Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Glass Demon, published today!

Phew. It seems like it's taken forever to get to today - publication day for my second novel, "The Glass Demon." Coincidentally, a pristine copy of the book arrived today from Penguin. I did have another one, but my daughter appropriated it the day it arrived!

I'm thrilled to see the book "out there" at last. I thought when I wrote "The Vanishing of Katharina Linden" that I'd put everything I had into it, but I think I love this one even more (though perhaps like the mother of children, one ought not to have favourites). It was inspired by the true-life story of the Steinfeld abbey glass, which has long fascinated me.

The Steinfeld glass was created in the 1500s by the master craftsman Gerhard Remsich, and during its history it was removed from the Steinfeld cloister several times to avoid damage during times of unrest etc. Finally when the abbey was closed in the early 1800s due to secularisation, the glass was sold and apparently vanished completely. A century later the famous English ghost story writer M.R.James was asked by Lord Brownlow to catalogue the stained glass in the chapel of Ashridge House in Hertfordshire, England, and recognised the Steinfeld glass from a latin inscription. The glass inspired him to write his story "The treasure of Abbot Thomas." The story's publication was briefly noted in the newsletter of the Eifel Club (in Germany). A German Roman

Catholic priest called Nikola Reinartz read the notice and was intrigued. On a subsequent visit to the UK he contacted MRJ to find out where the glass was, and went to see it in person. His articles (in German) about his correspondence with the famous writer, and the series of coincidences which led to his seeing the glass, make fascinating reading. The glass itself was never returned to Steinfeld; it was sold at Sotheby's in the 1920s for a sum equivalent to about 800,000 pounds in modern money.

The story fascinated me for several reasons. I was amazed that something as fragile as stained glass could be removed from the cloister windows without being smashed to smithereens. And I couldn't help thinking that if a second series of windows by the same craftsman were to be discovered nowadays, they would be almost priceless. And that was the starting point for "The Glass Demon", which is all about a set of lost stained glass windows supposedly haunted by a demon.

If you want to know more about M.R.James, take a look at the excellent Ghosts and Scholars website:

Father Reinartz is an interesting character, too. A passionate local historian, he was also an outspoken critic of Nazism. During my research I developed a real respect and affection for him, and gave his surname to Michel Reinartz, one of the characters in the book. The picture at the top of this post is of Father Reinartz's grave at Kreuzweingarten, near Bad M√ľnstereifel. I have visited it several times.

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