The Bristol Connection

hogarth

William Hogarth’s 1756 painting “Sealing of the Tomb” displayed at St Nicholas Church in Bristol – © BBC.com

Ian Dennis didn’t look like a spy, which worked to his advantage. Although the MI6 man fancied himself a “Sean Connery” type in his youth, he was now middle-aged with thinning blond hair and a bit of a belly paunch.

No one gave him a second glance as he walked into the newly reopened St Nicholas Church in Bristol, which had been closed since World war Two due to bomb damage. Ian absolutely loathed conspiracy theories, particularly the pseudo-religious type depicted in those Dan Brown books, but if his source was right, the renovated triptych “Sealing of the Tomb,” originally painted in 1756 by William Hogarth, contained both ancient and modern clues to the identities of the people behind human trafficking.

In the 18th century, Bristol was a center for the transport of slaves to America. If the triptych’s clues bore out, then it was today as well.

I wrote this for the What Pegman Saw writing challenge. The idea is to use a Google maps place and street photo as the inspiration for crafting a piece of flash fiction no more than 150 words long. My word count is 147 (and on the first draft, too).

Today, the Pegman takes us to Bristol in the UK.

After finding its location using Google Maps, I looked up the local news and found this item at BBC.com dated 23 January 2018: St Nicholas Church closed since World War Two to reopen.

The church had actually still been open as a museum since sometime in the 1950s and displays what I gather is a quite famous triptych (three paneled painting) called “Sealing of the Tomb” painted by William Hogarth in 1756.

In looking up Bristol, I discovered it was heavily involved in the slave trade in the 18th century. I looked up William Hogarth thinking I might tie all of this together somehow and for a moment thought I had something. He’s buried at St Nicholas Church but in Chiswick, London, not Bristol.

The most controversial thing I found about him was that he was a Freemason and often used Freemasonry symbolism in his paintings. There are all kinds of Masonic conspiracy theories, but for 150 words, I wasn’t going to do that much work, so I made up some stuff.

I decided to revive MI6 agent Ian Dennis, last seen in the eighth and final chapter of my Mauritius Robbery Affair series. Since part of the theme involves slavery, I invoked a human trafficking storyline pulled from my Mikiko Jahn series.

Although Ian views fictional works such as Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code with distaste, I decided that’s exactly the sort of story I was going to write (I’ve never read the book nor seen the movie and after reading several reviews, have no intention of doing so).

One last thing. My work is purely fiction and yes, it does involve real people and places. However in no way am I suggesting that the actual William Hogarth was involved in slavery or any sort of criminal conspiracy, nor am I saying there’s anything sinister about the St Nicholas Church in Bristol or the painting “Sealing of the Tomb.” I made all that up just for giggles.

To read other wee tales based on the prompt, go to InLinkz.com.

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18 thoughts on “The Bristol Connection

  1. What an ingenious take on the prompt, James. I love your swipe at Dan Brown. You’re right to avoid his books; they’re the literary equivalent of Diet Pepsi (and I have read the Da Vinci Code, heaven forgive me).
    Your 150 words here sounds like the basis for a terrific plot, and with your gift for research, you could be the man to write it!

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    • I’d have to do a terrific amount of research and probably drag a few people through the fictional mud including Freemasons mining all the conspiracy theories on them I could. Besides, I’ve already done a series on human trafficking.

      I once thought I might want to read one or two of Brown’s books but then I read the reviews and especially Brown’s insistence that his junk history is perfectly accurate. I mean it would be different if he said “I made all that stuff up,” but he hurt his own reputation that way. On the other hand, people are gobbling up his books and movies like popcorn, so obviously something worked to his advantage.

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    • There are tons of photos online but for a really close look, you’ll have to go to Bristol. I also found out that a couple of days ago, a lost Laurel and Hardy short film was shown at some even in that city, but I couldn’t work it into my tale.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks. He doesn’t actually want to be Bond since a real covert agent would consider 007’s adventures to be ridiculous fantasy, he just wishes he had a younger and better looking body.

      Liked by 1 person

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