This is my brother’s painting of the outdoor pool in Southport, now sadly demolished. concreted over and home to Nando’s and a bowling alley, which doesn’t really constitute my idea of progress, but there you go and there it went, thanks to the greed of a philistine town council. It was a massive part of my childhood and features in the section of my novel Dark Echo set in the 1920s, when it was opened and my home town was in its glamorous pomp. Not that I remember the 1920s personally – I’m not quite that old – but I did my degree in history, did my research and love to go back in time in my fiction.
I’ve been reminded of Dark Echo a lot lately because I’ve been writing about the Jericho Society, which first reared its sinister head in the pages of that novel. It’s a satanic cult founded in the French Revolutionary Terror in the early 1790s, later transposed to the United States and still later manifesting in England. It’s extremely bad news for anyone encountering its powerful acolytes and therefore tremendous fun to write about. In the two most recent stories I’ve written about it (The Going and the Rise and The Boston Artifact), it intrudes upon the otherwise contented life of my character Ruthie Gillespie. It’s fair to say Ruthie is flawed, if endearingly so. But she’s also braver, cleverer and more combative than she realises. Action is character, and she’s a woman much more clearly defined by what she does than what she thinks about herself – which sometimes frankly isn’t all that much.
The people at my agency are reading the Boston Artifact as I embark upon another Jericho Society novella, the plan being to bundle them together at some point in a single, sequential volume of stories intended to entertain my readers while scaring you half to death. Or at least, leaving you feeling a bit uncertain about switching off all the lights at bedtime. And Sophie Wilson, the brilliant editor who saddled me with tons of extra work on Dark Resurrection, is currently reading the third installment of my Colony trilogy no doubt with a view to doing exactly the same again. So it’s a busy and exciting time for me, with the anticipation of the final book in the Colony saga being now only a few weeks of toil away from publication. I’ve been really gratified by the way those of you who liked The Colony reacted to the first of the sequels and hope the third and concluding part of the New Hope Island story meets with your approval.
There’s no real exaggeration or embellishment in the painting, by the way. Southport is blessed with spectacular sunsets. It’s just a shame the place no longer boasts that epic outdoor pool.
Just finished the third Jericho Society themed novella and in the process reacquainted myself with some old friends. Two characters from Dark Echo make a comeback in The Boston Artifact, a story centred on a jeweled chalice with a murky history. My heroine gets in very deep very quickly and requires some heavyweight help just to survive her ordeal. Whether she succeeds in that (or anything else) I’m not giving away here. All I’ll say is that in any encounter with the Jericho people, there’s always a price to pay.
This one is set 20 months after the events of The Going and the Rise and poor lovelorn Michael Aldridge from that story makes a cameo appearance and more importantly, recommends Ruthie Gillespie as someone who knows quite a lot about the Society’s secretive and sinister agenda, so it’s off to Ventnor we’re compelled to go once again. I just can’t seem to keep away from that woman.
I’m writing these sequentially and if they’re bundled together (which is the plan) they’ll appear in chronological order. I can see it becoming quite a saga because I’ll go on writing them for as long as people continue to enjoy reading them and they seem to be going down well. Each story makes sense as a stand-alone but the idea of creating this fictional universe is an ambitious one that appeals to me. It’s also nice to revisit characters of whom I’ve grown fond and bringing back familiar names and faces seems to be something readers enjoy. I suppose we all like continuity and it’s just human nature to wonder what happened next.
My belief in ghosts was bolstered last week when someone I shared a flat with in the early 1980s sent me this picture I had no idea existed. I have no memory of it being taken and it looks uncannily like my 18 year old son. I seem to be rather damp so unless I was taking part in a wet T-shirt competition (and I promise I wasn’t), it must have been snapped post-workout but I’ve really got no idea of what I was thinking or doing then. Another way of looking at it is that memory lapses and false memories endow us all with secret lives.
I’m four-fifths of the way through writing my third Jericho Society novella, entitled The Boston Artifact. It’s set about 20 months after the events of The Going and the Rise and is narrated in the first-person by a fine art expert working for an auction house selling a jeweled chalice of very dubious provenance.
Any of you who have read Dark Echo can reacquaint yourselves in this story with Monsignor Delaunay and that brave and surly French farmer Pierre Duval. Ruthie Gillespie also appears, as does The Going’s lovelorn architect Michael Aldridge. My readers seem to enjoy re-engaging with familiar characters (if the reaction to my Colony sequel is anything to go by) and there’s a logical reason for everyone who features in The Boston Artifact being there.
Sophie Wilson, the very talented editor who worked with me on Dark Resurrection, emailed me last night to say she’s got the third installment of the Colony trilogy in her sights for the end of the month. This means that it is likely to be ready probably by the end of March and published in the Spring. I think this story brings the New Hope Island saga to a poignant and fitting conclusion but as ever, that will be for its readers ultimately to decide.
A final word on the photo. The only time I can recall using that beseeching expression was in one of my failed attempts to get my bank to give me an overdraft. It really is a mystery.