Genial: The Love Song of Simon and Julie

I’m hopeless at this marketing thing. Self-publishing is a good way to get the books out there, but unless you also enjoy doing all that marketing malarkey you’re never going to sell your books. It was bad enough sending out chapters to agents and then checking on which agents had what and who had sent me rejections — the kind of bureaucratic nonsense that eats up valuable writing time. I’ve got this blog and I forget about it from day-to-day, despite it being essentially the only vehicle I have for marketing myself. And even then, I’m pretty sure nobody reads it…

Still, on we go.

In July I published the latest in the Dereham Nodes, Genial: The Love Song of Simon and Julie. This is Node 4.5. Now, you might wonder, why Node 4.5? Well, there is a reason, naturellement. This node is more a novella than a novel, as it is only about 50 thousand words. It also centres around a story that is, genre-wise, quite different to the other novels. It is a love story, as the subtitle indicates. It doesn’t really involve spies, UFOs, the paranormal, crazy people, or any of that stuff. It does involve friendship, which, I realise, is quite a theme of the later novels in this series. It also takes place in the background to everything that is happening in Raven of Dispersion (Node 4), and Simon becomes one of the major characters in The Ethical Hitman (Node 5). So, to me, it felt like a novel that was in the same network, but slightly off the main routes.

So, what is Genial about? It’s about the summer of 1976 — the dazzling summer, the long hot summer, the summer when the sun shone always, and would shine always and forever — and young old friends Simon and Julie drift through the glorious lazy holiday that stretches before them, wondering what they should do about the loves they somehow left behind, before the sun came out. As they share time together under the blue skies, in the sultry heat, with their friends — the friend who loves his car, the friend who loves fixing cars, the friend whose boyfriend loves his drink, the friend who loves all the boys, the friend who loves somebody else’s girlfriend — they wonder who it is they should love. Out on the hills, out in the fields, and riding in cars with the wind in their hair, Simon and Julie become languorously entangled. Can this entanglement last longer than sunshine? Or is it only a creation of this magical summer? Their story is episodic, picaresque, sentimental, romantic. And most genial.

Various characters from other novels appear, and Simon and Julie themselves re-appear in later novels in the series. The novel also holds another secret or ludic notion, a notion at which the blurb on the back of the book hints.

I had a break from writing after finishing Genial. It’s been a pretty intense 15 years of writing and editing (especially when you consider that my day-to-day job is technical  writing!), including five novels and three non-fiction books. However, this year will see me get back into the groove as I work with sometime co-author Kevin on Node 0, and start writing Node 6. And I will be chasing a publisher/agent again. Never give up…

The Ethical Hitman is Out!

So, finally, The Ethical Hitman is out there. Conceived third, written second, and fourth in the original series (but now fifth, or perhaps, mysteriously, sixth), it has taken ten years and fourteen drafts. Okay, a good few of those years were taken up with writing other books and trying to find an agent/publisher, so it’s perhaps not so surprising that it has taken so long.

The germ for this one was the hitman, who I’d included in a previous unfinished novel as one of the kind of unlikely people you sometimes meet hitch-hiking. After the first draft, the hitman evolved into somebody readers of previous books might think they know. I ended up writing the third or fourth draft of this novel at the same time as co-writing the first draft of a previous book in the series (Crossing the Line), and once I saw that my co-author had introduced a killer, it was obvious — to me at least –that the killer would become a hitman, and that hitman would become the hitman in this novel. Everything connects, particularly through the imaginary town of Dereham.

Also slowing down production were my own insecurities. Friends who read early draft mentioned various things, which caused me to rewrite those various things, or restructure other various things. Ultimately, and perhaps unsurprisingly, only one thing ever carried over from my friends’ comments — we get to know Molly better. The rest of the novel, despite my best efforts, remained as it was. Sections I’d taken out would wriggle their way back in, the structure would change, and then change back, characters would grow, and then diminish. In the end, at about draft ten, I looked at it all — the latest draft and the previous draft, and thought:  this is the story it is, and it can only ultimately please me. Although I do hope somebody else enjoys it too.

