Even Schar School professor emeritus Hugh Sockett calls what he has done since retiring “a bit cheeky.” “Daunting” is another word for it: In an astonishing act of self-confidence, Sockett, who taught political science and morality in education, has written a sequel to Charles Dickens’ 1861 classic novel, Great Expectations.
And not just a sequel, but a trilogy. Yes, three books. And it’s his first attempt at writing fiction. “Cheeky” doesn’t begin to describe what the English ex-pat has accomplished in taking on one of literature’s most revered stories by one of its most beloved authors. But an early review characterized the first volume as “Dickensian while being a thoroughly modern novel as well,” concluding that “Sockett has proven equal to the task.”
The Estella Trilogy, Volume 1: Pip and Estella went on sale on Amazon and Kindle in June; Volume II: Better Expectations will emerge in August; Volume III: Estella, the Star That Would Not Dim will be released in November.
Sockett, 83, said he was inspired to explore the fates of Pip, Estella, and Young Pip after watching the 2012 movie version which he found “disappointing.” He put aside his other post-retirement projects—a memoir of his father (“I was stuck at the Battle of the Somme, which he attended”) and a book on education and civil society, his academic area of interest—to extend Great Expectations. “I was certain only at that stage that Pip and Estella would marry,” he said.
In addition to extending Dickens’ adventure, Sockett addresses in his volumes aspects of Victorian society that Dickens did not, or did so only tangentially: religion, sexuality, prostitution, and the subjection of women (and the subsequent suffrage), among them.
With the story firmly in mind, Sockett familiarized himself with the process of having a book published. He obtained, at a large fee, a spreadsheet of “well over 800 literary agents grouped in three categories,” he said. “I suppose I sent out somewhere around 400 queries.”
About a third of the agents replied, but it wasn’t always what Sockett wanted to hear. One said that a trilogy would be “a seven-year task.” Another seemed interested in representing the work but after nine months still had not read the manuscript.
Finally, Sockett stumbled on Waterside Productions, a California-based publisher that enhances publication on Amazon’s print-on-demand service by developing marketing materials and campaigns as well as, possibly, representing the work to Hollywood. With Waterside’s help, the process of bringing his work to market accelerated.
Now that the first book is in virtual bookshops, Sockett is deep into the second volume. “It is such fun,” he said.