Table of Contents

Book Info


The Clearwater Mysteries Series

Series Type:
Number In Series:
James Collins
26 April 2019
Book Type
Heat Level


The Victorian East End lives in fear of the Ripper and his mission to kill rent boys. Silas Hawkins, nineteen and forging a life on the streets could well be the next victim, but when he meets Archer, his life changes forever. Young, attractive and rich, Archer is Viscount Clearwater, a philanthropist, adventurer and homosexual.

When Archer suspects the Ripper is killing to lure him to a confrontation, he risks his reputation and his life to stop the madman’s murders. Every man must play his part, including Silas.

A mashup of mystery, romance and adventure, Deviant Desire is set in an imaginary London of 1888. The first in an on-going series, it takes the theme of loyalty and friendship in a world where homosexuality is a crime. Secrets must be kept, lovers must be protected, and for Archer and Silas, it marks the start of their biggest adventure – love.

Show More


Thomas Payne, 28, is Lord Clearwater’s butler. We fist meet him in book one, Deviant Desire, when he is still a footman working under the evil Mr Tripp. Thomas is also Archer’s best friend, having first come to Clearwater House and Larkspur Hall as a hall boy at the age of eight. He is 5’ 9” tall, slender, has auburn hair and green eyes.

  • What is your full name? Do you have a nickname (if so, who calls you this)?
    • Thomas Arthur Payne. I am currently called ‘Bolshoydick’ by Mr Andrej, our Ukrainian coachman. It rather embarrassingly translates, he tells me, as ‘huge penis’, but he’s one to talk, apparently. These pet names are only used within the company of Lord Clearwater’s closest circle of friends.
  • Where and when were you born?
    • I was born on the family farm near Brenzett in Kent, in the south of England, on May 5th 1861.
  • Who are/were your parents? (Their names, birthplaces, occupations, personalities, etc.)
    • My father is a dairy farmer, and my mother, a farmer’s wife. They were both born in the local area, my father on the farm which has been owned by my family for generations. My mother is the daughter of a sheep farmer from Ivychurch, a mile distant from our farm.
  • What is your occupation?
    • I am currently employed as butler to Viscount Clearwater. I live and work in his houses, and travel with him between the two. Currently, he is using his London home, Clearwater House as his principal residence. When he stays at his country house, Larkspur Hall, near Bodmin in Cornwall, I am his butler there.
  • Do you have a motto? If so, what is it?
    • Stop, take stock and start again. The three Ss of buttlering which apply before entering any room, knocking at a door and attending to any duty.
  • What is your hair colour and eye colour?
    • I have dark-red, auburn hair, and my eyes are green. Some call them jade, others emerald. To me, they are simply green.


  • How would you describe your childhood?
    • Brief. Until the age of eight, I lived at home on the farm and worked there from the age of five. At age eight, I was sent to the employ of the late Viscount Clearwater as junior hall boy. At this point I was uneducated, of course, but was lucky enough to be nurtured by the housekeeper, Mrs Baker, and allowed to be in the company of Master Riddington (Master Archer), the current viscount. My education, therefore, was varied and vague, and I would call myself self-taught.
  • Where did you learn most of your skills and other abilities?
    • My hall boy duties, later my footman duties and finally my butlering duties were instilled in me by Mrs Baker, other hall boys and senior footman and ultimately, Mr Tripp, my butler for nearly 20 years.
  • What did you want to be when you grew up?
    • As soon as I entered service and met Master Archer, I wanted to be his butler. Better would be he steward, but that post was made defunct in the households many years ago. His Lordship’s butler is all I ever wanted to be for as long as I can remember.

Beliefs and Opinions

  • Do you believe in the existence of soul mates and/or true love?
    • Yes, and I have proved their existence in two individuals, Archer (Lord Clearwater), and James Joseph Wright.
  • Are you able to kill? Under what circumstances do you find killing to be acceptable or unacceptable?
    • One of my earliest memories is of death, that of animals on the farm. My father killed chickens and calves when necessary, not to mention rats and other vermin. As for people, I have been involved in death, and once set fire to a man who was trying to kill my companions. He died. I had no compunction as it was in the defence of all of us, Lord Clearwater in particular.
  • Who or what would you die for, or otherwise go to extremes for?
    • Lord Clearwater, for sure, and likewise, James, Andrej (though it is unlikely I would need to), and to a lesser extent, Silas Hawkins.