Set in the autumn of 1976, after the action in Raven of Dispersion, it chronicles the interactions of a hitman, a group of young friends, and Molly — who is possibly a spy, or as deluded as the hitman.  When Nick, hitching home one day, meets a hitman, he doesn’t know what to think. Should he laugh, or be scared? The hitman has ethics, of course — no women, no children. When Nick tells his friends what has happened, they laugh. Of course, it’s mad. The hitman is probably a lonely nutter, the type you sometimes meet out on the road, the type who tells tall tales. So they all forget about the hitman. Instead they worry about themselves. Nick wonders when he can get out of town, Mark obsesses about Chrissie, and Simon missing Anna, finds Jill. Gaz continues stealing things. When Molly breezes into town, and says she’s a spy, the friends are inclined to think her as mad as the hitman. She’s looking for her sister, she says, and for a man she always calls Archie even though she hates him. And then Nick see the car that had picked him up. The nutter’s car, the hitman’s car. Intrigued, he and Mark follow it. They are blithely riding into dangers they cannot understand. Because, after all, the hitman’s ethics don’t cover Nick.

It is then, a tale of love and death. But who loves, and who dies?

Miles and Reese (Deleted Scenes 1)


Miles and Reese are two characters that flit around the periphery of the Dereham novels. We first meet them in Sorrow Mystica, where they are habitués of Copsehill, although sceptical of the Dereham mystery. They might yet become secondary but important characters in the as-yet unwritten German Overalls. Reese himself plays a small but pivotal role in Crossing the Line, when he meets Archie in Reading. 

The following scene takes place on Copsehill, in 1972, just after Peta, Archie and other assembled skywatchers have spotted a UFO, known locally as a red rambler.

Peta noticed the two hippies sitting atop the gates that barred the rough roadway to the copse at Copsehill. They were separate from the assembled skywatchers, a part of the gathering but apart from it. Miles Stephens  and Reese Johns. They kept themselves to themselves most of the time, although were always friendly.

Miles struggled to roll a joint in the dark while trying to keep his long blonde hair out of the way. “Did you catch that, Reese? Old Patterson said the News of the World are up here on Saturday. He said it would put Dereham on the map.”

Reese laughed quietly. “It’s already on the bloody map, isn’t it? Otherwise how did all these skywatchers find their way here?”

“Intuition? Lured by the siren’s song? Guided by the light?”

“Do you think we should tell Dyson?” Perhaps, as the purveyors of this fine news, he’d finally allow us to join his merry band of hoaxers and japers.”

Miles smiled. Not only had he succeeded in constructing his joint, he also knew Reese had a point. “Yeah. Terry’s a bloody tit in that department. He likes to keep his activities secret and hush-hush. Like he’s in the bloody military or something. And yet not so secret that we don’t know about it.” Miles lit the joint and toked at it, then looked into the dark sky. “Do you think he was behind that display a few minutes ago?”

Reese shook his head. “I think not. It was far too good for him. He can’t make them go round corners yet. You never know, that might have been one of old man Patterson’s real yoo-fos.” He emphasized the last word in a broad West Country accent, parodying his own country burr.

Miles passed the joint to Reese. “You mean to tell me you actually believe that was a UFO? Good Lord, young man! You’ll be signing up with Patterson’s lot next!”

“Men from Mars and all that stuff? I should jolly well say not!” Reese paused, thoughtfully. “But, what did we just observe, Mr. Sceptic Man?”

Miles shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know. After all, it’s not as if we had a chance to capture it and subject it to our sceptical scalpels. Helicopter? Lights shining on the underbelly of a nightjar? A secret military test-bed?”

Miles playfully thumped his friend on the arm. “Well, why no sound? It’s a clear, moonless, still night.”

“What difference does there being no moon make, buffoon?”

“I don’t know. It’s just that the stars seem bright, the very atmosphere pellucid, without her cracked and scarred face frowning down on us.”

