In 1979 Karl Alexander burst upon the literary world with a brash, exciting novel with a unique concept: H. G. Wells, the famous, bestselling author of such sensations as The Time Machine and War of the Worlds had actually invented a time machine. When Wells showed it off to his famous friends-such as Henry James, Ford Madox Ford and other literary lights of 1893 London, he never suspected that another guest, his college friend, surgeon Leslie John Stephenson, was in truth the infamous Jack the Ripper. When Scotland Yard detectives showed up at Wells's house to inquire about Stevenson, Jack took the machine and fled to the future-1979 San Francisco. When the time machine, as designed, returned to its point of origin, Wells followed the Ripper to the future. Wells felt obligated to bring him back to justice. Once in San Francisco, Wells realized that he also must save that city . . . and a particular lovely young woman . . . from a new reign of terror at the hands of the depraved, grisly Jack. The rest of the story is well known, because Time After Time became the very successful Malcolm McDowell / Mary Steenburgen film of 1980. A bestseller in the U.S., England and elsewhere when it was first published, this irresistible thriller about famous real-life people has been unavailable for nearly thirty years. A battle of wits between the Victorian adversaries as exciting and suspenseful as it was when first published, this classic time-travel thriller will be a grand treat for a new generation of readers. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
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February 01, 2010
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Excerpt from Time After Time by Karl Alexander
Number 7 Mornington Place was a tall and narrow brick house with a well- kept yard bordered by a hedge and an iron- railing fence. With its three- gabled roof and dark- brown trim, it looked like all the other residences east of Regency Park between Euston and Cam-den Town. The streets appeared similar, too, for they were well laid out and at night were always crowded with lively, energetic people who liked to mingle in the gas- lit haze visiting or going on errands, despite the fog and the extremely cold weather. Discomfort could always be outweighed by a wool scarf, a heavy coat and the good fel?lowship of neighbors strolling to and fro. Besides, the warmth of a snifter full of brandy was never more than a short distance away in?side a friendly pub.
The tenant at 7 Mornington Place was in love with the neighbor?hood, perhaps because for the .rst time in his twenty- seven years he was living in a decent borough and was free to do as he pleased. Recently he had purchased a new Raleigh bicycle equipped with the latest in safety brakes, and every night he leisurely rode through Mornington- Crescent and absorbed the sights, sounds and smells. Then he turned those impressions into controversial, hence pop u lar, articles for which he was paid a decent living wage.
This evening he had decided to look in Regent's Park, which in the past always had been a good environment for source material. He had pedaled all the way to York Gate on the narrow Outer Circle and the well- kept, familiar beauty of the green lawns and low over?hanging trees softened by the constant mist had not even registered on him. He seemed to be within a dense fog of his own creation. When he reached the curved .nger of the park's placid lake, how?ever, he suddenly recalled delightful summer afternoons of boating with sophisticated female companions, a bottle of chilled French wine, bread and cheese; the memory made him realize that he had not been able to curtail his own inner excitement and allow him?self to become the detached, yet passionate, observer that London?ers were so used to reading. It was as if he had bicycled .ve miles from Mornington- Crescent with blinders on. He hadn't even felt the cobblestones which normally were a constant source of jolts and a cause for new bicycle tires. He cursed his own lack of con?centration, then laughed. The reason was obvious. Later that night old friends and former classmates were coming over, and-- great Scott-- did he have a surprise for them.
He wouldn't have been out bicycling on this evening at all ex?cept that Mr. Hastings-- the intrepid editor of the Pall Mall Gazette-- had asked for three more articles by the end of next week. Yes, he was de.nitely behind in his work, for he had been devoting more time than usual to an obsessive scienti.c project in his private laboratory. He had also been spending more money than the articles-- no matter how well received-- had been paying. So it was imperative that he .nd material and .nd it quickly.
The mist was turning into a light rain. He wiped his handsome angular face dry with a large handkerchief. Wetness had caused his thick, dark- brown walrus mustache to droop. He imagined it made him look like an expatriate Rus sian bohemian living in Paris, so he rode no- handed for a short distance and used both hands to twirl the mass of hair back into shape. He reminded himself that he was fresh out of mustache wax and should pick up a jar the next time he was near the chemist's.