Relationships With Others

  • Do you have a spouse or significant other? If so, describe this person in some rough strokes.
    • If it were acceptable to say so, I would consider myself partnered with James Wright. When one looks at relationships between men and women, I would put us on the same par, except, in our case, we are able to live together without being married. We cannot be married, of course, and even if we were, I would insist we waited before considering such an option. Meanwhile, thanks to the society that despises men like us, no-one asks questions when two men share living quarters, and no-one suspects what goes on behind the closed doors of James’ suite of rooms, which is where I usually live.
    • James is loyal, intelligent, intuitive and caring. He can, however, be headstrong, argumentative and bullish. He is two years younger than me, but knows a great deal more about the world beyond service. He is blond, physically fit, and has the boyish looks and charms of a public-school boy, but can also employ his lower-middle-class tongue when necessary.
  • Who is the most important person in your life, why?
    • There are two of equal importance. Viscount Clearwater, and not because he is my employer, but because he is my best friend, and James because despite his faults, I am deeply in love with him.
  • Who is the person you respect the most, why?
    • Obviously, Lord Clearwater. He demonstrated all the qualities a decent man should posses: calm authority, breeding and intellect. On top of those, he is compassionate, cares for the worse off, encourages the best in others, has talent and loyalty, and is the most honest man I know.

Likes and Dislikes

  • Do you like to read? If so, what do you like to read?
    • I read at every opportunity, which, in my line of work, is not that often. I read The Times for news so I may keep abreast of matters that interest His Lordship, and (here I blush) romance novels which Lucy, the cook, passes on to me. However, I also delve into the classics from time to time, as a way of continually bettering my education.
  • What makes you happy?
    • An orderly house, a well-turned-out staff, and punctuality. After I have wound the house clocks on a Sunday, my moment of greatest satisfaction comes when they chime the hour in unison.
  • Are you spontaneous, or do you always need to have a plan?
    • I am able to think on my feet, as they say. Even then, I employ my rule of stop, take stock and start again, even in the most fleeting of moments. However, logic is the key to any situation, and thus, I prefer to plan whenever possible.


  • Describe the routine of a normal day for you. How do you feel when this routine is disrupted?
    • A butler’s day runs to the routine of the house he commands. I rise early, wash, dress and present myself for duty at exactly at seven o’clock, unless His Lordship’s needs dictate otherwise. The routine of a day depends on His Lordship’s activities, whether he is receiving or making calls, whether he is at the House of Lords, or travelling. Below stairs, we are driven by mealtimes; when there is a lunch, who is attending, and the time His Lordship requires dinner, for example. My weekly routine includes specific days for turning wine, inspecting the cellar inventory, ordering the wine, answering the bell, winding clocks, and ensuring my male staff keep to their routines. I occasionally act as His Lordship’s valet so that we may have private time together.
    • The household routine is rarely subject to disruption, but since his elevation to viscount, Lord Clearwater’s activities have caused much distraction in which I play my part, and I have learnt to become ‘flexible.’
  • If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
    • Being totally honest, I would like to have more control over my pedantry. I cannot help myself pointing out errors in the statements, behaviour and even grammar of others. It is not so much a failing, I think, but a habit which others, if they took my comments in the manner they are made, would find educational rather than belittling. I only wish I had the wherewithal to make others understand this. (By the way, I notice you employ the use of Americanised spelling in your questions. I have resisted the temptation to correct this oversight.)
  • Are you generally organized or messy?
    • Organised. (with an S.)
  • Name three things you consider yourself to be good at, and three things you consider yourself to be bad at.
    • Good: My job. Logical thinking. Making decisions.
    • Bad: Holding my tongue. Tolerating bad manners. Sex. (I just asked James about that last one, and he disagrees.)
  • What three words would others probably use to describe you?
    • Supercilious, pedantic, loyal.
  • What goal do you most want to accomplish in your life?
    • To serve Lord Clearwater as his butler and friend to the end.
  • Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
    • Serving His Lordship as his butler and friend, obviously.
  • What is the one thing for which you would most like to be remembered after your death?
    • My loyalty to my master and friends.

Quirky Details

  • What do you have in your pockets?
    • Always the key to the ‘cage’ in the wine cellar where the rarest of wines are kept, and a handkerchief. Nothing else.
  • What in on your nightstand?
    • Currently, a novel, a new electric lamp, and a glass James has left there and which I will remove to its proper place immediately.
  • What smells do you associate with your childhood, and why?
    • The cowshed, muckspreading, my mother’s baking. Later, polish, coal and cold winters below stairs.

Thank you so much Thomas for taking time out from your duties serving your Master.

Guest Post By Jackson Marsh

Do you use a pseudonym? If so, why? If not, why not?

