( Read more... )
The issue with this story that I had not anticipated (I was worrying about coming across as whitewashing Raoul, or antagonising Americans by writing a grotesquely caricatured protagonist) is that the readers have spent most of the story wanting to know what 'Erik' is up to, what cunning plans he is going to unleash upon his opponents and how he is reacting to finding himself temporarily foiled. Everyone is waiting for the big showdown... and there simply isn't one. ( Issues with overlooked Phantom )
Chapter 6: Jos Confronts Christine
“He thinks the world of you,” Christine said softly, with a glance at the door. “I am so very grateful.”
And the smart thing to do would have been to leave it there. Take his thanks and go, and leave the lady to sing opera in peace for Hammerstein and the rest, with warm feelings all round. Only... he liked the pair of them, and maybe they were owed something more than that. Than just the easy way out.
“Nice guy — when he’s sober,” Jos said with a sigh. “What d’you reckon his chances at of staying that way? And... was there something you were planning on telling him sometime about the kid?”( Read more... )
I'm increasingly concerned that Raoul comes across as getting rather an 'easy ride' in this story — a magical snap of the author's fingers, and then he's the Perfect Father and Husband overnight. The trouble is, I think, that I'm basing these chapters on the corresponding scene in canon where he really does miraculously scrub up and vow to do better... but without the corresponding tension of the unspoken bet on his marriage, and without the Phantom lurking around in the background waiting to make his own claims on Christine. Having been prevented by a fluke from being taunted into his reprehensible bet in the first place, all that is left of the character here is his genuine attempts at reformation. Which makes it come across as if I arbitrarily decided that Raoul is really a Nice Guy because I want him to be :-(
I considered replacing "mon vieux" with "fiston" as Raoul's form of affectionate address to the child, having come across this in Violonaire's Fantômes -- but I'm just not confident enough with it, and a check on Google Ngrams suggests that while the term 'fiston' did exist in the literature of this period, it's a term that has only really taken off in the last generation or so. So I'd better stick with what I'm fairly sure of so far as the French goes!
Chapter 5: Before the Performance
There were police at the Manhattan Opera in the end, that night. Not in the auditorium or outside the gallery entrance — the Daaé had scribbled a note for McWhirter to enclose with the ticket, promising there would be no trap, and she was dead-set on keeping her word — but outside the star dressing room, where a couple of big cops tapped nightsticks lightly on their holsters like they were just spoiling for someone to start making trouble.
If Mr. Y took a fancy to try something, of course, it wouldn’t be that crude. Jos could have told them that, and Miss Daaé had to know it better than any. But if fixing up protection for her with the management made her husband feel warm and wanted — well, it was no business of his how the theater was run. For Jos Perlman, the job had ended at ten o’clock this morning, when he produced the missing artiste and her party at the door of McWhirter’s office, signed, sealed and delivered. Another foul-up cleared; another disaster averted. His specialty. He’d gotten a fat commission out of it, too... and if at half six that evening he found himself paying a backstage call at the opera house, then it was purely on his own account. Besides, he told himself, he had to make sure she’d gotten everything she needed after their little undercover exit.( Read more... )
In which Jos finally meets Christine Daaé, and she isn't — in several unsettling directions — entirely what he had expected.
Chapter 4: Ah, Christine!
Even caught flushed and off-guard in her morning wrapper with a cup of coffee in one hand, Christine Daaé in the flesh was quite some lady. As exquisite as the room that framed her — why, if he hadn’t had more sense, he might have thought the place had been designed express for the purpose. Hard to see how any man could have problems waking up next to that, Jos thought, unguarded... then took stock of the set unhappiness in her eyes that was a constant silent reproach.( Read more... )
And the other material I've been working on this week...
I'm amused to gather from reviews that what I hear as 'Americanisms' the US readers hear as 'period talk' -- appropriate for this setting, of course, but it certainly dates the material from which I obtained this vocabulary!
Chapter 3: Once Upon Another Time
“I guess... what we do don’t always look too good, when you step back,” Jos said slowly, measuring out words like sips at the rough liquor he still nursed. Round here the stuff could strip your throat numb, if you let it. But it numbed other things. “Not too good, or too wise, maybe. But then it comes hard when your fairytale romance has you all set to fight off the dragon to save the pretty maid, and you wind up as the prince in ‘Rapunzel’ instead.”( Read more... )
One thing I hadn't anticipated when I started writing this was that I was going to pick up a genuine French-speaking reader on fanfiction.net! I did do my best on the 'back-translation' for the French-tinged English here, but I hope the outcome isn't going to be too embarrassing...
