From the Friday, 27 July 1928 edition of the Motherwell Times:
In Issue #3, Persephone Wright and her team of Bartitsu-trained Amazons must race to prevent a terrorist attack that may have dire consequences for the entire world …
(… and yes, that it Persephone’s uncle – Bartitsu founder Edward Barton-Wright – to the right on the cover).
Inspired by the Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy, Australian author Mark Lingane’s novella The Second-Story Girl is now available from Kindle Worlds. A significant proportion of the story is set at E.W. Barton-Wright’s Bartitsu Club, which, in the “world” of the Suffrajitsu stories, secretly serves as the gymnasium and headquarters of a group of suffragette activists and bodyguards known as Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons.
Here’s the synopsis:
London, 1910. Spoilt and wild, Genevieve Cranston is a party girl with little to live for when her reckless lifestyle flings into the gutters after the suspicious death of her father and the mysterious disappearance of her younger brother Lindsey.
Rescued, redeemed and trained for action by the radical suffragette Amazons, Genevieve will stop at nothing to find her missing brother. She is soon caught up in a dense web of deceit and double-dealing, as both sides of the political landscape manoeuvre to shape the future of the free world.
Time is running out, war is on the horizon and Genevieve needs to grow up fast. Lindsey is an important player in the game of cat and mouse, and with the aid of some gifted friends, Genevieve is hell-bent on saving him, and upon revenge.
We’re very pleased to be able to bring you this interview with Michael Lussier, whose new novella The Isle of Dogs is now available via Kindle Worlds.
The Isle of Dogs is a dark, hard-edged mystery/revenge drama inspired by the Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy, in which Bartitsu plays a key role.
The story pits Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons against an insidious new enemy:
“London: July, 1913.
The body of a young socialite is pulled from the Thames, her suicide note hinting at blackmail, conspiracy and corruption in high places.
Meanwhile, a mysterious street gang is moving through the East End with military precision. leaving a trail of murder and mutilation in its wake.
Enter Persephone Wright and her outlaw band of Bartitsu-trained suffragette Amazons, who will stop at nothing to avenge a fallen comrade …”
Q: What was it that first attracted you to writing stories set in the Edwardian era?
M.L.: Style and personal taste have a lot to do with it. I’ve always been a voracious reader, and there was something about Victorian and Edwardian literature that enchanted me when I was young. I grew up reading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Louis Stevenson, the Brontës, Bram Stoker, G. K. Chesterton, Baroness Orczy, H. G. Wells, Arthur Machen, Kenneth Grahame, and Oscar Wilde. I even enjoyed – god help me – that occult oddball Edward Bulwer-Lytton.
Q: And what was it about the Foreworld Saga?
M.L: I am particularly drawn to the Foreworld because there are still huge areas of Edwardian society that have rarely been explored outside of academia. Suffrajitsu is a breath of fresh air, in that regard. It isn’t so much historical revisionism as it is a shadow history of people who were shoved to the margins because they were poor, foreign, queer or female.
2) Can you describe some of the challenges in writing The Isle of Dogs?
M.L.: The amount of research that needed to be done was staggering.
I never imagined that I would spend more than a couple hours of my life studying Burke’s Peerage or exploring the links between C. & E. Morton’s Bloater Fish Paste and the Millwall Athletic Football Club. Poor naïve bastard: I sacrificed whole days and weekends to these subjects.
3) What were the most interesting discoveries you made during your research?
M.L.: My story concerns the activities of a revived Hellfire Club, so I spent quite a bit of time researching contemporary attitudes toward sexuality.
There is a misconception that the Victorians were essentially prim, high-minded eunuchs. This isn’t even remotely true.
Q: So what were they?
M.L: Several popular music hall songs of that period that are far filthier than anything I’ve ever heard in a bar or machine shop. I’m not talking ‘saucy’ or ‘bawdy’. Eskimo Nell and Kafoozalum are vulgar, profane and ribald on a level that surpasses Lil’ Kim and Too $hort.
I also came across an obscure genre, which I call Erotic Biography. Probably the best known examples are Walter’s My Secret Life and The Romance of Lust. These are explicit memoirs which detail an anonymous gentleman’s sexual development and experiences over the course of many years and several volumes. They portray Victorian upper-class sex as ravenous, male-oriented, compulsive and predatory. Maids and serving girls were obliged to observe the droit du seigneur, prostitution was commonplace, pregnancies were disowned, any female age nine and above was considered fair game. These stories are Dickensian in a really disconcerting way.
4) In what way(s) would you say the themes of the Suffrajitsu series are relevant to us today?
M.L.: Suffrajitsu is the intersection of many fascinating underground streams. Feminism, ‘mixed martial arts’, drug addiction, homosexuality, violence against women, police intimidation and institutional intolerance. These are issues and subjects that are still incredibly pertinent to 21st century readers.
Q: What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
M.L.: Read as much as you can, and study the techniques of your favorite authors. Sit down and write every day. Don’t worry about quality at first – no piece of writing is ever very good before the first revision. Find an editor and listen very carefully to his/her advice. Take your reader feedback with a grain of salt.