“Very pretty,” Miles said.

“You know what I mean. That red rambler was dazzling, man! Scintillating! A coruscating crimson in its nocturnal wanderings!”

Reese handed the joint back to Miles. He inhaled deeply, exhaled slowly. “Indeed,” her finally said. “It did glitter and sparkle in its night-time weaving.”

“And still you refuse to come to the point, my good man. Why the absence of sound you would expect of any terrestrially-designed aeroform?”

“Well, if it were a night-jar, you wouldn’t expect a sound.”

“But it would sing. Wheep, it would go. Wheep. Wheep.”

“Call that a song? It’s enough to make me weep.”

“Yes, but that’s what we would hear.”

“How the fuck do you know?”

“I saw a television programme once. I learnt its call. The skylark was too bloody difficult, man.” Reece paused. “Wheep,” he said. “Wheep.”

“Sounds like an alien, to me. Are you sure you weren’t watching Dr Who?”

“No, that would be Meep. Meep meep.”

“Don’t talk shit, man!” Miles paused. “That’s a fucking aardvark.”

Reese started laughing. “How would you know?”

“I saw it on a television programme. Once.”

“Nonetheless, young jackanapes — why no sound?”

“Oh, I don’t know. Perhaps it was a secret military test-bed using anti-gravitational and geomagnetic energy drives reverse-engineered from a crashed flying saucer. Anyway, all this ratiocination is making me cotton-mouthed. What time is it?”

Reese looked at his watch, a rather expensive one with a lot of dials. He squinted for a moment. “It’s just gone ten, I think.”

“You should have bought one with fluorescent hands,” Miles pointed out.

“Yeah, but does have a rotating bezel! Pass me your lighter, will you, good man?”

Miles re-lit the joint, and then passed over the lighter. Reese flicked it a couple of times before the dim flame sparked into life. “Yes. Five past ten. We might get to the nearest pub if we get a move on.”

“Only if you get the first round in,” Miles said.

“Oh, no, not again! It’s always my bloody round! Still, I’ve got your lighter.”

“Yeah, but I’ve got the joint.”

They jumped down from the gate. Just as they landed, the shrill electronic sound of a UFO detector sounded.

“Bit bloody late,” Miles said loudly.

Some of the skywatchers overheard him, and chuckled.

Miles and Reese began to thread their way through the skywatchers. As they passed Peta, both glanced at her.

Further down the hill, Miles said, “Foxy.”

“Meep, meep,” Reese said.


So,Where Are We?

A comment by one of my readers  about whether the Panylraeans — the aliens of the first book, Sorrow Mystica – return in later novels got me thinking about how I have arrived at a position where I know there will be at least seven novels (Nodes 0 and 2-6), and possibly eight if Node 1 (Operation Flashlight) ever gets finished. And possibly more. And that the Panylraeans may not (but then again, they might) return.

So – to begin at the beginning. The first of the Dereham Nodes to be written is the one recently published, Raven of Dispersion. As it was my first novel, there were things I wasn’t happy with, so several million rewrites occurred. Okay, so several million is an exaggeration. About twenty drafts.

During these travails I helped Kevin Goodman write his UFO Warminster: Cradle of Contact. After we finished that, Kevin suggested we write something else. Knowing of his interest in science fiction and UFOs, I suggested fiction with a sci fi bent. Of course, Kevin wanted aliens in there somewhere. I wanted to subvert such notions. So we kind of compromised on a Ruth Rendell-style sci fi involving aliens, contactees, relationships and… well… read it, and you’ll see how it all came together. But, because Raven already involved the paranormal and young people looking for flying saucers, I thought it might be fun if we set at least part of Sorrow in Dereham, the ufological hotspot I had already invented for Raven. The seeds for a series were thus sown.

After I’d finished writing Raven of Dispersion and was editing that and Kev’s book, I had an idea for a novel I thought of as “Band Novel”, that would move the characters of “Raven” to 1984 — older, possibly wiser, possibly madder in some cases, some of whom would be, yes, you guessed it, in a band. So I started making notes.

