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Pip and the Zombies: The Creation of Book 1

Back in 2008 or 2009, a piece of classic literature was rewritten to make it a zombie story.  I compared the two books and saw that… well, I looked at the first couple of pages… and saw that not a whole lot was changed.

At the time, I had been teaching Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations for several years  and thought the opening scene would be great for a zombie story: Pip is out in a graveyard and gets attacked by an escaped convict who threatens to eat him.

So I downloaded the text and went to work. At first, I turned Magwitch into an escaped zombie, but then realized that wouldn’t work. A zombie would not be able to talk to Pip, much less move off to Australia, start up a business, and get rich.  So it had to be that everyone thought he was a zombie, and I came up with the “suspected” bit - people were suspected of being infected. This turned out to be an easy way for the gov’t to lock up undesirables – orphans, homeless, and the mentally ill. After that, it was just a matter of working my way through the text and making changes in the right spots.

Those changes are often subtle, and the one I always use as an example is from the first time Pip and Estella meet.  In the original, Estella does not want to play with Pip, and Miss Havisham says, “You can break his heart.”  In my version, when Estella says she does not want to spar with Pip, Miss Havisham says, “You can break his arm.”


In another scene, I have Trabb’s boy stagger down the street like a zombie to mock Pip rather than mocking him for being a “gentleman” as it was in the original.

suddenly the knees of Trabb's boy smote together, his hair uprose, his cap fell off, he trembled violently in every limb, staggered out into the road, and crying to the populace, "Hold me! I'm so frightened!" feigned to be in a paroxysm of terror and contrition, occasioned by the dignity of my appearance. As I passed him, his teeth loudly chattered in his head, and with every mark of extreme humiliation, he prostrated himself in the dust

suddenly the knees of Trabb’s boy smote together, his hair uprose, his cap fell off, he trembled violently in every limb, staggered out into the road, and crying to the populace, “Hold me! I’m so frightened! It’s a Zombie Slayer” feigned to be in a paroxysm of terror and contrition. As I passed him, his teeth loudly chattered in his head, and with every mark of extreme humiliation, he prostrated himself in the dust.

I also wanted things to be based on historical facts, much like the original. Pretty much anything in the story you would want to look up is based on something historical. This was true for the original, and it’s true for my adaptation. Readers can look up miasma, Jem Mace and Bob Brettle, Queensberry Rules, Kneller Hall and the Palgraves, and, of course, I threw in a bit of Latin here and there.

Book 2: The Lost Years

Book 2, The Lost Years of Philip Pirrip, Zombie Slayer, is a work in progress. Here's what I have so far and here is a map of his journey.


In the summer of 2001, I journeyed to the United Kingdom for a three-week holiday. Due to budget miscalculations, I did not have sufficient funds for lodging and consequently, spent the nights sleeping in a very small car. I didn’t want to attract attention by settling in for the evening while the streets were still busy, so I would spend that time wandering about, exploring each town and village, until night had fallen and then find a safe place to park and sleep.

It was on one such evening that I found myself, after standing in the rain in the middle of the Globe Theatre watching a production of the Scottish play, walking along the River Thames waiting for sundown. I had travelled only a mile or so when I spied the London Tower on the north side and judging that I had sufficient time to visit, crossed the Tower Bridge and did so. I had, however, misjudged the approach of night and soon found myself wandering the streets of London, unsure as to which way I had come and unable to identify, in the poorly lit streets, any discernible landmarks. But, as my wanderings had led to other adventures on this trip, I was not worried… until I reached Whitechapel Road.

The Whitechapel district looked just as it did in all the movies I had seen – fog literally rolled out of the alleys and down the streets like a slow moving river, and every step I took echoed off the cobblestones and came back to me from all sides. Baker’s Street was too far away for the Irregulars to be of any assistance. Had I a Bobbie’s whistle, I would have put it to use, but alas, this contingency was also neglected. I listened in vain for the sound of the Thames – a boat passing, water lapping at the walls that held it in – but heard nothing. I tried to get a sense of moisture blowing in from one direction or another, but the fog that clung to me left everything feeling damp, so I chose a direction and walked.

And then I saw a light. A simple glow ahead that could have been a window, an open doorway, or a street light. I approached with caution waiting for the fog to clear and discovered the light came from a small doorway just inside a narrow alley. I did approach, and, perhaps, you think that was foolish. It was, but I was fortunate. For inside this doorway was… not so much a shop, but a room barely larger than a closet containing one set of shelves, a box marked “donations”, and the smell of camphor wood. I leaned in, for there was really not enough room to move about, and looked over the spines of the books. Most were quite large and unwieldy, and I had no interest in pulling them off the shelves and disturbing the layers of dust that clung to them. But about knee-high, I saw a bundle of papers wrapped in oil cloth and secured with a narrow strip of leather.

My nerves had had enough for one evening so, pulling some pound notes from my pocket and tossing them into the box, I stepped back into the street and right into the arms of a Bobby who pointed me in the direction "home".

What you now hold in your hands is the result of that night’s adventure. That bundle I found contained the journals of Philip Pirrip, a name I knew well from the Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations and, despite having taught that novel for fifteen years, there was much more to his story than I knew and like you, I thought the story Dickens told was a piece of fiction and, in some ways, it was. But as I was to learn from the journals, the “fiction” was the result of a compromise between Dickens and Pirrip.

I was able to tell the true story of Philip Pirrip and his expectations in Pip and the Zombies and now, you get to hear the rest of the story.

LS, Houston, 2010

from Pip’s Journal

dated London, 1845

IN 1841, after returning from my years abroad, I was approached by a young writer named Charles Dickens who expressed a desire to tell of my adventures as a Zombie Slayer.  At the time, I wanted nothing more than to put those years behind me. I did not want any attention brought to myself, nor did I want to relive those painful memories. I agreed to an interview where I told Mr. Dickens, thinking he would be sufficiently deterred, that he was welcome to tell my story provided all aspects of zombie slaying be removed. At first, he, as I had hoped, said it was impossible, that becoming a Zombie Slayer was my story. I concurred and was ready to part company with him, but then he sat back down, and I could hear the cogs turning in his mind and then his eyes lit with enthusiasm. “Of course,” he shouted. “What we have here is bildungsroman!” My German was more than a little rusty, and he explained that the story of my rise from a common laboring boy held a message for others regardless of whether I had become a Slayer or a Barrister and was a story that every reader would find interesting. And though I couldn’t imagine anyone being interested in reading it, and perhaps for that very reason, I agreed to be interviewed and have my story written with two provisos – Under no circumstances was I interested in becoming a Barrister, even in fiction; and the eleven years I spent abroad were not to be discussed at all.  This was my personal journey to battle internal, and external, demons, and to find a way to return to what I once was, and despite its significant impact on my reaching atonement with my world, I was not ready to expose such personal experience to the public.

Mr. Dickens assured me that weight of my story could still be told and that it would be read for years to come.


I allowed Mr. Dickens to interview me over a span of two years at the end of which he had filled many pages with his notes and ideas.

I stipulated in my will that the full story not be told until seven score, ten years had passed…

*At the end of Book 2, Pip returns to England and has 20 years until 1860…  He and Estella leave for {     } and are never heard from again.  This will be in the Epilogue.

I do not know if my wishes have been followed, but if you are reading this, it is my fervent hope that the {cause of} Zombies has been eradicated, that the dead walk no more, and that my part in all of this is but a footnote in the annals of history.

dimitte mortuos requiescere
P.P., London, 1865


Cairo, 1840

“Zombies! Are you certain?”

“I’ve researched it thoroughly,” exclaimed Herbert. “Zombies built the pyramids!”

