beatings were a regular part of my life, for the merest infraction or failure to correctly quote scripture for example. I looked forward to the day when I would be old enough to leave home and make my own way in the world, especially after my sister’s death at an early age, and the death of my mother, of I think, a broken heart. My father’s behaviour towards me and my brother at her funeral was to put it mildly, diabolical and probably shaped the man I am today.

SJJ: I am so sorry you had such a troubled upbringing. But look at you now. I’m sure you are a successful doctor.

So, Dr., what kind of doctor are you?

SB: I am a physician, specialising in the treatment of women’s illnesses and diseases, the only job I have ever wanted to do. I was able to gain entry to the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries at an early age, later moving to the Royal College of Surgeons where I completed my training.

SJJ: You are lucky to have found your calling so early in life.

Do you have any obstacles in your life preventing your from achieving your goals?

SB: I am determined and single-minded and have never allowed anything or anyone to stand in the way of my goals in life, either professional or personal, though the French detective, LeClerc, who had tracked me all the way from Paris has interfered greatly in my life in recent years, which eventually led me to obtain passage on the barque, Emerald, bound for Brazil, from where I then obtained passage as ship’s doctor on the clipper ship, Lady Marian, arriving in South Africa some six weeks later.

SJJ: (Tracking you? Why would a French detective be tracking you?)

(Clears throat and stares at him suspiciously) Um, so, can you tell your readers something about you that not everyone knows?

SB: It is said that I am an expert on the dance floor. I do enjoy the opportunity that dancing affords me to get close to the ladies that would otherwise be beyond my reach on a social level. It is a little-known fact that I was schooled in the art of dancing by a real princess, whose name I shall not reveal, but who not only schooled me in the art of dance, but also in certain ways of conducting, shall we say, affairs of the heart?

SJJ: Dancing eh? (I suppose he’s not about to tell this audience anything incriminating).

Are there any defining moments in your life that made you who you are today?

SB: Definitely. I previously mentioned my father’s behaviour at my mother’s funeral. He, Aldous Black, with a heart as black as his name knew that my brother and I cared deeply for our mother, but we were only nine and seven years old when she died of a terrible wasting disease, which I’m sure was brought on by her heart being broken at the loss of my little sister at the age of four. Not only did my father force my brother and I to assist him in preparing my mother’s body for the funeral, but he publicly forced my brother and I to kiss her corpse in full view of the congregation in church. I will never forget the feel of her dead, cold, wax-like skin as she lay in the open coffin. It affected me for a long time to come and probably gave me my first shred of interest in the human body as a thing, rather than a living being and led me to go on to my chosen profession.

SJJ: What a terrible thing to do to young children. And I would think your mother’s death from disease was the catalyst that led you to become a doctor. Seems a little odd that you’d rather treat a body like a thing. But, hey, whatever makes you tick, I guess.

Do you have any regrets, Severus, I mean Dr.?

SB: I have regretted leaving every city in which I have practised both my medical practice, and my other activities. In particular, I dearly regret leaving Philadelphia as I enjoyed such a wonderful relationship with the ladies of polite society and especially the close bond I had developed with the beautiful Mrs. Eliza Hamilton counting her among my most favoured patients. Unfortunately, the activities of the forces of law enforcement, in particular Detective LeClerc were making life difficult as they appeared to be ready to attempt to take me into custody over the unexplained deaths of a number of unimportant serving wenches.

SJJ: Woah! What? (Shifts uncomfortably) Forget it. I don’t want to know. Well, I do… but I don’t.

Moving on. Is there anyone you look up to, consider to be a mentor, either in the past or right now? Or should I say in the past or further in the past?

SB: One of my earliest teachers in the art of the anatomy of the female body, Doctor Frederick Musgrove will always retain a place in my memory as a great mentor and teacher.

SJJ: Aww, that’s nice.

When you think of all your accomplishments, what is your proudest moment?

SB: That would be the first time I realised how incredibly easy it was to charm the ignorant and ill-educated working-class serving wenches of London into my clutches. How simple it was to lure them into my clutches so that I could indulge my nocturnal passions on their pathetic persons.

SJJ: (Pushes chair back a little further) OK, um. I… I don’t know how to respond to that. Um, you know that Jekyll and Hyde reference earlier was a joke, right?

SB: (Darkness clouds his face and he glares)

SJJ: I’m just going to move on with my interview questions (shuffles paper).

What’s your idea of the perfect day?

SB: Visiting and treating the ladies of polite society, followed by, perhaps, an evening at a glittering social function, dancing with those very ladies, and engaging in conversation with them and their husbands on all manner of subjects, followed by a late-night sojourn into the dark streets in search of a young victim with whom I can indulge my nefarious tastes.

SJJ: (Jaw drops) Wow! You’re just really letting it all out, aren’t you? Related to Jack, are you? Never mind, don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

SB: My strengths are my knowledge and skills in the treatment of women’s ailments, which I consider to be greater than most of my contemporaries. I suppose my greatest weakness, if I have any, would be my inability to control my baser impulses, though I would hesitate to classify them as a sign of weakness.

SJJ: I remember reading once that a lot of great surgeons are sociopaths, or is it psychopaths? But you know they aren’t dangerous. (Laughs nervously) Never mind.

What do you do for fun?

SB: I dance, I charm the ladies of society, and do I really need to answer to my other favoured pastime?

SJJ: Nope, not at all. Moving on.

What do you do to relax?

SB: I go out for late-night walks in the moonlight.

SJJ: And here I was hoping you’d say reading a good book, or taking a warm bath… alone.

This probably won’t resonate with you, being that you’re a…. forget it. What is your most embarrassing moment?

SB: Embarrasing? Well, I suppose the night I was almost caught whilst enjoying my dalliance with Caroline, the daughter of Seamus Carew, butcher of Philadelphia was something of an embarrassment to me. A zealous and very vigilant constable later named in the newspapers as Constable Fry, almost laid hands on me in the alley where I had just strangled the girl. Only my quick thinking in charging at the constable, pushing him to the ground where he hit his head and was knocked unconscious allowing me to complete my work and make my getaway, unhindered.

SJJ: Oh, for goodness sake! I did not need for you to go into the gory details. Thankfully, I’ve only a few questions left and then you can go back to wherever you came from. Honestly!!!

What are your plans for the future? Wait, let me guess – not get caught by the detective?

SB: I have a good life in Queenstown, as the doctor to the people of the township, where I am a well-respected member of the community as Doctor Bruckman. It is a largely Jewish community, and I have found it easy to adopt the ways of these pious folk. I have not indulged my basest instincts within the township as to do so might lay me open to accusations, but I make occasional journeys to Cape Town on the pretext of visiting friends, where I once again have the opportunity to take advantage of the plentiful young females of the lower order of society.

SJJ: You are one sick…