However, while I was making notes for “Band Novel”, I was looking at some of my old writing notes, and noticed one that involved a hitman. What, I thought, if a bunch of young Wiltshire hippies were confronted with somebody who claimed he was a hitman? Wouldn’t they just think him delusional? And what if they started following him around. What would happen? And so The Ethical Hitman — the next novel to be published — took shape.

Meanwhile, Kevin had become interested in what had happened to some of the characters from Sorrow Mystica, and what they might get up to after that book finished. So he started sending me rough ideas for a kind of thriller spy-type book. Given that I’d already started working on The Ethical Hitman, and knew “Band Novel” would happen at some point in the future, I could see ways to tie all these together, and make fun interconnections between all the books.

Kevin wanted  what was to become Crossing the Line to be a spy-thriller-guns-explosions type of book. But I wanted to subvert that. So, we compromised on a Ruth Rendell-style spy-thriller-guns-explosions type book. Yes, we were mashing genres. We wrote Crossing really quickly, enjoying ourselves immensely, finishing it and the drafts of Sorrow while I was still on draft 12 of Raven.

Sorrow Mystica and Crossing the Line are set in 1971/1972, while Raven of Dispersion is set in 1976. It made sense then that, when I decided to self-publish, the novels should be released in the same order as their timeline.

So next then will be The Ethical Hitman, Genial (both set in 1976), and then German Overalls (set in 1984).

Kevin and I are also working on Panlyrae: A Message for Mankind and Operation Flashlight, which would be nodes 0 and 1, and will be set in the 40s/50s/60s. These could be released at any point in the series.

And then, there might well be something set on the planet Panlyrae at some indeterminate point in the age of the universe. I have ideas…

There might also be something about a couple of characters from Dereham dithering about whether to take a trip on the Settle and Carlisle railway. This one will be a hoot. I might need Kevin to subvert the rather Ruth Rendell-ish, Anita Brookner-ish nature of it with guns, bombs, aliens and spies.

Raven of Dispersion – Node 4

Finally! Node 4 of the Dereham Connections has arrived.

Not quite in time for Christmas, unless you’re very quick – but it is finally published this year, at least. The book is available in paperback and Kindle from Amazon, and available to order as a paperback from other places, I should imagine.

Raven of Dispersion is set in the imaginary Dereham, somewhere in an imaginary corner of Wiltshire, in a very real long, hot, summer of 1976. The mysteries that swirl about the town are about to entangle the young and the arrogant in ways they can’t imagine.

Six friends. Charlie, James and  Imogen, Stuart and Kate, Paul. They walk the sun-soaked hill tops, searching for answers, looking for UFOs. They talk about the occult. They drink, flirt, smoke and kiss.

Charlie had always fancied Imo. Tall, beautiful Imo. Everybody loved her.

Imo loved James. Except… Except, James was fond of his brandy, and at eighteen had already started down a road that led, Imo feared, to drunkenness and dissolution.

Imo was, however, happy that her best and oldest friend had fallen for Stuart. Handsome Stuart. Flirty Stuart. Lots of girls fancied Stuart, even Imogen once – much to Charlie’s chagrin. What Charlie feared most was that Imogen would one day leave James and take up with Stuart. Why he feared this outcome above all else, Charlie wasn’t sure. So when he fell for Paul’s younger sister Jane, he felt he could at last put all that nonsense about Imo behind him. It wasn’t like he was obsessed or anything. No, he wasn’t like that at all.

And Paul? He had studied the occult masters, and was a neophyte no longer. He knew how to perform the Banishing Ritual and Regardie’s Healing Ritual of the Middle Pillar. He had seen Raphael and Ariel. When he and James whimsically decide to work the paths of the Kabbala one night on Copsehill, what could possibly go wrong?


Because when the Raven of Dispersion enters their world, a slow spiral into madness begins.