I. The Beginning

Kent, England, 1804

Philip Pirrip, Junior, was born to Philip Pirrip, Senior, recently deceased, and Giorgianna Pirrip, soon to be recently deceased, during the Great Zombie War of 1800. His older brothers had already died from the plague that erupted from the polluted streets of London and spread to the outlying marshes carried by runagates attempting to escape the scourge and the zombies left in its wake.

The senior Pirrip, father of Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, and to the newborn “Pip” as he was later to call himself, was lying in the front yard of his home while his only other surviving child, 20 year old Georgianna, named after her beloved mother, stood over him, valiantly fighting off a second wave of attacking zombies.

“Georgie,” her mother yelled from the front front room where she was being attended to by an increasingly frightened mid-wife.

Using her father’s scythe, Georgie cut down the closest zombie and ran into the house, barricading the door.

“Take your brother and run!”


Joe Gargery, the blacksmith, knew the Pirrip family. In fact, Joe knew everyone who lived within 20 miles of his forge for he was the only blacksmith within 20 miles of anywhere and when the pollution in London and the other cities of commerce became so bad that even the animals were infected, and the miasma from the sewers and gutters began to spread and infect the sick and dying, and the zombie plague brought back the dead who then infected the living, Joe knew that eventually not even the marshes would be safe and had begun to forge weapons and train his neighbors in their use. Farmers brought in plowshares that Joe beat into swords, scythes that he sharpened to a razors edge, and other farm implements that he reconstructed into weapons. And it was with one of those weapons that he now approached the Pirrip homestead.


A handful of zombies were clawing at the closed door and barricaded window. Two crouched over the senior Pirrip pulling chunks of flesh free and gorging themselves upon it. Without breaking stride, Joe swung his falchion, decapitating both zombies, and continued toward the house.

Scattered about the yard were the headless bodies of other zombies, and Joe noted that someone had put up a rather good fight. His approach was noticed too late by the zombies fighting to get into the house and with surprising speed and dexterity, Joe quickly dispatched the remaining zombies then, using the blade of his sword, worked the front door open and stepped inside.

He was too late. The back door stood open and lying across the floor were the remains of Georgianna Pirrip and the mid-wife.


I don’t know what it is that influences the person we become, but being born while my family was being killed by zombies had to have some impact on my person. My father lay dead in the yard with my five brothers, and my mother and her mid-wife were killed literally minutes after my birth by the zombies who broke down the door in pursuit of human flesh. Had my sister not escaped with me, I would not be here to tell this story.

Joe Gargery’s timely arrival prevented further desecration of my family and spared them the fate of being devoured. It was, however, Joe’s obligation to ensure that Philip, late of this parish; also Georgianna, wife of the above; and Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger did not join the ranks of the undead. The details of these necessary measures need not be described here. Let it suffice to say that the only reliable method for preventing the reanimation of the dead involves fire and decapitation.

My sister Georgianna, from here forward referred to as “my sister” so as not be confused with Georgianna my mother and because I hated her, must also have influenced the development of my character, largely due to the violent and abusive manner in which she raised me.

II. The Expectations

Kent, England, 1804

After Joe married my sister and became my protector, I strived for nothing other than becoming a swordsmith myself. I knew it was an important job. Even though the zombie plague was, if not under control, at least better managed by means of a “better safe than sorry” approach, there were still bands of zombies that roamed the marshes and edges of towns looking for the stray traveler, and it was important to maintain a well-armed citizenry. I was small for my age and never thought of myself as a defender, but knew that the right armament could make up for many deficiencies.

But then I met Miss Havisham. And Estella.

*begin third person narration*

III. The Journey

Kent, England, 1830

I leave today not with great expectations of becoming a zombie slayer, but with a heavy heart and a troubled mind, anxious for what my future holds. I endured seven years of Estella’s taunts because my eyes were blind with love, ten years of training believing I was destined to be her partner, only to discover that I had been misled. And I had been. I was permitted to believe a falsehood and a sin of omission is still a sin. What’s worse – I had neglected my true friends, Biddy and Joe. I was filled with thoughts of my own importance and now I’ve lost it all. In truth, I know that Joe bears be no grudge, for he is a better man than I. And Biddy? Her affections for me have always been true and pure, and I hold the friendship she maintains with me is as dear as anything I could hope for and certainly more than I deserve. Miss Havisham is dead, Estella is lost to me, and what’s left of Magwitch, my anonymous benefactor, I hold in a wooden chest. This I will carry with me to New South Wales and there, I will spread his ashes in the land that accepted him, where he was able to find the success that has eluded me.