The language problem is, of course, something that gets brushed under the carpet by Lloyd Webber for the sake of simplicity -- one can assume that Christine, Raoul and Gustave naturally speak French in their scenes together, and that Christine and the Phantom conduct their relations by default in their shared native language, but the reporters at the dockside can't possibly be speaking French when they shout questions at the little boy, and when Christine accosts Meg without recognising her she has no reason to suppose that this showgirl understands anything other than English either — nor Raoul in his rant to the barman. So apparently everybody is effortlessly bilingual.
Since my viewpoint character is obstinately monoglot, I, however, had to address the issue.
Chapter 2: Why Does She Love Me?
The husband. Which made him the one who signed the cheques. Connections began to come together with an almost audible mental click.
Jos had been steadily coming to the conclusion that someone had gone to a lot of trouble to whisk Christine Daaé out of Oscar Hammerstein’s reach — someone with influence on both sides of the law. But this husband of hers was another matter altogether. Hard to imagine anyone covering up for the likes of him... but when it came to enforcing contracts, he might turn out to be just the leverage the Manhattan Opera company needed.( Read more... )
I see that I finished writing this at the start of October, which indicates just how long it has taken me to push it (and myself) through the 'beta' process!
The original "American-picking" beta eventually dropped out after a series of month-long gaps, not all of which was her fault, and I was very lucky to pick up a replacement who steamed through the remaining three chapters in nine days -- the delay had at least given me time to get the whole thing typed up, which is always laborious for me. He found a lot more lapses in chapters 4 and 5 than the previous beta did in Ch1–3, as well, which makes me a little nervous about the earlier chapters...
After going through various Hammerstein-related titles I eventually settled on simply "The Daaé Case", since if the story is being seen from Jos's point of view every case he's involved in is some kind of 'Hammerstein Affair'! And I think that version conveys the 'private eye' overtones of the story well enough.
The Daaé Case
Chapter 1: Christine Disembarks
“What do you mean, the Daaé’s disappeared?”
John McWhirter was a big man with gray in his wiry black beard, but his voice had cracked into a schoolboy’s high-pitched incredulity, and Jos winced. When the boss blew his top, he could make you feel mighty small. And right now, in the face of a foul-up this colossal, Jos Perlman would give a fair sum to shrink clear away and out of McWhirter’s sight.( Read more... )
I came across the New York Times report on the real first night at the new Manhattan Opera, which ironically enough makes it plain that my hypothesis about the Opera House not being ready and the gala having to be postponed would have been entirely historically apt -- it wasn't really ready for the grand opening as it was. However, the idea of Christine going off elsewhere for several months to escape the Phantom threat wouldn't really wash after I'd made such a plot point of the moral imperative to get her there on the night she was due to sing for the Phantom instead, so in the end I just had her rely on his promise to let her and Gustave "go free" (even though in canon and even in this story he obviously didn't keep to that intention for very long; he was trying to trap Raoul by the small hours of the following morning, i.e. rather less than a day later!)
Anyway, I was able to pinch lots of ideas about what the Manhattan Opera and its clientele were actually like from the contemporary reportage. :-)( Read more... )
Wonderful inspiration this morning: I'd been worrying about how to make sure Christine gets paid if she plans to leave immediately after the gala, given that her contract presumably commits her to perform in the full opening season. I'd also been irritated by Lloyd Webber's sloppy dating, given that the real Manhattan Opera House opened in December 1906.
Then I suddenly remembered that Hammerstein had other opera houses elsewhere in America: why not send Christine off to Philadelphia instead while awaiting the real opening time? Admittedly this would involve redating the story to 1906 instead of 1907, but then that one wasn't my error in the first place!
Finally I checked the facts... and found that, sadly, the Philadelphia Opera House was actually opened two years after the Manhattan Opera, in 1908 :-(
But sadly for Andrew Lloyd Webber's plot, this opening night was actually December 3rd 1906 -- so Christine could hardly have been engaged "to open his new Manhattan Opera House" in summer 1907! Perhaps I should theorise that it was actually the start of a new season that she was supposed to be promoting... or simply feel at liberty to imitate the historical inaccuracy of the source material :-p
I thought I'd successfully patched last night's plot holes, ( Read more... )
Since it also raises big questions in canon about what the Phantom did to the real Hammerstein to prevent him from coming indignantly to look for his missing star (well, even bigger ones than those which already prompted this story), I'm tempted to put that particular detail down to a misunderstanding or to Raoul's elevated expectations of his family's importance to the Americans :-(
( Enter Jos Perlman, junior dogsbody for Hammerstein's organisation and would-be gumshoe in search of a missing soprano... )