He rounded a turn, passed the Hanover Gate to the park and saw a very tall, thin and stately gentleman walking an equally tall and thin brace of Borzois. Perhaps an article about the striking physical (and psychological) resemblances between the own ers and their pets would do. He chuckled at the thought of receiving irate letters from royalty and commoners alike who happened to own bulldogs or bas?set hounds. The only problem was that he would not have time to research the various and sundry breeds and species of animals that humans liked to surround themselves with. Oh, well. Perchance that was material for a more leisurely time.
He steered around a cart carry ing milk cans, and as he passed he noticed that the horse pulling the cart suddenly lifted his tail and deposited a pile of feces in the middle of the road. A common enough occurrence, he thought, but what about the poor wretches who clean it up day in and day out? How did they (eastern Eu ro pe an immigrants, no doubt) feel about the eccentric excesses of the Duke of Clarence, for example? Was there humor in that? No, the subject was much too verisimilar and socially realistic for the cyclist's ro?mantic tastes. And he had no desire to imitate the venerable Charles Dickens. So he would just have to keep looking.
But after another mile of laborious pedaling, the cyclist had seen nothing more of interest and decided to stop. He left the Outer Circle, turned north on Prince Albert Road, then coasted down a hill that curled through great stands of elm and maple. He wheeled to a halt in front of the Regent's Inn, a gathering place for couples returning from vigorous walks through the park. He went inside for a pint and took a table near the great stone .replace. Bayberry logs were ablaze and radiated heat from the hearth. He removed his scarf and blazer, then loosened his tie.
He sipped his beer and looked around the room, listening for the spark of an idea. A couple in the corner was complaining that too many people used Regent's Park despite the November cold.
"What we really ought to do, love, is spend your next holiday at the seaside," suggested the wife. "Even the .shermen won't be about."
The husband concurred. "Being out of season, the rates would be cheaper, too."
The cyclist's face wrinkled up into a broad grin, and his brown eyes sparkled. He pulled a note pad and pencil out of his knickers and began scribbling. Why hadn't he thought of it before? The seashore was his favorite of all places within a half day's train ride from the city. He recalled-- more with relief than pain-- a week?end he had spent there a year ago January. He had gone with his wife- and- cousin, Isabel, to recover from a mild attack of exhaus?tion and tuberculosis. He had been teaching biology at the time, and Isabel insisted that he give up his dreams of becoming a great writer and inventor and devote all of his time to his job and mar?riage. She had become the champion for everything that he detested and demanded that he choose between her and his radical ideas. He had chosen himself, then. Now he allowed himself an ironic chuckle and penned a working title: "How to Go to the Seashore Married on Friday and Return to London a Bachelor on Monday."
He put his pencil down, drained his beer, leaned back and sighed. He might even get all three articles out of that experience. Add Isabel's knickknack- collecting aunt and a former student with both suffrage and seduction on her mind, and he just might have a whole damned book.
He was about to purchase another pint when he thought better of it and pulled his watch out of its vest pocket to check the time.
"Good Lord!" He exclaimed. It was half- past eight, and his guests were due to arrive anytime after nine. He grabbed his coat and hur?ried from the pub.
He leaped onto his bicycle and furiously began pedaling toward home. Almost immediately he came to the hill that a half hour ago he had so casually coasted down. He worked his legs hard and strained to increase speed, but the twisting grade was unusually steep. His breathing became labored, and he began perspiring un?der his clothes despite the chill. Uncomfortable, he hoped that his exertion would not ultimately result in pneumonia, a disease he had feared ever since an opposing grammar school rugger had kicked in his frail chest and collapsed his lung.
Finally he hopped off and pushed the Raleigh the last few yards to the top of the hill. As he walked, he wondered why bicycles were so primitive. They could be manufactured with gearing mechanisms designed to alter the revolutions of the wheels. Other machines were. Better yet, perhaps they could be out.tted with a lightweight power source such as an adaptation of the Daimler- Benz internal combus?tion engine developed by the Prus sians.