Raven of Dispersion at Amazon



Laughing Jack

The novels I write are set in the fictional Wiltshire town of Dereham. Some of my short stories are also set in or near this fictional town…


As the copse finally came into view over the brow of the hill, it looked dark, forbidding. David now felt unable to enter it. His progress slowed. Then he stopped,  and sat down on the damp grass with the copse behind him. He no longer wanted to see it. A skylark piped somewhere above him in the fading light of an October afternoon. He lay down on his back and looked up into the pale autumn blue, searching for the source of the song until spots formed before his eyes. But the copse still waited for him, a brooding darkness, and he knew he could put it off no longer. He stood, thrust his hands deep into his slate-blue fleece, and resumed his walk towards the trees. Why, he wondered, did the copse so intrigue, so enthral, yet so appal him?

He had often seen this copse – one of many that seemed to sprout at random at the edge of Salisbury Plain – from the road when he drove to work, and had resolved to visit it. When he found on one of his maps that this was the infamous Halter Copse, about which he had read so much, a visit became imperative.

David had only moved to Dereham recently. It was a small town that flowed around the downs and hangings of Salisbury Plain. Whenever he arrived in a new town – which he perhaps did too often, he had always been restless – he read books on the local folklore. David knew such tales were mixtures of legends and myths, exaggerations and untruths. But he couldn’t help being intrigued by them, couldn’t help wanting to believe them. Halter Copse had once been the site of the Dereham gibbet, and was also home to the kinds of supernatural phenomena that always intrigued him. The copse was said to have an elf-tree, from which the elves spilled at night to dance and gambol and beguile unwary travellers on the old Dereham Road. Not that travellers slowed to pass through the copse, anyway, as they hurried on to avoid a meeting with the Black Dog of Halter Copse, as big as a foal, that was said to trot through the trees with its fangs bared and its eyes burning like hot coals. And then, of course, there was Laughing Jack, the ghost of a shepherd who once lived in a mud house — a hut really, long since fallen down — at the edge of the copse. Jack had cursed the farmer who had thrown him out of the house for drinking and letting the sheep run away, saying he would come back haunt the farmer for ever, although the current farmer was brave enough to leave his sheep in the care of the drunken ghost shepherd.

Folk tales being what they were, Laughing Jack shared his time between the copse and Red Post Farm, two miles back down Lavington Road track, for it was there had lived the farmer who had evicted him. David wondered why Laughing Jack would still haunt the farm when that farmer had long since died. Indeed, why would he continue to haunt this copse, when his mud house could no longer be seen? Yet there must be something to these tales of haunting. After all, the books insisted that no other shepherd had dared live in Jack’s hut, believing his laugh would drive them mad. Once you hear Jack laugh, one book had said, your life will never again be the same.

David at last, and not without some trepidation, walked between the grey trunks and into the centre of the copse. He was relieved to find it not as dark as he’d feared. A murky light filtered through the curling, cracking, yellow and brown leaves. He looked for evidence of the old Dereham gibbet, even though he knew it would have long since rotted away. He found nothing but trees and weeds. Grass, gorse and brambles tangled together, snagged his trousers and snared his feet. He was, he knew, nervous and fanciful by nature, saw things when others didn’t, heard noises others couldn’t. Yet this had never stopped him exploring these places. And this copse wasn’t really so bad now he was here. Why was I so frightened?

David walked out of the copse, and almost tripped over something hidden among the vines and briars. He kicked the tangled weeds apart with the toe of his baseball boot, ready to believe he had found the stump of the gibbet. Instead, he found a platform of red clay raised an inch or two above the ground. Laughing Jack had lived in a mud hut, cob David supposed, and he knew that untended cob not so much fell as melted away, leaving only the line of a wall, and perhaps a floor, raised above the ground, a memory trace that would in time also be erased, leaving nothing except legends and the name of Laughing Jack.

Twilight was falling across the fields. David had no  desire to be here when darkness fell, but the walk had taken longer than expected. His nerves thrilled. He walked away from the copse and sat atop the grassy bank at the side of the path. Laughing Jack’s crime – if crime it had been – of being drunk in charge of sheep hardly warranted eviction, David thought. He tried to remember the name of the farmer who had thrown Jack out of the house. The name was on the tip of his tongue.

