Michael Kerins co-founder KerinsNaumov International Translation Competition

Hangar, porter, drumstick (or dumbstruck, I can’t read my writing),
Haunted, careful, ghost, pot, primrose, squirrel, aquamarine plump draft medicine learned swimming hopeful sapphire roll
The Mystery of the Identical Identity
Leo and Theo were unusual in that they almost never finished each other’s sentences
That was my opening slide for the talk on Twins – The Mystery of the Identical Identity 
Leo and Theo were born about less than twenty minutes apart and they had everything in tandem, except that one crucial thing. Leo was a Victorian and Theo an Edwardian.  They were as alike as two peas in a pod. 
After I had written the talk and rehearsed the presentation six or seven times I realised that I was haunted more by the mother and her side of the story than the actual event I was supposed to be covering. 
Leo the elder one was born fourteen minutes or so before Queen Victoria died. 
The end of an era.
Theo the younger twin was born nineteen minutes later into the empire of Edward VII. Theo was The First Edwardian. 
When news of this kind was spread and news like this spreads quickly all kinds of journalists and hacks presented themselves as some kind of Svengali figures with the promises of lasts and firsts.
The Last Victorian – The First Edwardian 
Their father, a greedy grasping man who was always looking for a fast buck, an easy turn thought that these two would make his fortune. He longed to escape the drudgery of job as a porter at a vegetable hangar in the fruit market at Covent Garden.  So when this remarkable feat of timing occurred his boys were paraded around circuses, fetes and fairs and were once presented on the pier at Brighton.
HM The King happened to be in town that fateful Thursday when word reached his ear that the very first subject to born under his stewardship was nearby, the child was presented to The King. The invitation was only for Theo and a nurse.  The King presented the little boy with a beautiful enameled squirrel. It was handmade in the Faberge works and had originally been commissioned for one of the King’s choursgirls. The squirrel was squatting on a bed of countryside flowers – cowslip, primrose, poppy, and a splendid dog rose. It was a lovely and very very valuable piece indeed. 
The other brother – the last Victorian got nothing. 
Their mother was dumbstruck and really she felt furious, but a clip around her earhole helped her understand that she had to be careful, and quiet. She had to understand, that there is no need for one boy’s misfortune to be born too early, for this to become her crusade. Why should that interfere with the whole family’s chance to make money? Despite being haunted by her own mother’s misfortunes at the hands, indeed the fists of an angry husband, she had more or less married the same angry, violent man. 
Theo’s fame only lasted a few years as Edward died after just nine years on the throne. No one was interested in him much after that. 
A newer King – a newer regime. 
My publisher was at the first talk on the Thursday and left without saying anything, which was not exactly unusual. A ghost, he flits in and out of my public events, silently.  What was unusual was his appearance at the Elgin Literary Festival, again silent – I saw him munching away on a chicken drumstick and then again he vanished. 

It turned out that we were in the same hotel and he left a short note – no more that a billet-deux. 
He wrote. 
“Forget about Leo and Theo – the real story is the mother’s and wife battery in the age before universal suffrage. “
His signature in his usual aquamarine ink made me think.
It was onwards to another book. Was my publisher being too hopeful, he is not an optimistic man, and can often come over as resentful? 
However change often happens with my narrative, I have what is to my mind a classic plot or storyline and then it merges and metamorphs into something different. That was the case of this my latest book on wife beating and domestic violence.  It was intended to be from a historical perspective. In the days before universal suffrage. The unusual setting was because the manner of storytelling I chose, was to voice the work as a time split. The story about domestic violence would be written as a now and then circumstance. The plot would cover violence in families where boys saw their mothers being beaten and acquired the behaviour as a norm. 
Men beat their women 
Women are beaten to submission at an early age, even before puberty and they accept this as a kind of love.  It is a learned behaviour and will roll from one generation to the next as chocolate eggs roll down hill at Easter. 
Writing this from a man’s point of view and a non-violent man at that posed me three real problems. I was swimming against the tide until I listed and then solved the triple dilemma. 
a)	The beatings themselves – what provoked them and how often did they occur.
b)	Interviewing real victims and recording without judgment their reactions and responses.
c)	The final draft, what should it look like? Novel, reportage, social comment?
As it happens it call came much easier than I expected I had no idea how common it was until I spoke on the radio about my “latest project” The station was inundated with calls and messages. One woman who asked to be identified spoke of her life as a witness, victim and most recently mother of children who lived in such circumstances. As the wife of prominent politician and the daughter of a former cabinet minister, her story hit the headlines. She never denied these men who regarded themselves as social doctors with the ability to dispense medicine. And the beatings were the exact prescription.  She remained married to the man, refused to divorce or separate from him, but thanks to the broadcast she also refused to be beaten any longer. 
Her campaign was named in honour of my book title 
“Slap-Happy Pappy.”
I also learned a lot from a perpetrator – who saw himself as another victim, as the innocent child who witnessed and accepted his father beating his mother.  He was reluctant to meet me and used his pseudonym “Sapphire Blue” as a kind of camouflage. We met in an online chatroom and I felt that he was in someway connected to the cabinet minister’s wife. 
My publisher had not been wrong, he knew what was possible, what I didn't know that in less than six months I’d have a plump manuscript, that even after some serious editing, would still have seventy-five thousand words.  A novel, a life style, a social commentary. 
Publishers Weekly referred to it as “a masterpiece”
The Guardian “stupendous” 
Deirdre Latimer on BBC Radio 4 “ Why does it take a man to make a woman’s story? ”
As for my publisher – He said nothing 
His signature, on the cheque, in his usual aquamarine ink made me a very rich man.

© Michael Kerins 2019