Synopsis1868, and bestselling author Wilkie Collins is hard at work on a new detective novel, The Moonstone. But he is weighed down by a mountain of problems – his own sickness, the death of his mother, and, most pressing, the announcement by his live-in mistress that she has tired of his relationship with another woman and intends to marry someone else. His solution is to increase his industrial intake of opium and knuckle down to writing the book T. S. Eliot called the ‘greatest’ English detective novel.
Of Wilkie’s domestic difficulties, not a word to the outside world: indeed, like his great friend Charles Dickens, he took pains to keep secret any detail of his ménage. There’s no doubt that the arrangement was unusual and, for Wilkie, precarious, particularly since his own books focused on uncovering such deeply held family secrets. Indeed, he was the master of the Victorian sensation novel, fiction that left readers on the edge of their seats as mysteries and revelations abounded.
In this colourful investigative portrait, Andrew Lycett draws Wilkie Collins out from the shadow of Charles Dickens. Wilkie is revealed as a brilliant, witty, friendly, contrary and sensual man, deeply committed to his work. Here he is given his rightful place at the centre of the literary, artistic and historical movements of his age.
Part biography, part history, part intimate family saga, Wilkie Collins brings to life one of England's greatest writers against the backdrop of Victorian London and all its complexities. It is a truly sensational story.