June 29 2017
That’s me and my son Gabriel on the coast at Courtown in County Wicklow in Ireland in the summer of 1999. He was born in September of ’97 and so wasn’t quite two years old. Despite appearances, I wasn’t about to drown him. He’s 19 now and about 6ft. 2ins tall and completely healthy. He’d have walked into the sea that day with me though without hesitation. Toddlers are poignantly trusting of their parents.
I’m prone to publish old photographs I think because the past so much informs the present. Certainly I believe without memory there’d be no fiction. Most of the places I write about possess an emotional weight they wouldn’t without the personal experiences undergone there. There’s only one location in my books – I won’t say which – I’ve never been to in my life. I wanted to see if I could create a landscape of imagination based only on popular perception of the place. But most of them I’ve lived in and some of them I really love.
I located Lavinia Mallory’s house in Cleaver Square in Kennington where in the mid-1980s, the Prince of Wales pub was my local. The houses in the square are austere, Georgian and very grand. Some of the more dissolute residents drank (heavily) in those days in the pub. Though none of them were as dissolute as Mrs Mallory would be when I came years later to write The Magdalena Curse.
My fey theologian Jacob Prior in The Lazarus Prophecy inhabits my old flat near the Oval cricket ground. Alice Lange in Dark Resurrection recovers her psychic gift in Shaftesbury, where I lived when I wrote The Colony. The piss-haunted lift that delivers Paul Seaton home in The House of Lost Souls would take me to my not-so-new 7th-floor abode about six months after this picture was taken. I make my stories up, but they’re rooted in the reality of recollection and a strong sense of place is extremely important to them. My recurring character Ruthie Gillespie lives in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight because it’s my favourite place in the world. Without the ties that bind, I’d live there myself.
Given that I spent a year living and working in Dublin Bay, I haven’t done much yet with Ireland. Although Ireland does feature quite importantly in Dark Echo. I was based in Bray, which has become a much more modish locale in recent years than it was when I was there. My arrival occurred in December and I remember the heavy scent of coal fires in the night air from the houses walking the streets. They were quiet streets and the nights were thickly dark. And Bray’s turn will surely come. It’s just a matter of time.