Blog Archives

The Slow Moral Collapse

Robert Brighton Author Interview

The Unsealing follows two attorneys as they descend into the world of corruption in the upper class during the Gilded Age. What was the initial idea behind this story, and how did that transform as you were writing the novel?

The Avenging Angel Detective Agency™ Mysteries are what I like to call ‘whydunits’ – not ‘whodunits’ as in the classic Agatha Christie type mystery. I like to explore what motivates people, sometimes very ordinary people, to do extraordinary things. (Many of which are criminal, immoral, or in shockingly poor judgment.) In The Unsealing, I explore the slow moral collapse of two initially high-minded attorneys and friends, who succumb to the temptations of wealth, power, and sex. It’s a very human story, but with the additional interest and complexity of being set in a very different time from our present day and one with very different attitudes toward just about everything.

I find that my characters reveal their stories to me gradually. There are times when something appears in my mind’s eye – a scene, a snippet of conversation, a sound or smell – without any apparent connection to the story I think I’m telling at the time. So I wait … and eventually the connections are revealed, and I write them down. I think of myself more as an observer than as a creator: I am emphatically opposed to making things up. If that all sounds a bit mystical, then I am guilty as charged, but it’s the way it happens to or for me. The title The Unsealing was (in part) inspired by this slow process of revelation, in which the characters themselves share with us more and more of their lives and innermost desires as the book progresses. I hope that readers will enjoy that unveiling of a story that my characters knew all along and which they chose me to write down.

Why choose this place and time for the setting of the story?

I grew up in Buffalo, and have always been fascinated by the place. In 1901, Buffalo and its neighbor, Niagara Falls – were the Silicon Valley of the day: a hive of innovation and bustling commerce across a number of industries. Buffalo was at the time the eighth-largest (and fastest growing) city in the United States, and it was in many ways ‘the place to be’ for the young and ambitious. Today, though, the city’s population is smaller than it was in 1890, while the United States’ population has expanded fivefold, and clearly the centers of innovation have gone elsewhere. How that happened and why – what seeds of decay were sown even in the city’s heyday – is a very intriguing and complex story, and one I like to tell. And that, too, is a human story – how it can take many years for bad decisions or bad karma to catch up to you. But they always do.

What were some of your inspirations as a writer?

I suppose that I’ve always been captivated by the written word’s mysterious ability (not unlike music) to conjure up thoughts and emotions in people I have never met, never will meet, or who may not yet be born. My greatest goal is to transport people to another place and time, show them things they can never see any other way, and then bring them safely back. If I think about artists who have inspired me, Emily Dickinson and Jim Morrison would be at the top of the list. Both of them were obsessed with the notion of peering beyond the boundaries of ordinary human experience and guiding us through those sometimes unusual psychological landscapes – and all at no risk to ourselves, other than a challenge to our settled ways of thinking.

Will this novel be the start of a series or are you working on a different story?

The Unsealing is the first in a series of books, the Avenging Angel Detective Agency™ Mysteries. Some of the characters from The Unsealing will continue on in future volumes, but many new ones will appear – and each book is a free-standing, independent story that does not require that one read the books in any order. That said, I think readers who follow along as the books appear will be rewarded with a deeper appreciation of the back-stories of their favorite characters. But it’s by no means a requirement. Thus far I’ve completed four Avenging Angel manuscripts, and they’ll be published over the next two years or so, and I’m working on the fifth now. If readers enjoy them, they’ll keep on coming.

Author Links: Website | GoodReads | Instagram

This highly anticipated debut novel by Robert Brighton is inspired by a true crime ‘murder of the century’ and transports us to Buffalo, New York, set against the backdrop of Gilded Age splendor and excess…
Named BookLife “Editor’s Pick” – “… Written with grace and power, capturing the moment that electricity lit up the world …”
Love, Lust, and Murder in the Gilded Age …
Buffalo, New York, 1901 … a muscular, young city, Queen of the Lakes … The Electric City … where the money spent to build Newport mansions and Park Avenue townhouses is made, plays host to the world’s greatest fair, the Pan-American Exposition and its 8,000,000 guests. Yet the city is only weeks away from disaster, when a crazed anarchist will assassinate President McKinley.
And less than a mile from the spectacle of the Pan-American, a web of love, lust, and intrigue is forming within the elite enclave of Ashwood. Alicia and Edward Miller may be one of Ashwood’s most envied couples, but inside the walls of their luxurious home, a toxic malice is brewing. When simmering and sultry Alicia falls for dashing Ivy League attorney Arthur Pendle, on whose mysterious income he and his longsuffering wife Cassandra – facing demons of their own – live fast and high, infatuation soon curdles into something sinister and obsessive.
Meanwhile, the beautiful Sarah Payne – who from girlhood has dreamed of becoming a detective – struggles to find fulfillment in a man’s world. Trapped in a loveless marriage to a dissolute dentist — who has become dangerously dependent on ether and alcohol — Sarah befriends the unhappy Ed Miller and is drawn into the deadly drama inside the Millers’ disintegrating marriage.
When Edward comes into possession of a trove of explicit letters from Arthur to Alicia – love letters, to be sure, but also a confession of much darker doings – he and Sarah, along with the Pendles, are plunged headlong into a deadly whirlpool of official corruption, graft — and murder.
Inspired by Buffalo’s true crime ‘murder of the century’, in The Unsealing Robert Brighton recreates a world at once utterly strange and strangely familiar. Pitting detective against detective, husbands against wives, and set against the backdrop of Gilded Age splendor and excess, The Unsealing is a gripping, psychological tale of forbidden pleasures and fathomless pain.
Contains three original interior scratchboard illustrations.
Join Robert Brighton on a journey into the real Gilded Age in an electrifying tale of scandal, love and murder – and the birth of the Avenging Angel Detective Agency. Get your copy today!

The Unsealing: Love, Lust, and Murder in the Gilded Age

The Unsealing by Robert Brighton is a riveting story that takes place from the 1880s to the early 1900s, around the earliest part of the twentieth century, in northern New York. It’s a quickly evolving period that involves coal mining, labor unrest, widespread protests, and a significantly different legal system that includes the electric chair. It’s an intense era that centers around an attorney, Arthur R. Pendle, and Terry Penrose, a district attorney. Together, they face a mounting level of criminal activity, corruption, shady practices by wealthy individuals, and many other challenging cases in court.

I found the story to be exciting, quick-paced, intriguing, but not too complex. The characters are unique and well-developed, with strong personalities that I could relate to. The further Terry and Arthur delve into their surroundings and the wealthy, upper-class society, the more they encounter corruption and a stark contrast between various members of society. Despite the dreary state of legal work, the author brings the fascinating world of hidden gambling dens, brothels, and shady building developers into vivid reality.

I really enjoyed the plot development, society, and how the characters’ lives adapt to unexpected changes around the turn of the twentieth century. The narration and dialogue are impressive, realistic, and colorful. It felt like I was present, in the room or scene with the characters, experiencing the intensity and stress of a situation. The author’s ambitious writing style captivated me, and I found the book easy to read and follow.

The Unsealing is a thrilling story that will keep you turning one page after the other from start to finish. I highly recommend this excellent book for the historical legal drama that weaves a bit of film noir into the theme. With a fantastic atmosphere and strong characters, this is a sensational story that fans of thrillers and well-drawn mysteries will surely enjoy.

Pages: 416 | ASIN: B0BQP4K93G

Buy Now From Amazon
%d bloggers like this: