Tuesday, 19 July 2022

Burning Secret by R J Lloyd BLOG TOUR #BurningSecret @rjlwriteruk @matadorbooks @RandomTTours #BookExtract


In 1844 Enoch Price was born into poverty. An ambitious youth, he becomes a bare-knuckle fighter amongst London’s underworld. In debt to a violent and unscrupulous moneylender and facing ruin and imprisonment, he escapes to Jacksonville, Florida, abandoning his wife and three young daughters, a decision that will haunt him for the rest of his life. By the time he arrives in Florida, Enoch Price has become Harry Mason.

Through a series of thrilling and risky escapades, he plays an important role in the development and history of Jacksonville, building an extraordinary new life of political and financial notoriety, the shooting of a rival, and the concealment of a murder. Despite imploring his wife to join him, she declines, exhausted by his lies. Tormented by loneliness and guilt, Harry seeks solace through a bigamous marriage, leading him into a web of deceit as he tries to conceal his true identity and past. Meanwhile, lauded and enjoying popular success, Harry is elected in 1903 to the Florida State House of Representatives with the prospect of becoming State Governor. He advances his business interests through a series of corrupt practices, becoming a wealthy and successful politician. However, success brings neither happiness nor contentment, and, seeking redemption, Harry plans to return home - but life is rarely that simple as the First World War breaks out, the Spanish flu pandemic takes its toll, and the American government introduces prohibition. 

Will there be a good end for Harry, or will his secrets prove to be the death of him?

Burning Secret by R J Lloyd was published on 22 May 2022 by Matador. As part of this #RandomThingsTours Blog Tour, I am delighted to share an extract from the book today. 

Extract from Burning Secret by R J Lloyd


As he ascended the stone steps leading from the subterranean cells, the same thought returned. It doesn’t matter how hard you try; there’s always someone ready to take it from you. All you can do is fight until life wears you out, and all that’s left is home.

This was not how it was supposed to end.


Like the word of the Almighty, the command thundered down, echoing off the high-domed ceiling which dominated proceedings.

‘The defendant will stand. State your name, age and business.’

The court’s commotion died away. A man in his late thirties, of above-average height and stocky build, shuffled to his feet. He hadn’t shaved in several days, and his heavy, dark moustache was unkempt. He looked drawn and tired, yet his hazel-green eyes were alert and intelligent. Stepping forward, he took hold of the wide brass railing surrounding the dock, revealing the size and strength of his hands. He cleared his throat. ‘Enoch Thomas Price. Born Bristol 1844. Manufacturer of corset stays and...’ His voice faded, weakening to a dry whisper.

‘Is it Mr Rosenthal who represents you in your case of bankruptcy?’ asked the court clerk, one hand cupped behind an ear in exaggerated theatrical condescension. ‘Well, sir, speak up.’

Price nodded. His lips parted to form words, but none came. The judge impatiently waved him to be seated.

In black gown and stockings, the prosecutor, with the appearance of a crow in search of carrion, pointed an accusatory finger. ‘You, sir, are nothing more than a scoundrel. A common cheat, conducting your nefarious business in broad daylight, and you do so as proud as any peacock. Am I wrong, sir? No, sir, I am not.’

Price, shaken by the condemnation, looked to the floor. His public humiliation was not yet complete, and the loss of his liberty seemed assured.

‘By your simple omission of denial, sir, you have disclosed your guilt loud and clear,’ the prosecutor charged on. ‘All here see you for what you are and know you by your dishonest trade. You have the audacity, indeed the bare-faced temerity, to rely upon the good Mr Rosenthal,’ pausing briefly to respectfully recognise the barrister sitting opposite, ‘an acclaimed and honourable member of our profession, to keep you from well-deserved incarceration at London’s Coldbath Prison. Am I not correct? Answer, sir. Come, let us hear you speak.’

Before Price could reply, the tall, elegant figure of Mr Rosenthal rose effortlessly and, with a commanding presence, brought a stillness upon the court. With dramatic effect, practised over many years, he addressed the judge. ‘My Lord, most distinguished and learned eminence.’ He waited a moment to allow graceful acknowledgement of the compliment. ‘Contrary to my learned friend’s rhetoric, my client is of the highest repute. A respectable gentleman of this city. An honest businessman from a long-established family. A family with a revered tradition of fair dealing. He finds himself fallen on hard times, not through any fault of his own. No, indeed not. The debt, which misfortune has thrust upon him, will be met in full. Indeed, it is to be repaid with the utmost alacrity.’

The plaintiff, Richard Dyson, the owner of warehousing on the London docks, leapt from his seat. Encouraged by a crescendo of jeers and catcalls from the clamour of those in the public gallery, he pushed his way malevolently towards Price. ‘It’s bloody nonsense! It’s bollocks!’ he sneered. ‘He’s a dishonest shit. He ain’t got no means. He ain’t even got a pot to piss in.’

‘Only cos you’ve filched it!’ shouted a raucous heckler from the gallery, provoking howls of laughter from the assembled onlookers, many of whom were regulars at the court’s daily spectacle. The court usher moved to block Dyson’s way, raising a stout wooden staff, ready to repel further progress.

Judge William Hazlitt, bewigged and cloaked in scarlet, looked on impassively from his elevated position. A single knock of his gavel was enough to halt Dyson in his tracks. The court fell silent in bated anticipation. 

R J Lloyd is the great-great-grandson of Enoch Price. 

A former senior police officer and detective, he has used his investigative skills to fashion this dramatised account of his ancestor’s extraordinary life. 

Fifteen years of genealogical research and interviews support the various factual strands of his debut novel.

Twitter @rjlwriteruk

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