Author: Jackson Marsh
Book: The Stoker Connection
Page/Word Count: 95K words
Categories: Gay Romance, Mystery & Suspense, YA
Release Date: June 23 2018
What if you could prove that the greatest Gothic horror novel of all time was a true story?
Dexter and Morgan meet on their eighteenth birthday. The attraction is instant but confusing. As they deal with coming out, they are bound together by more than first love.
Both keep diaries, and each has the same goal – to prove that Stoker didn’t write ‘Dracula’. They are convinced that Harker, Van Helsing and the others existed and wrote the novel’s journals themselves. If Dex and Morgan can prove it, they will blow the lid off the vampire myth: Dracula existed.
As the two teenagers fall in love, so they fall into an adventure as thrilling as it is dangerous. They are being watched, and someone is willing to kill to stop them from making ‘The Stoker Connection.’
The Stoker Connection is an MM Romance treasure hunt thriller. It draws on the original text of ‘Dracula’, but it is not a story about vampires. It is a story of first love and the power of friendship. Sometimes funny, it is an intriguing and honest account compiled from Dex and Morgan’s original diaries.
Excerpt: Dexter Mitchel’s Diary
I knew I had to say something. He was looking expectantly at me, and to ignore him would be rude. I stuck out my hand on impulse.
‘Great questions,’ I said, my throat dry.
He took my hand, damp with sweat, and shook it.
‘What a let-down,’ he said, jerking his head towards the stage.
‘Hell, yes. Not what I wanted to hear.’
‘I know the play wasn’t about Arnold’s theory, but she must have looked into it.’
We were still shaking hands.
‘You’ve read the book?’ he asked.
‘Loads of times. You?’
He nodded. ‘You’re the only person I’ve met who’s even heard of it.’
‘Ditto. You believe it? His theory?’
Hands still being shaken, voices enthusiastic, my lust-muscles now in hopeful overdrive.
‘I do, but I have one of my own.’
I grinned. ‘Me too.’
I was aware that my palm was wet, and I glanced down. It was a bit embarrassing to still be holding hands now, so I opened my fingers to release him. He didn’t open his. OMG, was that a signal of some sort? He was gorgeous. A moment of social ‘What do I do?’ and I gripped his hand again, sending my own signal.
‘Sorry you didn’t get to ask anything,’ he said as if it was his fault.
‘I didn’t need to. You did it for me.’
He looked surprised and then impressed. We were the same height, more or less, so I was able to look right into his eyes. I saw something there. Something that I couldn’t quite grasp at first.
‘Would you…? No, forget it,’ he said, and let go of my hand.
‘What?’ I continued to grip his.
‘Just a thought.’ He pulled his hand away.
That was that, then.
‘Dexter, are you ready?’
Mum was at the door. I don’t know how long she’d been there, but she would have been there long enough to see us holding hands.
‘You have to go,’ he said, a matter of fact rather than a disappointed enquiry. ‘Yeah.’ He received a disappointed reply. ‘Birthday dinner with family.’ ‘Dexter?’ Mum insisted.
I told her I would be there in five minutes and she made it clear it had to be two, which made me feel ten years old, but at least she left us alone.
‘Look,’ he said, as soon as she had gone. ‘I’d like to talk more, about Arnold’s theory, and about my own. If you’re interested?’
‘Yes please,’ I blurted, sounding lame. I recovered. ‘Dexter Mitchel.’ Except I tapped my chest like I was Tarzan when I said it.
‘Me Morgan Davis.’ He did the same, with a Tarzan voice, and I knew then that we were going to hit it off.
The question was, to what extent?
Actually, the pressing question was when? I fumbled for my notebook and tore out a page. ‘My email,’ I said, trying to write neatly (a gift I have yet to receive). I must have looked like a flustered waiter who’s just been torn off a strip. I handed it to him so hurriedly I dropped my notebook.
‘My card,’ he said, coolly offering a white business card and taking my scrap of paper.
His name and email were all that were on it.
‘I’ll message you,’ I said, picking up my book and noticing mum back at the door.
Upright again, I added, ‘I’d invite you, but it’s on the uncle and aunt.’
‘You would invite me?’ he said, eyebrows raised. ‘How kind.’
Who says ‘How kind’ like that? Morgan, obviously. Perhaps he was much older than he looked.
‘Yes, I would, but I can’t. Let’s talk, yeah?’ I had to move away from him, I had to go. I was desperate to stay and learn more. I mean, who else out there has even read this book, let alone had a theory about it?
‘I’ll write,’ he said. ‘Email me.’
A sudden thought attacked out of left field, and I don’t know why I did it, but I took back the scrap of paper and wrote, ‘I’m gay,’ before handing it back and saying, ‘Don’t let that put you off. It’s not why I want to write to you.’
‘Dexter.’ The last warning from mum.
‘Tomorrow,’ I said, suddenly sick inside. What the fuck had I just done? And why? Too late to worry now, I’d done it. ‘I’ll email you tomorrow…’ I was heading for the gents so I could change, bright red and trembling.
‘I won’t, Dexter,’ he called after me. ‘And have a birthday drink for me too.’
It stopped me in my tracks. Sod the Adams family currently gathering at the Metropole. They could fester for another minute. I spun around to find him facing me. We were both grinning.