"Hmm" he uttered. Maybe he'd start working on that soon. The idea seemed in.nitely more simple than his current invention. He grinned, remounted the bicycle and quickly pedaled off. The dev il with articles on the seashore! Once his project came into his mind, he grew excited all over again and could think of nothing else. He had .nished the device in his laboratory that morning, and he could hardly wait for the reactions of his friends. True, the contraption needed testing, but still the occasion made him feel extremely proud and self- ful.lled. Despite a subsistence- level childhood and a beloved mother who always held the Bible over his head as a philo?sophic truncheon, despite his failure at apprenticeships, his chronic tuberculosis, his poor record at the university and the suffocating effects of his .rst marriage-- despite all this he was going to change history. Tonight his friends would be the .rst to know, and eventually the faculty at the Normal School of Science just might want to bestow an honorary degree on a former student who had been sent down seven years ago.
H. G. Wells got off his Raleigh in front of 7 Mornington Place, wheeled it through the gate and left it leaning against the side of the house under the archway.
"Mr. Wells," exclaimed the punctilious Mrs. Nelson as he hurried into the kitchen. "Where on earth have you been?" She folded up the Daily Mail, poured a cup of tea, rose and handed it to him, then said, "You shouldn't be gadding about on that machine of yours in weather like this."
"The weather's always like this," he replied to his house keeper, then took a large gulp of tea.
"But a man in your condition--"
"I've never felt better in my entire life."
She shook her head and sighed. "That's what Mr. Nelson said. The day before he died, God bless him."
H.G. ignored her remark and drained his cup. "Is anyone here yet, Mrs. Nelson?"
"No, sir." She looked up-- her eyes sparkling-- and added with a touch of sarcasm, "Of course, if your friends are like you, we can expect them to be late, can't we?"
"If it's fashionable," he retorted with a smile. Then he placed his cup and saucer on the counter and turned to leave the room.
"I've laid out a sweater for you," she said affectionately. "There's a chill in the drawing room."
"It's not a drawing room, Mrs. Nelson, it's a library."
"Call it what you like, sir, but the fact is--"
"I'll put another log on the .re." He left the kitchen.
Mrs. Nelson returned to her Daily Mail, but couldn't concen?
trate. She violently disagreed with every opinion Mr. Wells had ever voiced to her, especially his views on religion and marriage. What was it he had said? Oh, yes. Ninety- nine percent of all marriages either end in revolt or passive endurance. And: If God exists, how could he allow nature to be so mindlessly cruel? Wasn't that con?doning torture? When she had disapproved of his divorce, he had laughed and pointed out that if he were not single, she would not have a job. To her further consternation, he took delight in saying that there might be hope for the country after all if more conservatives like Mrs. Nelson ended up working for radicals like H. G. Wells. Still, being the man's house keeper was the most challenging and exciting thing that had ever happened to her.
She poured herself more tea and hoped that Mr. Wells would approve of the canap?s. She had spent the entire afternoon toasting bread, cutting it into small wedges, then spreading it with her own special cheese mix, relish and sausage. She sighed. Given the hour and the company, he would probably be more interested in the wine.
Which wasn't altogether true. For after adding three logs to the small .re that burned on the hearth, H.G. took one of the artistic little canap?s off the pewter hors d'oeuvres tray, tried it and found it delightful. As he munched, he saw that aside from the canap?s, Mrs. Nelson had laid out a handsome bowl of fruit, cheeses, bread, sil?verware, .ne crystal glasses and several bottles of a passable French claret. Candles burned behind the spread on the sideboard, and he smiled with pride and admiration.
He inspected the rest of the room. His house keeper had made it look bright and comfortable despite the lack of rugs, decent curtains and abundant furniture. The one settee had been freshly covered, the two red- velvet chairs cleaned and the imitation Chippendale desk polished.
H.G. was ecstatic. Mrs. Nelson had given the room both a digni?.ed sense of order and an air of warmth and comfort. She had trans?formed it from a place he used only to read into the perfect haunt for a scienti.c romantic such as himself. The room was now the ideal setting for his revolutionary announcement.
He knew that his friends would be pleased and surprised, for some of them hadn't seen him since the university days when he was subsisting in a West End basement room on the meager stipend of a pound a week. Ah, Mrs. Nelson! he thought. What a wonderful woman. He hoped that she would be his house keeper forever. Besides, what would a house hold be if everyone always agreed?