“Daniel Black,” a countryman’s voice said. “Danny Boy Black, Black Danny, Daniel Death.”

David started. A chill ran down his back. He looked towards the copse. A figure slowly materialised from between the trees, taking shape from the shadows as if coalescing from leaves and mist and twilight. How did he know – for it was a man, old, with a white beard, David noticed – what I was thinking?

The man laughed. “How do you suppose?”

David wanted to run, but his legs were too weak to do so. “Because,” David said, his voice breaking, “You’re Laughing Jack. And,” he continued with a nervous giggle, “you’re a ghost.”

At that, Laughing Jack unleashed a long peal of laughter. The hairs on the back of David’s neck and on his arms stood up. But he couldn’t run, nor could he scream. He felt that, if he tried to scream, the result would be like one of the dreams he sometimes had where dark things happened, but instead of a scream erupting only a thin, frustrated whimper was caught forever in his throat. He remained trapped on his grassy bank, talking to a ghost.

“It seems you know of me,” Jack said.

“I’ve heard the stories about your drinking, and how you were thrown out of your home by the farmer who employed you–”

“Black Danny.”

“And that after you died you returned to haunt him.”

“I was a drinker, I cannot deny that. That’s why I laughed so much. I was a dancer too! I was also known as Dancing Jack.” He shimmied across the grass at the edge of the copse, fluid in the twilight, and laughed. “What do you think of that?”

“Very graceful,” David said.

“That I am, lad, that I am. Now tell me – what do you know about Danny Boy Black?”

“Nothing. The stories only name him as the farmer you returned to haunt.”

“Ah, Black Danny. Queer that he should be forgotten, and I should be remembered.” Jack was quiet for a moment, and then laughed again. “Do you wonder why I call him Black Danny, Danny Death?”

“Yes, I do,” David said. He also wondered how he could see and hear Jack at all.

“I suppose the tales of my hauntings are much more interesting than stories about Black Danny. But I could tell you tales of Danny, oh yes. He liked to beat everybody. Did you know that? With a rod, a hammer, a spade… Whatever he could find. And if there was nothing to hand, why, he would use his fists. He beat his workers, his children, his wife.” Jack looked at me. “What do you think about that, lad?”

“The books say little about Dan Black.”

“Do you think he threw me off the land simply because I was a drunk? I’d always been drunk. We were all drunk. You couldn’t drink the water in those days.”

“So why did he evict you?”

“Because I saw him beating his wife and tried to stop him. Because I loved Annie, too. And I did stop him. But then he came to the house…” Jack looked down at his feet “To this mud hovel, with two of his farm-hands, and beat me. Then he threw me off his land. He spread stories about me, about my drinking, that would have stopped me ever working in these parts again.”

“So that’s why you returned to haunt him?”

“No lad, no.” Jack wasn’t laughing anymore, not even smiling. “The world was wider in those days. I could have walked across the border into Somerset, walked down to Wells or Glastonbury, found myself a job there. Danny Black’s words didn’t travel that far.”

“The books say you drank yourself to death.”

“I wish.” Jack gave a bitter laugh. “I drank myself to stupidity. Then I began the walk back to Danny’s farm to give him a good thrashing. But as I passed… here…” He looked down again, spread his arms wide. “Yes, here… I found Danny Boy smashing the few possessions I’d left behind. I came in to stop him, and we started fighting. I may have bested him once, when I was protecting Annie, but now I was drunk, and tired…”

“So he thrashed you instead.”

The sun had dipped below the Plain, and the sky was silver behind the copse. The light was failing. Laughing Jack was a dark figure, standing at the edge of the copse where the one room of his hut would have been. His voice was sombre now. “Who was the last person to die on the gibbet here? Do your books tell you that?”

“Yes. William Bartlett. Hung for stealing a sheep.”

