Today sees the publication of Harvest of Scorn, the third and concluding book in my Colony trilogy. At least, today is the day it’s published as a download for reader devices. I’m pleased to say that a physical book will join its two compatriots on the shelves at some point in the future and there’ll also be an audiobook version. I accepted an offer for that from Audible a couple of weeks ago. Fingers crossed the hugely talented David Rintoul will have the time to record it. He did a brilliant job with its two predecessors in what’s become quite a saga.
I’ll miss much of the subject matter of this series writing fiction in the future. Never going back to New Hope Island again seems not only final but quite poignant to me. I know every inch of that benighted granite wilderness, from the weathered cobbles of Ballantyne’s dock to the whitewashed walls of the crofter’s cottage built on the southern shore by the dubious David Shanks in the 1930s. I’ll miss the sea air and the sudden spectacular violence of the island’s frequent storms. And I’ll miss one character in particular; little Rachel Ballantyne, who has had a big impact on my readers and who it was always enormous fun for me to summon, describe and voice.
Sad then, saying goodbye to it all. But I’m proud of this series. For better or for worse it all came out of my head, over a quarter of a million words, every letter of them typed with two fingers, my mind often hundreds of miles away from where I sat and wrote them, sharing the hopes and often the trepidation of characters I became genuinely fond of as the chapters unfolded and their stories progressed. Or failed to progress, given the grisly fates some of them encountered.
Some of those that survived might come back in future stories. One very definitely will, now the main protagonist of the novel I’m hoping to complete by the end of the year. But I’ve said my farewell to New Hope Island and in Harvest of Scorn I’ve said it in the best way I could contrive to do. Whether it’s a fitting conclusion to the trilogy is for its readers rather than me to decide. But in that melancholy way any permanent parting can inflict, I have to say I’m happy with it.
The concluding novel in my Colony trilogy is published on October 28. Those of you who like a scary Halloween read might be tempted by the timing. It’s been a long time in the gestation. I wrote The Colony, the first book in the series over the summer of 2011 in a Dorset cottage. I started this one immediately after finishing the second, Dark Resurrection, and handed in the completed draft in September of last year. The final edit was done over the summer just passed and the delay proved to be fortuitous. Originally the novel ended on a stoical wisecrack. I ended up adding an entire extra closing chapter that includes a climactic otherworldly encounter, a glimpse of redemption and a poignant parting of the ways.
My premise here is that a New Age entrepreneur has built a high class resort on the island he’s planning to sell as the New Hope Experience. It’s been built in sympathy with its desolate surroundings. The main complex is a vernacular construction of wood and granite, the work of a gifted Scottish architect and already tipped for awards. Felix Baxter’s dream is of a place steeped in history and mystery to which affluent visitors will pay heftily to become cultured and spiritual just by association. It’s a very modern concept. They can separate themselves from their busy lives in this stony wilderness. Or because Baxter has covered all the bases, they can climb demanding rock pitches or jet ski or ride the longest and most spectacular zip-wire in Europe.
So far, so visionary. But there are problems inherent to New Hope Island some of you will be familiar with. It’s a place with an anguished past, a repository of dark secrets, a place with all too tangible ghosts once home to something monstrous that might not be quite as extinct as the few people who know about it are inclined to suppose.
None of this bothers Baxter, a man putting profit first and self-schooled to see only the positives, even when his site manager disappears without trace from the island. All he leaves behind, in the small hours of the night, is the scream that awakens his companions. That’s how the novel opens and it’s not really giving too much away because believe me, that’s only the start.
Those of you who have read the first two books in the trilogy will find some old friends here. Phil Fortescue and Patsy Lassiter play crucial roles. Edie Chambers is reluctantly involved. Ruthie Gillespie is along for more than just the ride. And New Hope wouldn’t be the same without little Rachel Ballantyne, dead for almost 200 years and becoming tetchily tired of life. And Rachel, in a bad mood, can be very bad news indeed.
All that’s left to say here is that I sincerely hope those of you who read this book enjoy doing so. I hope you think it a fitting conclusion to the saga I had no idea it would become when I sat down on a June day six years ago, stared out at a pretty little garden, and began it. Here (I hope) are the links: