From today, a new version of the novel is available, from MX at least (it may take a little while for the product to reach other retailers). I have corrected two or three grammatical mistakes and made a few improvements to the text. If you have already bought the book, you might like to know what these changes involve.
Let me see. In Chapter I, the details of the sleeper-train to Edinburgh that Holmes catches are now given precisely: it is the 9.30 from St. Pancras. I like that kind of specificity, don’t you? It makes the story seem more real. But I only recently discovered how the trains were running back then, so I couldn’t put it in the story until now.
In the scene where we first hear tell of the Cathedral Archivist, from Sergeant Flett in the Police Station, for some reason I miswrote his name as ‘Bailey’; it was, of course, Balfour, as many readers will remember. The error is now corrected. Lizzie’s surname is also restored from ‘Grey’ to what it should have been all along: McCoy. (Using the ‘replace’ button at such a time is hazardous; one is likely to be left with references to the popular song ‘Goodbye, Dolly McCoy,’ or even with the description of ‘a cold McCoy morning’; but I trust that I have avoided such pitfalls.)
Chapter XII, which is the second part of the story about what happened in the Reign of the Crow, is now entitled: ‘The End of the Tale.’ I imagined that some readers would be anxious by this point, thinking: ‘How long is this story going to last? When do we get back to the main plot?’ So it seems fair to reassure them that the story will go on no longer than one more chapter. Then they can settle down and (I hope) enjoy it.
The remark about the corruption of ‘Tura’ into ‘Thora’ seemed both out of place and obvious, so I have omitted it. The description of what happened at the witches’ meetings has been made a little clearer and more explicit. The second of the patterns drawn by Lizzie over the breakfast-table is slightly different, and more powerful. I feel that I cut the description a little short last time, and missed a vital part of the design out. The conical hat on the little girls’ witch-effigy was a mistake, and is gone.
Most significantly, the final dialogue between Holmes and Watson is extended a little, both by a discussion of the possible future for witchcraft, with Watson suggesting that it might appeal to medical students; and by some discussion about the unresolved injustice of this case: the suppression of Mr. Tollemache’s book. Holmes offers a possible solution to the latter problem: he proposes to hire a poor scholar to go to Trowley and complete Tollemache’s project as best he can; the results to be published at Holmes’s expense, as a memorial to the dead man. Watson thinks this an admirable assignment for someone. Whom does Holmes propose to send? You may be able to guess the answer to that, my friends. It is rather a satisfying twist in the tale.
There is also one change that I thought of making, but didn’t, although I do think that what I was going to write is true in the world of the story. As a writer one knows a lot more about the story-world and its people than one actually writes down. The method of narrative is omission: leaving out a lot of stuff that doesn’t further the story. One fact that I omitted was that, when Holmes was considering attending the party, near the end of the story, part of his motivation was to learn the Pictish name of the Goddess, and compare it to the one that he already knew from the Sudan. In the end I thought that little fact about Holmes to be superfluous to the flow of my narrative; but it is quite interesting, and I’m happy to share it with whoever reads this blog.