Yes, I do, and there’s a simple reason. I have built up a following as author, James Collins, my real name. The thing is, the James audience is accustomed to my travel writing and my novels which are not strictly MM Romance or gay lit. All of my James Collins novels apart from one have gay characters, but the stories are not specifically gay. I wanted to create a world where just about every character was gay so that I could be free to explore more issues and characters than those accepted by my established audience. Basically, I didn’t want to confuse the older, straighter, more conventional readership of my other work, so, by inventing Jackson Marsh, I was free to do that.


As James, I was (am) writing an on-going series which starts with the mystery thriller ‘The Saddling.’ That’s a kind of ‘Wicker Man’ style mystery, and I set it in the place I was born, but in an imaginary village within it that hasn’t changed over hundreds of years. As I was writing what was essentially a family history mystery (with a thrilling climax, if I may say so), I realised that my main character was gay and struggling to come out. Because of my readership (mainly straight), I felt unable to let the MC fly, and because of that, I was unable to let my gay side fly with him. In ‘The Saddling’, I have three principal characters. One who had always been gay, one who comes to accept he is, and one who is totally gorgeous and probably gay but who hasn’t decided yet, if one can decide such things. No matter how I wanted that triangle to work out, I felt I was unable to get too ‘gay’ without alienating my audience. Therefore, I started writing new novels as Jackson Marsh. Not the same story, of course, The Saddling has now developed into three books, and a fourth is needed to complete the series, but that’s for when I need to put Jackson on pause for a while.


I have to say also that the Jackson books, being for a niche and more specific market, sell more copies.


Since Jackson came along in 2017, I have written nine novels in his name and only one in my own name. That shows me where my current priorities lie, and I have two more Jackson books lined up and in preparation for later this year. These are parts two and three of ‘The Clearwater Mysteries’ as, with these characters, I finally found a group of men I wanted to develop and take on more adventures.


People ask where Jackson Marsh, the name, came from and the answer is simple. I liked the name Jackson, and I was born on a marsh. It wasn’t as bad as it sounds. In fact, Romney Marsh, in Kent, UK, was a lovely place to be born and grow up. My pen name is a kind of tribute to where I am from, though I expect people living there might raise an eyebrow if they knew; it’s a fairly conservative part of the world. You could also find a play on words if you wanted to look at the name sideways.


There is a crossover between Jackson and James however, and it’s a bit like being two people. Where James tends to be more literary, or at least, tries to be (my use of words is influenced by John Steinbeck for example, although I have yet to reach the heights of his breath-taking prose), Jackson is more straightforward in style. But, because I developed the use of dialogue and description for the James books, it has washed over into the Jackson books over time, and I now feel that I am writing as me, but finally exploring subjects and telling stories that I wanted to tell. Fear of my own readership held me back, and Jackson is pouring out while James is taking a rest.


People often assume that because you write under a pen name, you are trying to hide something. I’m not. I’m trying to bring something out, my desire to invent wonderful worlds where anything can happen and where the main characters in my mysteries and thrillers are gay. Besides, I reckon most of my James readership knows that I am also Jackson and once that word got out, sales improved. I think my ‘conservative’ readership wanted some gay titillation and boy, did they get it!


Reviewed By: Josh Dale


I love Victorian historical novels and boy did I love this one. Everything felt real and as I imagine life was back in the 1800’s. The author paints a vivid picture of life on the streets of renters (rent boys) and other street workers. He vividly paints the fog and smog that envelopes the street of heavy industry. And the luxury of the aristocrats with they velvet curtains and plush furnishings. But it is not just the visual picture he paints. The smells are also perfectly described and add to your senses.

Archer is a young Viscount Clearwater. Recently given the title and his fathers estate. Archer wants to change things; he sees the wrongs of the class society. He firmly believes that he was simply lucky to be born on the right side of the class divide, and he could as easily have been born by pure parents. He could be the one having to sell his body to feed himself, putting himself at great risk of disease and the terrors of street life.

Silas is a renter who sells his body for sex, to be able to feed himself and if he is lucky to have somewhere to lay his head at night. Living on the filthy streets is hard and yet he keeps going with the help of his friend Fecker a Ukrainian renter. The banter between the two is superb. Fecker’s act first think later attitude is funny at times, especially when the boys meet with Archer.

There are two other characters that also stand out, The Footman Thomas who has loved the Viscount all his life and would be his best friend if they were from the same class. Archer manages to make that happen at least in private and they confide in each other.

The old butler is the other minor character who stands out, he cannot adjust to his new master’s ways and finds it undignified that his Master is bringing street boys to the mansion. It is fun watching the subtle fights between the butler and Archer.