‘For you?’ Did he mean it was also his birthday?
‘Today.’ He made a small bow.
‘Mum?’ I pleaded towards the exit. She shook her head. Even randomly meeting a stranger who shares the same obscure interest and birthday was not enough to get him an invite.
‘How old?’ Morgan asked, and I didn’t find it intrusive.
‘Eighteen. You?’ It was easy to ask.
He did that friendly wink again. ‘Would you believe eighteen?’
No fucking way. ‘Today?’ I glared at mum again. We had to invite him.
‘We would invite you,’ she told him. ‘But it’s not up to me.’
‘No, no, of course not, don’t worry,’ he said, all smiles and thanks. ‘I have a journal to write up in any case.’
‘Fuck off!’ That was out of my mouth before I knew it. ‘I do that too.’
We stared at each other until he said, ‘These coincidences are a veritable prison, and I am a prisoner.’ An altered quote from the end of chapter two (‘Dracula’ obviously). He nodded to me. ‘I’m away from my email until tomorrow night, but I’ll be waiting to hear from you.’
‘I’ll write,’ I stammered back.
He waved my piece of paper at me as he left. ‘I do hope so.’
About Jackson Marsh:
Jackson was born in 2017 as the penname for me (James) so that I could publish my new gay fiction independently from my other writing work. I was born on the south coast of England during a blizzard, but now like to warm thing up with MM romance novels, gay mysteries and some occasional erotica. In 2007 I was awarded and EGPA award for my erotic short stories, and in 2018 I won a Best Screenplay award for one of my films. I am a diverse writer with thrillers, comedies and horror stories under my James belt, and now romance and mystery under my Jackson belt.
At the moment I am concentrating on two genres: older/younger MM romance, and youth mysteries with early 20s main characters and a love story included.
I live on a Greek island with my husband. My interests outside of writing and reading are outdoor pursuits, traveling, piano and genealogy. That’s probably why my books tend to involve characters who are musicians, writers, mystery-solvers and rock climbers; there’s a bit of me in every one.
Interview with Jackson Marsh:
Your characters in ‘The Stoker Connection’ believe that the novel, ‘Dracula’ was based on real events. Do you believe the same thing?
In ‘The Stoker Connection’, my two main characters, Dexter and Mitchell, are one-hundred percent convinced that the events that unfold in Stoker’s novel, ‘Dracula’ actually happened.
I am not. I don’t believe in vampires (and neither to Dex and Morgan and the story is not about proving that vampires exist). However, Morgan and Dex do believe that they have hit on something historically significant and when they first meet, they realise that they no longer have to work alone.
They also feel an instant attraction to each other, and their way forward is complicated by their developing love, their individual coming out, their friends and family.
Throughout the book, Morgan and Dex firmly believe in love, as do I. But more than that, they have a firm belief in the importance of friendship – as did the characters in ‘Dracula’. I am with Dex and Morgan all the way as they journey through the painful reality of coming out, the joy of first love and the crushing beauty of platonic friendships.
Where I pause and take stock, however, is when we come to proving their hypothesis: “Bram Stoker collated existing diaries and journals, changed a few names and then presented a true story as fiction.”
I mean, why not? It is such a fantastical story that no-one would believe it was real, so he had to present it as fiction. That was the only way anyone would take it seriously.
It’s a nice idea that Dex that Morgan came up with, and I followed their trains of thought. When Dexter hit upon numerology as the key to unlocking the clues left behind by Stoker in his manuscript, I found it hard to stay cynical. Where does coincidence stop and something more spooky begin?
There is also the plotline in ‘The Stoker connection’ where someone is trying to prevent Dex and Morgan from achieving their aim and this I am more inclined to believe would be real. Imagine if there was someone out there (a secret society, an individual, or a family sworn to keep the secret) who would do anything in their power to prevent the truth from being known. We don’t have to imagine very hard, thanks to the likes of Dan Brown and ‘Angels & Demons’ etc. These kinds of organisations and individuals exist. In Dex and Morgan’s world, they have proof, they think, that they are on to something important because of what has happened to others who have tried to do the same thing; they were killed.
I believe that should something like this actually happen – someone sets out to prove that, basically, Stoker didn’t create ‘Dracula’ but merely collated existing documents – there would be a flood of cynics shouting against the theory. There would also be those who didn’t want that truth known. Imagine: someone proves that Dracula was a real person, came to England and was a vampire. What would that mean? Dracula fans would go wild, vampire believers would have a field day (or night), and there would be a lot of anxious religious communities. Okay, so that’s a bit ‘Da Vinci Code’, but there’s more truth in that story than many people realise. Why should there not also be truth behind ‘The Stoker Connection’?
So, in that respect, I believe what Dex and Morgan believe. It is possible that ‘Dracula’ is nothing more than a compilation of other people’s journals and diaries and Stoker saw the value in presenting it as a novel. I mean, why not? And better, what if it could be proved?
What is more interesting than asking me if I believe what Dex and Morgan believe, is to ask the reader, and I look forward to hearing reader feedback on ‘The Stoker Connection.’
I only hope I haven’t upset any vampires.
Where to find Jackson Marsh:
This contest is hosted by the author and/or promotional company, and Jessie G Books does not have access to any data collected as a result.