“Hung for a sheep.” Jack laughed, but even in the twilight, David could see that Jack was shaking his head. “Ah, well. I knew Bill. He’d been hungry the week he stole that sheep, with no work on the land available.’ Jack shook his head. ‘However, poor Bill was not the last to be hung here.” He paused. “I was the last hung here.”

No book David read had ever mentioned this. “What had you done?”

“Nothing, laddie. Except cross Dark Danny. Danny Boy bested me, of course he did. I was a drunken old fool. And I’d made Danny angry that day. He decided he wanted rid of me for good. There was rope and twine aplenty in my hut. He hog-tied me and dragged me to the gibbet. Danny was strong… He was very strong.” Jack’s voice was fading. “I should have walked on to Glaston that day, instead of drinking that flagon of ale.”

David could hardly speak. “Yes, perhaps you should.”

“Danny hauled me up the gibbet, then watched me swing, and swing, watched the life leaving me. He knew my other nickname, and called out to me, ‘How do you like dancing now, Jack?’ Aye, Black Danny was dark all right.”

Life then had been hard, David knew that. You could be hung for a sheep, the water was undrinkable, children worked the fields. But, it seemed, Danny Boy Black had been very dark, even in those dark times.

“That’s why I haunted Danny Black,” Laughing Jack said.

His form was becoming less solid, transparent in places, so that the silver trace of twilight at the western horizon showed through him.

“I’ll be leaving you soon,” Jack said. “But one more thing. Danny Boy buried me here, deep in the ground. Can you find my bones and place them in a churchyard for me?”

David wasn’t sure how he would do that, but a lump had formed in his throat, and there tears at the edges of his eyes, and he knew he would try, that he had to try.

“Where are your bones?” David asked quietly.

“Beneath my feet, of course.” And Jack was laughing again.


The next day, David returned to the copse with a spade, cleared away briars and vines, and began to dig into the red clay floor between the old cob walls. He dug down three or four feet, but never found any bones. The following day, he returned and dug outside the fallen walls and again found nothing. David returned many times. He dug the floor again and again, dug all over and around the copse, always battling the vines and briars, the heat and rain, the sticky red clay and the thick tree roots. When he had first started on his mission, friends had sometimes accompanied him. But now, five years later, he had no friends. He came to the copse alone. To those who passed him as they walked the path from Dereham towards the Plain, David was something of an eccentric. To the farmer – who David had once chased with a spade, shouting ‘Away with you, Danny Black’ – he was a nuisance to be tolerated.

Sometimes, David would want to give up. But then he would see a dark shape dancing through the trees, and hear Jack’s voice saying, “Find my bones, David. Find my bones,” in an exaggeratedly pitiful, cracked old voice. And then Jack would laugh, and laugh, and laugh.


If I’m a bit rubbish at blogging — which I am — it’s because I am so busy editing the other things I’m writing, squeezing in some blogging is difficult.

This blog entry is more an informercial really. 🙂 My recent distraction has been editing a novella – Genial: Being the Courtship of Simon and Julie. This is only draft three of the text, and I expect at least a couple more. But the novella is set in 1976, which is 40 years ago. And 40 years ago was the best summer most people will remember ever. Hot blazing sun for weeks on end, it was as Mediterranean as the UK will ever get. So, I said on Facebook I would create an ebook of this early draft for free if enough people liked my status, in honour of that summer. Well, about ten people did (I don’t have many Facebook friends!), so I’ve created an ebook in various formats for most readers, available from the dropbox links below.

The blurb:

It’s the summer of 1976 — the dazzling summer, the long hot summer, the summer when the sun shone and would shine always and forever  — and young old friends Simon and Julie drift through the glorious lazy holiday that stretches before them, wondering what they should do about the loves they left before the summer began. As they share time together under the blue skies and in the sultry heat — in the pubs of the town, out on the hills and in the fields, and riding in cars with the wind in their hair — their lives become languorously entangled. Can this entanglement last longer than the summer? Or is it only a creation of the magical Mediterranean weather? Their story is episodic, picaresque, sentimental, romantic. And most genial.