The main plot revolves around the Ripper murders that is happening to rent boys. Archer believes the murderer could be his mad brother who has been in a mental asylum for years. Wanting to stop his brother and not see him hang, after all it is his brother. He tries to find and lure his brother into a trap with the help of Silas and Fecker and of course his trusted footman, much to the butler’s horror.

There is a instant spark between Archer and Silas, and its interesting seeing them work their way through what divides them and find common ground, and find ways around the rules of upper society.

This is a thrilling read with a few twists and turns along the way. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this story and will be reading book two very soon to catch up with the characters.


Silas and Fecker, two renters from the East End, have been brought to Clearwater House to discuss their plight with The Viscount Clearwater. Thomas, the handsome redheaded footman, prepares them for the meeting.

They were led into a short passage of closed doors, past a hatstand and into a cavern. At least, that’s what it felt like. The ceiling was arched and high, and the walls tiled. The far wall was taken up by a recess that housed a fireplace and ovens, a row of barred windows lined the top of another and beneath these stood huge dressers displaying pans that glinted the colour of Thomas’ hair. It was all set around a massive table with a central avenue of jars lined regimentally from one end to the other. It was hard not to swear in awe, and it suddenly occurred to Silas that he was warm. It was the first time in weeks.

He was made to wash his hands in a sink and do what he could to tidy his face and hair while Thomas stood over him and Fecks waited for his turn. It took Silas a full five minutes to scrape the crud from beneath his fingernails. Luckily for him, the kitchen smelt of pie and herbs, and it masked the smell of his clothes. He was grateful that he’d not been made to take his shoes off.

Thomas gave Fecks instructions to wash and wait at the table before he beckoned Silas to follow him through to another room.

‘You pissed off with me, Tommy?’ Silas asked, when they were alone in the servants’ hall.

‘Do not speak until you are…’

‘Yeah, I heard you.’

Silas helped himself to a chair at another long, worn table, but Thomas told him to stay standing facing a passageway and a staircase.

‘I thought we got along fine last night,’ Silas said, doing as he was told, but choosing to stand directly beside Thomas and close.

‘Be quiet.’ Thomas took a step forward and away.

‘Your dick was happy to say hello.’

‘I said, be quiet.’ It was more of a hiss than a sentence.

‘Why you being mean to me, Tommy?’ Silas inched closer.

‘Please, shut up.’ Thomas took another step.

Silas caught up. ‘At this rate we’ll be in the front garden by the time you tell me what’s pissing you off. Is it ‘cos you fancy me?’

‘Be quiet.’

‘Or is it ‘cos you find my kind… What was the word? Disgusting.’

‘Stop it,’ Thomas insisted. ‘Now kindly…’ He was interrupted by a sensation completely new to him and gasped. ‘Get your hand off my backside.’

‘Want it on your cock instead?’

Silas slid his hand towards the front of Thomas’ trousers, but the footman turned on him, grabbed him by the throat and held him against the sideboard, rattling crockery.

‘What are you playing at?’ Thomas whispered through gritted teeth.

Unconcerned by the hold Thomas had, Silas grinned. A swift kneeing and the man would be in agony, but instead of raising his leg, he raised his hand and cupped Thomas’ crotch.

The footman’s green eyes bored into him, and their anger intensified.

‘Why are you doing this?’ Thomas pleaded. His cock was hardening, his cheeks flaming, and his grip tightened.

‘What do you want?’ Silas leered.

He searched Thomas’ face, but found no answer. He didn’t want to hurt the man, he just wanted to know where he stood, but there was only one way out. Silas pulled Thomas to him by his cock and pressed their mouths together with a clash of teeth.

‘Oh.’ Fecker appeared in the doorway. ‘I hear noise, but it is only you fucking.’

Thomas immediately released Silas and pushed himself away. He straightened his hair and wrestled with the front of his trousers.

‘You safe, Banyak?’ the Ukrainian asked.

‘Go on with you, I’m fine,’ Silas said, gasping for air as he stared hard at Thomas.

‘I wait in here.’ Fecker returned to the kitchen and Thomas returned to being a footman.

‘You are His Lordship’s guest,’ he said with great restraint. ‘You will not behave like that again.’

‘Thought you’d like it, Tommy.’

‘And stop calling me that, you guttersnipe.’

Whatever Silas had been trying to achieve, he forgot about it when footsteps overhead suggested Fecks had intervened just in time. Sexually charged though he was, Silas stood behind Thomas and left him alone. It was only fair.

