Footsteps of the Father
Over the next few months at two episodes per week l shall present the second of my late father’s unpublished novels. You may recall at the start of the year, in March l finalised the first of his self published novels in a serialisation comprising 29 episodes.
This time around there will be more ‘shorter’ episodes. Below is the synopsis he offered to the publishers.
Footsteps of the Father
The novel is set in the present time and is about one man’s search for inner peace, which he achieves through love. The time scale is early spring 2002 until late autumn the same year.
Steven McCann is a man haunted by death; the death of his brother in the Falklands, his mother, grieving at the loss of her younger son, and then, most critically, two years previously, his wife, Maria, in a car accident in which Steven was driving. Scarred both emotionally and physically, Steven tries to bury himself in his work as a Detective Chief Inspector in the Metropolitan Police but is suspended for alleged racism and assault on a prisoner. In the course of making the arrest, Steven is bitten by the HIV Positive suspect, adding to his mental anguish, before being declared uninfected.
Six months on, without his job, tortured by nightmares of his wife’s death, and feeling his sanity is teetering on the edge, Steven attempts clumsily and unsuccessfully to commit suicide. Then his father, from whom he is estranged, dies, and Steven goes to Wales to attend the funeral and to sort out his father’s personal affairs. McCann Senior was a Professor of History at Aberystwyth University, and Steven meets and is attracted to his French research assistant, Caterine. Caterine, still raw from her own recent divorce, recognises in Steven’s fragility of spirit, her own vulnerability, and the two are drawn together.
Steven, with no reason to return to London, decides to remain in Wales. He and Caterine become lovers and eventually fall in love. In deciding how to dispose of much of his father’s large library, he discovers a journal written by an ancestor, Dr John McCann, who served in Wellington’s Army in the Peninsula and at Waterloo. As a balance to and distraction from his possible prosecution on criminal charges, and self-doubts as to his sanity, Steven is drawn into the early 19th century, and the adventures of Dr John. He and Caterine, whose own ancestor died at Waterloo with Napoleon’s Imperial Guard, decide to follow in Dr John’s footsteps to Waterloo
and France. Steven discovers that John’s wife was also named Maria, as was his own wife, and both died in their husbands’ arms. Each man had lost a brother in warfare. He begins to identify with his ancestor.
As Steven and Caterine become closer, they discover much about each other; she has the ability to foretell the future while he is irresistibly drawn into the past. He becomes increasingly dependent upon her. His suspension problems become easier when his accuser develops full-blown Aids, finds Jesus and loses interest in DCI McCann.
His nightmares evolve from his wife’s death to that of a man shot in the Rue de Rivoli in a much earlier time, and increasingly Steven believes the victim to be Dr John. A second journal tells of Dr John’s assignment from Wellington to inquire into the death of Napoleon, and Steven turns his police skills to doing the same. The quest takes them both to St Helena, via Capetown where they are married, with Caterine’s premonitions becoming darker and centred on some, as yet unidentified, danger in Paris.
On returning to England, Steven is invited to Paris to accept an award on behalf of his father, and despite Caterine’s distraught protests, he goes, determined to confront and defeat his ghosts. In Paris he finally recognises what is important in his life, Caterine, and their love for each other. Despite this knowledge he is drawn inexorably to the Rue de Rivoli.
Caterine, alone in Wales, with the undisclosed knowledge of her pregnancy, is phoned by the Paris Police with the news that Steven has been involved in an accident and is critically ill. In his coma, Steven is drawn again into the half world of the dead where his parents, first wife, brother and ancestor, Dr John are waiting to welcome him. But even as Dr John extends his hand, Steven hears the voice of Caterine calling him and he turns away to choose life. He will recover and his search for peace has ended.