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Debut Book Release

 

The Symbol

ISBN-10: 1-77115-395-4
ISBN-13: 978-1-77115-395-9
Genre: Supernatural/Horror/Suspense/Thriller
eBook Length: 290 Pages 
Published: January 2018 Double Dragon Publishing

Dr. John Polidori, an Italian born physician, moves to London in 1814. His life is thrown into turmoil after meeting the notorious poet, Lord Byron. He discovers that there are reports of mysterious disappearances around Byron’s old country estate. 

Polidori takes over a story theme of Byron’s and begins writing his own story, The Vampyre. Traveling to Serbia to research his future book, he experiences terrible nightmares resembling those he’d had in his troubled childhood. When he returns to London, he is treated for the nightmares by his friend and psychiatrist, Alex Falding. However, the outcome is far from certain. 

A brutal, perplexing murder happens in East London, and Scotland Yard encounters a strange symbol at the murder scene. Is this hideous murder connected to Polidori’s interest in vampirism? Do Londoners need to brace themselves for a serial killer? 

This dramatic blend of Gothic horror, dark humor, and deep psychology sweeps you along to the story’s shocking conclusion. There, you discover the true meaning of The Symbol. 

Reviews

"The Symbol by Peter Fratesi is a captivating journey through territory superficially familiar, involving figures and events of early 19th century history that any lover of literature must know, but made fresh and vivid by the vantage of his chief witness Polidori. Knowing what is coming provides an intimate sense of excitement and dread as hints are carefully laid out, from encounters with a pre-Frankenstein Mary Shelley and immersion in the legends that we know will produce Stoker’s Dracula, to a view of the London East End’s desperation and danger before the Ripper. The language is evocative but not overwrought, and his fictional characters blend well with the historical figures, maintaining a consistent level of detail and interest. The horror is effectively executed with ominous clues and apparent dead ends of speculation, confidently abandoning the comforts of strict logic and tidy summaries to emphasize the confusion and vague foreboding that defines lurking, gothic fear. 

In fiction such as this there is the difficulty of having a relatable protagonist in a time of relatively backward social attitudes, and the absurdity of trying to solve this problem by simply inserting a person with enlightened, 21st century attitudes toward class and gender and sexuality and race into such a year as ~1815. Fratesi’s Polidori is almost unbelievably likable for where and when he exists, but he is young and naïve and somewhat sheltered by a rich upbringing, making his progressive and uncorrupted stance digestible. The issue still persists in the ability of Fratesi’s characters to be so direct and open even about personal subjects in a way that is natural to many of us today after the lifting of numerous taboos, but feeling out of place in a time of such antiquated customs. Making a choice between historicity and relatability, I think the right choice was made; giving his characters modern candidness makes the narrative more efficient, and for the most part it is a success. When the criticism is that some parts feel rushed along by the plot, this indicates that the setting was well-constructed and the reader wanted to stay longer. "

Mark Ferguson, Author

"A chilling tale that spans both decades and the European continent, Peter Fratesi's The Symbol is a fascinating read. A mix of horror and historical fiction, The Symbol tells the story of John Polidori, a troubled Italian noble who aims to make a name for himself in England's literary circles. Serving as Lord Byron's personal physician, Polidori befriends the artistic elite and before long, finds himself writing a novel based on one of Byron's discarded ideas.

Polidori's work begins to take on a life on its own; John is convinced that his fictional creation is somehow responsible for a string of gruesome murders and he goes to great lengths to ease his mind and stop his vicious conceptual monster.

Well written and well researched, The Symbol is a study in truth - both personal and empirical. Scientific reality is pitted against supernatural belief in an exciting manner; I particularly enjoyed the depictions of medical science and supernatural divination as they were practiced in the early 1800s. Brisk and thoroughly entertaining, despite the occasionally grim subjects at hand, The Symbol is well worth a read."

Sean Benham, Author

“Peter Fratesi’s debut novel is an impressive contribution to the genre of Gothic fiction. He expertly mixes a classic tale of horror with period settings and well-developed characters. His use of real figures like Lord Byron and Percy and Mary Shelley is particularly interesting and often amusing. However, the oppressive expectancy of horrors to come is what makes this novel a true page-turner.”

Allister Thompson, Editor

"I really enjoyed your character development throughout the book. I never quite knew what to expect chapter after chapter. You made it so that I was always left guessing about what would happen next! Every page and chapter kept me curious. Even until the very end- I would have never guessed such an ending."

Jollean Ferrari

Book Club Members

"Enjoyable and well done, easy to follow. ...I was interested in what was going to happen and was anxious to find out what would happen next. For me this is the sign of  liking a book."

 

"Liked it, yes, yes, yes. Very engaging, writing was good. Very visual and realistic. It was a page turner."

 

"Well done- much better than many books I've read. Make it a trilogy."

 

"I can't believe this is your first book! Well done!"

 

"Horrific, humorous."  

 What Inspired My Writing The Symbol?

                                                      

 

Sometimes, extraordinary ideas begin in the most ordinary moments. The summer of 2013 found me with a lot of time on my hands waiting in the doctor’s office for a routine check-up. Listlessly, I picked up the March 12 edition of MacLean’s magazine. There was an article by writer Bruce Bethune, citing findings of William and Nicholas Klingamon, authors of 1816: The Year Without a Summer. It was about the Tambora volcano that exploded on the Indonesian island of Sumbawa over 200 years ago, in 1815. The aftermath was terrible. The biggest volcanic eruption in 2000 years released a cloud of dust and gases over much of the earth, causing destructive weather patterns, crop failures and famines. However, it also had profound effects in many areas of human endeavor, including the arts and literature.

 

The article intrigued me enough to do further research on the period. It turned out that the dark, stormy weather trapped a band of brilliant writers indoors during their vacation on the shores of Lake Geneva, in 1816. The writers were none other than the famous Romantic poets, Lord Byron and Percy Shelley, as well as Mary Godwin (the future Mary Shelley), then an unknown writer. A physician, Dr. John Polidori was another member of the group.

 

Hoping to entertain his bored and frustrated companions, Byron proposed that each compose a horror story. With an electrical storm in the background, Mary fell into a daydream and created the seeds of the classic Gothic horror story, Frankenstein. Byron created a short, incomplete tale which inspired Polidori to write his novel, The Vampyre, the first Gothic vampire story. This was the forerunner of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, over three-quarters of a century later, and the vampire tradition of many subsequent modern books and movies such as Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot and Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles.

 

I was also fascinated to learn that tragedy eventually stalked all of the creative group of writers of Lake Geneva, in different ways.

 

I thought that these unique historical happenings would make for a wonderful piece of fiction. A very dark, Gothic horror story began to form in my imagination and never let go. I worked on it, immersed in the story, over the next three years. I learned that the writer forms the story but the story also captures and propels forward its author. So, in 2016, after several professional edits, my precious manuscript for The Symbol was finally born. May it truly frighten all those who dare to read it!       

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