(covers travel from Kent, through ‘Italy’, across Mediterranean, and to Egypt, where Herbert tells Pip that they have received word of a large mass of zombies moving through Mexico to Texas -  Aztec/ Mayan link?)

IV. The Airship

(Pip decides to delay burying Magwitch, hops an airship to the Republic of Texas.  Discussion of Roanoke during flight, then blown off course and crashes in Missouri.)

V. The Baggers

Hannibal, Missouri

In which Pip learns about “baggers” and meets Huck Finn’s father.

Pip goes to Hannibal and meets young Huck Finn. This will be a tie in to Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim. Pip witnesses the abuse Huck suffers at the hands of the senior Finn and is reminded of his own mistreatment at the hands of his sister. If you recall what ends up happening to Huck’s dad, here you’ll get more of the details.

There may be a chapter between V and VI covering Pip’s journey from Missouri to Louisiana. Part of the discussion will be about the early days of shooting buffalo from trains and now the shooting of zombies from trains. Or perhaps if the buffalo shooting was later in time, this will just be about shooting zombies.. Perhaps Wild Bill (born 1837) will be involved.

VI. The Voodoo Priestess

In which Pip makes a deal.

New Orleans, Louisiana

(Pip does not leave Missouri unmarked.  With the help of Parker and Tifa, he makes his way to see a voodoo priestess.  In exchange for healing, he agrees not to take any action against the voodoo/ hoodoo zombies.)

I could feel my heart pulsing through the wound on my shoulder, knowing that each beat pumped the zombie venom/ virus? closer to my heart and on to its next stop, my brain. or each beat pumped the zombie virus closer to its final stop, my brain. (Actually, this should be the end of the previous chapter.) After that, it was over. The poison would spread throughout my brain, killing me and keeping me alive, turning my fondness for peppered jerky into a craving for human brains.

He is taken to New Orleans by fellow slayers Parker and Tifa where a voodoo priestess agrees to help. She begins to chant:

     Ascoltare ed obbedire, lettore.
     Potrai acquistare più copie di questo libroe
     vi invia i tuoi amici ad acquistare copie
     et erit ingens victoria.
     E l’autore diventerà incredibilmente ricco.

“What is she saying?” whispered Parker.

“I don’t know,” Tifa replied, “but I hope it works.”

VII. The Alamo

San Antonio, Texas

In which Pip arrives too late.

Jeb Parker stood on the [ridge of dirt] [berm] that surrounded his [house] 100 yards out scanning the distance through a bronze spyglass. All morning, he had felt a sense of disquiet and telling his Irish bride, Kathleen O’Brien, to secure the door behind him, had ridden out to stand watch.

Parker had left the Texas Rangers after ten years of battling Zombies. His family had been killed by a [ ] of zombies when he was 17. Had he not ridden out that morning to a neighboring [homestead, ranch, farm... ], he would have joined them in death (or worse) and for six dark months, he wished he’d had. Then his thoughts of sorrow turned to thoughts of revenge and he turned to the Texas Rangers.. [elaborate?]

For ten years [details]

But he had left the Rangers three years ago after saving young Kathleen [ details ], falling in love, and deciding to start a family. Land in Texas was available to anyone who wanted to stake a claim and was willing to defend it from the bands of zombies that roamed the open territory. They had wandered in from various places – Mexico, the Louisiana territory, [that place Dad mentioned] – and were an ever-present danger [cliche?].