Whoever was coming was taking their time, and the footsteps stopped at the top of the stairs where a muffled discussion took place. It gave Silas time to clear his thoughts, but it was in vain. He couldn’t move them on from Thomas, what had just happened and how it left him trembling. Where had the need to kiss him come from? He thought that he had picked up from Thomas a possibility of something new, perhaps something physical that was outside his normal boundary of sex for money. Thomas had potential for… for what?

Silas was confused. Maybe he wanted more than sex, but he had Fecks for companionship, he didn’t need anything else. Thomas was someone new, an unknown quantity and gave an impression of being amenable to Silas’ advances, but what did that all mean? What was this incomprehensible longing gnawing his insides? It wasn’t just physical attraction to other men, it went deeper and was disturbing. The conundrum occupied him until the mumbling upstairs stopped, and Thomas stood to attention as the viscount entered.

The click of the footman’s heels broke Silas’ thoughts and he looked up into the eyes of the most striking man he had ever seen. At that moment, knew his life would never be the same.




The Clearwater Mysteries is a new series from author Jackson Marsh. Set in an imaginary London of 1888, the series is a mashup of themes. Gay romance, mystery, action, adventure, some comedy and plenty of realism, with known historical facts twisted to suit the Clearwater world. With viscounts and butlers, rent boys, messenger boys and footmen, the principal characters are gay living in a world where homosexuality is illegal. Falling in love, dodging death, preventing catastrophes, solving clues and, from time to time, getting down to some erotic sex, each book in the series gives the cast a new challenge set against the background of Victoriana and the classic on-going battle between good and evil.

‘Deviant Desire,’ is the first book in the series. A mystery/romance, it sets up two main characters, the tone of the books to come, and the period in which the imagined world exists.

Recently elevated to the title of Viscount Clearwater following the unexpected death of his father, the 29-year-old Honourable Archer Riddington finds himself with the city house, a country house and more wealth than he needs. For many, this would be an opportunity to kick back and enjoy your fortune, but Archer is a philanthropist and has set his mind on helping the destitute men of the East End where, as the story starts, the Ripper has been killing ‘renters.’

Through his work, Archer meets Silas Hawkins, a street-wise 19-year-old son of an Irish immigrant who came to the city four years ago to find work. Gay, Silas is canny, careful, and has high standards when it comes to ethics, despite his occupation as an East End renter. Along with his straight best friend, a 19-year-old, straight Ukrainian, Fecker, he is called to assist Lord Clearwater, and the two instantly fall in love.

Deviant Desire‘ has been described as ‘Downton Abbey meets Jack The Ripper’, but the ‘Ripper’ of Jackson’s story, although influenced by the author’s interest in the real crimes, is also imaginary. The story unfolds through a series of clues and twists to reach an action finale, typical of Jackson’s work. In fact, the series develops from insta-love between Archer and Silas to expand their on-going love story and mingle it with that of some of the servants and others. While the background is homosexuality in Victorian London and future books will draw on the 1889 Cleveland Street Scandal and other aspects of Victorian homosexual life, historical facts are used only as inspiration.

Twisted Tracks,’ book two in the series, follows on directly from ‘Deviant Desire,’ and is due out in May 2019. ‘Twisted Tracks’ brings together the series’ main core of actors, the viscount, Silas, and three servants, all male and in their 20s. We can’t give too much away here, as one thing that’s clear about The Clearwater Mysteries is that twists are aplenty, there’s always a mystery for the characters and readers to get their teeth into, it’s as historically accurate as possible, with clue solving, romance, some erotica, feel-good, drama, action and adventure.

Unspeakable Acts‘, book three, due out later in 2019, takes our characters to the opera house with a blackmail mystery set against the background of theatre and The Cleveland Street scandal, expect it’s not. In this series, it’s ‘Cleaver Street’ as, again, Jackson mixes what was real with what’s created especially for the Clearwater world.

The Clearwater Mysteries is an on-going series which should be read in order of publication.

Show More


Jackson was born in 2017 as the penname for me (James) so that I could publish my new gay fiction independently from my other writing work. I was born on the south coast of England during a blizzard, but now like to warm thing up with MM romance novels, gay mysteries and some occasional erotica. In 2007 I was awarded and EGPA award for my erotic short stories, and in 2018 I won a Best Screenplay award for one of my films. I am a diverse writer with thrillers, comedies and horror stories under my James belt, and now romance and mystery under my Jackson belt.

At the moment I am concentrating on two genres: older/younger MM romance, and youth mysteries with early 20s main characters and a love story included.

I live on a Greek island with my husband. My interests outside of writing and reading are outdoor pursuits, traveling, piano and genealogy. That’s probably why my books tend to involve characters who are musicians, writers, mystery-solvers and rock climbers; there’s a bit of me in every one.

Web Links