Q: Is there anything else you’d like to share with readers?
M.L.: When I was young, there was a truism in advertising that declared the most coveted market demographic to be men between the ages of 18 and 49. This is no longer true, although for the most part nobody in power wants to admit it just yet.
Women are emerging as a very powerful consumer block. They represent 60% of the world’s population and 78% of gross domestic product. I’ve seen reports that suggest that women will soon control two-thirds of the consumer wealth in the United States. They are, for the most part, better educated and more media savvy than their male counterparts.
Additionally, young women are entering into fields that were once considered male-only; music, law, video gaming, martial arts, etc.
As the economic clout of women grows, so too will the visibility of their issues and interests.
Having spent so much time with Emmeline Pankhurst recently, I cannot help but wonder how she would seek to leverage this power in pursuit of equality in a country where the Violence Against Women Act can barely make it through Congress.
Michael Lussier has been a machinist, an orderly in a psychiatric hospital and (on one occasion only) a celebrity babysitter. He is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Bartitsu, which can be found online here. As a general rule, Michael hates to talk about himself.
On a rainy London evening, Persephone Wright spars with her Uncle Edward in the Bartitsu Club … but later:
Shocking events propel the Amazons into a daring rescue mission against a sinister enemy, far from the familiar streets of London …
Issue #2 of the Suffrajitsu graphic novel trilogy is now available via comiXology. Readers who have purchased the series via Kindle from Amazon.com will find Issue #2 automatically downloaded to the end of Issue #1.
The release of Kingsman: the Secret Service promises to introduce a new generation of film-goers to the weaponised umbrella, a time-tested motif in anime, comic books, film, literature and television. The bulletproof Kingsman umbrella comes equipped with all manner of gadgets, from a stunning projectile launcher to a TASER bola, as seen in this video:
However, while this fictional high-tech development in defensive bumbershootery is undoubtedly impressive, it is well worth noting that there has been a hundred-plus year history of attempts to weaponise the humble brolly in real life. These have included the development of martial arts techniques as well as the invention of actual, combat-augmented umbrellas.
As early as 1838, the Baron Charles de Berenger suggested several ingenious methods for using an umbrella in defence against highwaymen and ruffians, including simply shooting straight through it with a flintlock pistol:
In 1897, J.F. Sullivan proposed the umbrella as a misunderstood weapon in his tongue-in-cheek article for the Ludgate Monthy.
Only a few years later, Bartitsu founder E.W. Barton-Wright took the subject seriously in his two-part article series for Pearson’s Magazine, explaining the use of the umbrella and walking stick in self defence. The cane/umbrella were considered the first line of defence in the Bartitsu arsenal, which also included boxing, wrestling and jujitsu.
After the London Bartitsu Club closed under mysterious circumstances in 1902, instructors Pierre Vigny and his wife, who is known to us only as “Miss Sanderson”, continued to teach the use of umbrellas and parasols as defensive weapons. By 1908 the concept had made its way to the United States, being taught at the Philadelphia Institute of Physical Culture and featured in Popular Mechanics Magazine.
The remainder of the 20th century has seen the use of umbrellas as weapons of assassination:
… as well as numerous developments of the “umbrella sword” motif:
… and, of course, the Unbreakable Umbrella:
French news reports during mid-2011 suggested that the bodyguards of then-president Nicolas Sarkozy would soon be carrying a new defensive weapon – the Para Pactum umbrella. Reinforced with kevlar, the Para Pactum has apparently been tested against attack dogs and is also proof against knives, acid and thrown projectiles:
Unsuspecting pub patrons suddenly find themselves witnessing an epic fight between a single, umbrella-wielding gentleman and a group of thugs …
The hidden camera prank was inspired by this fight scene from the soon-to-be-released feature film Kingsman: the Secret Service, starring Colin Firth as suave secret agent Harry Hart, a.k.a. “Galahad”.
Issue #1 of the Bartitsu-themed action/adventure graphic novel trilogy Suffrajitsu: Mrs. Pankhurst’s Amazons is now available!
Set against the dramatic backdrop of the radical women’s rights movement in London just prior to the First World War, Suffrajitsu relates the adventures of Miss Persephone Wright and her elite team of Amazons – a secret society of Bartitsu-trained bodyguards who protect fugitive suffragette leaders from arrest and assault.
Persephone is the niece of Bartitsu founder Edward William Barton-Wright, who also features in the story, and his Shaftesbury Avenue gymnasium serves as the Amazons’ secret headquarters …
Suffrajitsu was written by author and Bartitsu instructor Tony Wolf, illustrated by Joao Vieira and is published by Jet City Comics. See our sister site, Suffrajitsu.com, for more information, including the strange-but-true history of the real suffragette Bodyguard society.
Reporter Cassam Looch attends the Kingsman: The Secret Service academy where he learns how to become the perfect Kingsman agent, including a suit fitting followed by an umbrella combat lesson with Bartitsu instructor James Marwood.