My new novel is about revenge and how betrayals and broken dreams can turn someone into a killer. I’ve been watching a lot of crime programmes here in Holland on the ID Channel and have been noting how many of the murders have been motivated by revenge. One particularly horrific case was about a mother who killed all four of her children to get back at the husband who dumped her. That shocked me much more than all the men who killed their wives because they either thought, or they were, cheating on them. Maybe I have low expectations of men and believe them much more capable of heinous acts than women, which says a lot about my conditioning. Women are expected to be the caring, nurturing partner, the men the hunter-gatherers, so when a woman commits a murder she is judged much more harshly than a male counterpart.
Myra Hindley is a case in point. There have been men who have committed the same sort of acts that she did but she’s remembered because a) she’s a woman b) because as a woman she was able to lure the kids to their deaths c) she was the first female serial killer to be ‘discovered’ and was the subject of so much media attention. Obviously she wasn’t motivated by revenge and what she did doesn’t bear thinking about. But she shocked us into accepting that women are capable of committing those kinds of crimes.
Revenge is an act usually conducted after some time stewing over jealousies. It is cold and calculated but I wonder what, once the act is committed, what the revenger feels. I’ve had spats with people and secretly wished them ill. I’ve never acted on my feelings except when something bad happened to them I had a smug sense of ‘Serves you right’. But that feeling is short-lived and I can never hold onto that smugness for very long. Feelings of revenge that lead someone to murder are obviously much more powerful and I wonder whether once the act has been committed whether there’s any real satisfaction at all. So much time and energy has been invested in planning and executing the revenge, there’s a focus and purpose that drives people forward, so when that is no longer there, do they feel deflated rather than elated? I don’t know the answer to that and for my character in the novel I’ll have to use my imagination.
Earlier this year I worked collaboratively with my son, Elliot Nichol. He’s a fine art photographer living in Malta and a fine art exhibition in St Julian’s Bay. I used the images from the exhibition and wrote poems to accompany them that were on a Greek myth theme, which we then published in a book. (See http://www.elliotnicholphotography.com.) Here are two of them. The first is about Amphitrite who was Poseidon’s wife. Being a king he had lots of consorts and she had to put up with that.
Wild fruit of the seas,
the wash of tides covet her beauty.
In the lift and creak of the ocean
her power is beyond appearances
Here in the weft and weave
of water she waits
splinters of coral in her eyes,
stabbing pain of longing
for the ecstasy of being his.
She understands the language of the sea;
flutes of currents through shipwrecks,
folding dark echoing against rocks
clotted with smells of seaweed
and sea-bleached sand.
Yet the weeds of her mind are cruel;
scurry like crabs across trust,
unfurl an anger brittle as bone.
She threads storms to make a blanket,
catches the first breath of deceit.
The second poem is about Medea who gave a poisoned wedding dress to her lover’s bride; it burst into flames and killed her. She also killed all her children to get back at him.
The love you gave me
blisters my skin with lies.
You have betrayed me.
The gown I gave her
incinerates like passion—
she will not have you.
The children I bore you
scorch my eyes with memories.
Killing is easy