Parker had designed his house like a stockade [okay, not a stockade] – adobe walls two feet thick, a foot of sod on the roof covered with inch-thick mesquite shakes, and windows protected by thick shutters that could be closed and barricaded in seconds.

And surrounding his homestead [eh] was a trench he had spent months digging, using the excavated dirt to form the berm, lined with sharpened poles [pikes?]. It was on this berm that Parker stood looking across the prairie to a cloud of dust that was headed in his direction. It was still too far out to make a firm identification, but Parker knew it was more dust than a single rider or even a team would make.

Tucking his scope into the leather bag hung over his shoulder, Parker hoisted himself into his saddle, and [galloped] back to Kathleen.


So the question is, what does he see? A massive migration of zombies headed to San Jacinto? Does he use the wireless to contact Fort Alamo, only to find a looping message saying we have been over run?

[Forts - McKavitt, Phantom Hill, Bell's Stockade]

[ militia - the Kentucky Rifles, the New Orleans Greys] [ the runaway scrape ]

The Alamo is already over run by zombies from the south, but Pip joins up with General Sam Houston to drive the zombies back into Mexico.

He delivers this impassioned speech:

     Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
     let us line these fields with the undead.
     We have waited for this moment,
     we have travelled day and night,
     and now that the moans and groans of the undead are in our ears,
     we must imitate the action of the tiger -
     stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
     and pour forth our rage upon our foe.
     Look upon this evil that lies before us,
     and like the ball of a brass cannon,
     let us overwhelm them.
     Set your teeth and rise up!
     Whose blood lies before us?
     Those of the Texians who fought from morn till night
     never sheathing their swords, fighting valiantly.
     It is for them that we now fight!
     Remember them; draw your swords and avenge them!
     Show us now your mettle;
    Show us now your training;
     Show us now what it means to be a Zombie Slayer.
     I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips
     straining upon the start.
     Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
     Cry “Remember the Alamo” and let us send these demons to Hell!


     (courtesy of William Shakespeare, King Henry V) [This needs to be shortened.]

VIII. The Revenge


In which Pip leads an army.

Sam Houston returns to Texas to lead the Republic. Pip continues with a band of mercenaries through Mexico.

*editor’s note: In 1846, a full-scale zombie war breaks out between America and the Zombies from the South.

IX. The Submersible

Pacific Ocean

In which Pip does some pondering and escapes a giant squid.

X. The Burial

New South Wales

In which Pip buries a friend.

Reflections on his life, contemplates staying in Australia (zombie free), decides he has miles to go before he sleeps.

XI. The Horror

South Africa, 1833

In which horrible things happen.

Losing interest in the whole “zombie slayer” thing, meets a crazy slayer, further cementing his desire to retire.

South Africa, 1833

I have seen horror. I have looked it in the eye. And you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror… Horror has a face… Horror and mortal terror are your friends. They keep you sharp.

I remember when I was with the Zombie Annihilation Force… seems a thousand centuries ago. We went into a village to inoculate the children. Someone had come up with this concoction, this “vaccine”, to prevent reanimation. We set a defensive perimeter around the village that night, and I swear no zombies got through. In the morning, they were all dead, but not for long. The vaccine contained a trace of the zombie virus. The idea was that the body would develop an immunity to it. What stupidity! Before we knew it, every child had reanimated.

And do you know what we had to do? Can you imagine what it was like to chop the heads off little children who, the day before, we had bounced on our laps? {too cliche} That’s why I do what I do. And I love it. We must kill them. We must incinerate them. Does that make me crazy? And yes, I do. I do love the smell of zombies burning.

XII. The Return

Goes back to Egypt, then back to Kent.

XIII. Epilogue

Ireland, 1845

Pip and Estella decide to live in seclusion and anonymity, now living as Philip and Stella.  Pip is approached by Dickens. Agreement with provisos.

They hear about “the great hunger” in Ireland and the return of zombies. Ireland had been free of them since St. Patrick miraculously banished them all to the sea.

Philip and Stella decide on one last mission and are never heard from again.

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