It is Node 4.5 of the Dereham Connections. Everything connects.

You can get your hands on a free copy at one of these links:

Have fun!

NODE 3 – “Crossing the Line” Published

The second book in the Dereham Connections series has now been published. Node 3, Crossing the Line was finally unleashed upon a suspecting world a few weeks back. Here’s the blurb…

Peta Shepherd had already crossed the line. Archie Conn might know why, and Harry Roberts would cross lines to find him. Emily Freeman had crossed a line, leaving the US and moving to London to be with Len Stone, Peta’s friend, Archie’s nemesis. Her head was full of secrets; why was she leaving? Colonel Skinner would cross lines to discover why, and to keep the Brits off his back. Mick Edge would cross lines to discover why the Yanks were operating on his soil without his authorisation, and what Archie had learned from Peta Shepherd about the aliens she had once talked to.

And Archibald Franklin Conn? He had crossed many lines in his time – but the line he was about to cross would put him far beyond the pale.

In the end, all lines cross – and the outcome changes lives forever.

The book is available from Amazon as a paperback and as a Kindle book. Here’s a link to the paperback.





I am currently editing Raven of Dispersion, Node 4.0 in the Dereham Connections and it should be published some when in July/August…

Imaginary Dereham

When there was only one novel in the Dereham Connections, and only one author of those novels, keeping tabs of where everybody lived, the roads through the town, the hills around it, and so on, was relatively straightforward. When another author joined the fun, and needed to know where to set his characters walking, he had no access to my internal map. I therefore needed to map out the town and its surrounds for his education, entertainment and immersion.

I like maps anyway, so the need to make a map was no great imposition. In fact, I enjoyed the process. The map never extends far enough, though. In the first draft of Node 4.5, Genial, characters have walked off to the south of the town, into new territory. The urge to create an actual map of this new land is strong.

So, for those who have read Sorrow Mystica, and have read drafts of the other Connections, here is the map (so far) of that imaginary Dereham.


Look, there’s Derebury Hill, there’s The Tump. There’s the infamous Copsehill! There’s The White Lion, where the hippies gather, and there’s The Swan where the smooths go. (Apologies to all map readers for the confusingly-coloured railway line in this version of the map!)

What’s that? You can’t see the town centre very well? Here. let me help…


As I say, there are whole areas of the map missing: the recently-wandered south, where Simon and Julie found the village of Hammersmith (in ruins); Burnt Norton, a village to the north-west of Dereham, where Imogen, Kate, and Jake live; Southleigh, to the south-west, where Heather and Mary live, and various people go to, or went to, college; and the villages around Southleigh, in one of which the mysterious Anna lives.

One day, the map will grow. I’ll keep you up-to-date.

Node 4 – Raven of Dispersion

So, after the contactees and spies and conspiracies of the early 1970s, Node 4 — Raven of Dispersion moves us into the middle of the decade, and the long, hot summer of 1976. We leave behind characters that we have followed through the two preceding novels. Now, instead of spies and contactees and night-club owners, we become involved with young adults.

But I don’t like to think of this as a young adult novel — the characters are simply young; when I was that age, I didn’t think of myself as a young adult. I just thought I was brilliant and knew everything.

The characters in Raven of Dispersion are burgeoning intellectuals, exploring the world of ideas through the unconventional route of UFOs and the paranormal, and their first explorations of T S Eliot, Karl Marx, DH Lawrence,  Colin Wilson, and so on. Of course, being young, there are feelings to contend with  — love, and that new-fangled word, relationships.

It is at this nexus of love and the unconventional that things go a little bit awry. Because the young can be just a bit too sure of themselves, certain that they know what they are doing. And the young might also think their experiments — with balloons and lights, let us say — can surely have no consequences beyond the scientific.

And yet one balloon, and one set of lights — mixed with a pinch of beauty and one lovin’ spoonful of psychosis — are the ingredients for a proper brouhaha.


A blog about the series of novels set in the the imaginary town of Dereham, in an imaginary part of Wiltshire