He hurried upstairs and changed into gray tweed trousers and his comfortable Norfolk jacket. Then he brushed his dark- brown hair and critically inspected himself in the mirror. He grinned as usual, for he liked his face; he felt that his sharp yet subtle features complemented his devotion to writing and inventing. And some?day he had no doubt that his affable countenance would attract a charming, sophisticated and intelligent woman; an emancipated woman-- both on the boardwalk and in the boudoir.
With a .ourish, he ran a comb through his mustache and was ready.
The guests began arriving shortly after ten o'clock, trickling in from various affairs they had attended earlier in the evening. Mrs. Nelson took their coats and hats and hung them in the hall cupboard, won?dering why Mr. Wells-- or anyone else, for that matter-- would want to impress gentlemen she suspected were bohemians or libertarians. Nevertheless, she remained polite and courteous and showed the guests into the drawing room qua library where Wells greeted them warmly. Then she closed the door to the room and gratefully went to bed, for it was almost eleven, and she was very tired.
In the library there was a brief interlude of awkward small talk about the post- university years, the guests realizing that whereas their careers had taken them steadily upward, Wells's grip on the bottom rung of the ladder seemed tenuous at best. Optimistic and bubbling with enthusiasm nonetheless, H.G. passed the canap?s around, then poured the wine and handed each guest a glass along with a person?able remark. Then, with a sweeping gesture, he directed them to make themselves comfortable. They occupied the settee and chairs and began sipping the claret. Since he had only enough furniture to seat .ve, H.G. remained standing, but that was .ne with him. He could dominate the conversation.
And so the evening began.
H.G. paced near the .replace liberally drinking his wine.
H. Ronald Smythe, now a myopic economist doing research for the Queen, was making a long- winded comment about the frivolity of .ction. H.G. listened patiently and waited. His slim and dashing .gure moved gracefully, yet was poised, for he always spoke with his entire body. His dark eyes never left Smythe's face.
"Fiction has always been falsehood, and I would even say that it encouraged crime," said Smythe. A half glass of wine had dulled his already pedestrian wit so that he didn't realize he was speaking too loud and repeating himself.
"I was never aware that books committed crimes," said James Preston, a barrister who intended to run for Parliament. "I always thought that men were the culprits."
Everyone chuckled. "Well, I should like to hear our host's comment," said Smythe, now the color of his maroon bow tie.
H.G. half turned. His voice was thin and reedy, yet con.dent. "First, may I compliment Ronald for his tenacious ability to put up with the Queen's unegalitarian views on .nance?"
The guests laughed, now completely at ease.
"We were discussing .ction and crime," the portly economist remarked dryly.
"So we were," replied H.G. "So we were. I'm not sure about the connection you've made, Ronald, but I would agree that it is a crime some things get published." He paused for another laugh. "It is also a crime that some things don't." His eyes sparkled. And then he launched into his discourse slowly, realizing had to put them in the right frame of mind for his announcement or they would de?ride him.
"We all want a world free from social injustice and moral sys?tems which give man less credit than the gorilla from which he ascended."
Only mildly interested so far, the surgeon, Leslie John Stephen?son, continually leaned out of his chair to take wedges of cheese and canap?s from the hors d'oeuvres tray. Famished, he didn't stop until he realized he had eaten almost half of the food by himself. Always concerned about his appearance and dress, he dabbed at the corners of his brooding mouth with a linen napkin, then inspected himself. There were several crumbs of cheese and toast on his lap. He carefully brushed the offending bits of food off his trousers and into the napkin, which he folded into a precise tricorn and placed on the table. Then he sipped wine, sighed, sat back, stroked his cleft chin and listened.
"You speak of crime, my friends," H.G. continued. "Crime exists because the British monarchy and the Church hierarchy oppress most of the people and let a privileged few do as they please."
"Are you implying that the Queen and the Bishop of Canter-bury are criminals?" Preston asked.
"Only that they do not know any better," H.G. replied, "Al?though in my view, Queen Victoria has sat upon men's minds like a great paperweight for almost one half a century. A rational man of intellect just might consider that the greatest social crime in recent history."
When the laughter died down, Stephenson cleared his throat and interrupted in a soft and musical voice that had a touch of cultured melancholy. "It doesn't matter what kind of society we live in. Crime will always exist."