Thursday, October 18, 2012

Something nasty for the weekend, sir?

 "...when the heir of Mauleon was in so good a humour it rarely meant anything welcome for anyone else." (Alberic de Mauleon, by Helen Grant)

Today's post brought me a treat: my eagerly-awaited author copies of The Ghosts and Scholars Book of Shadows! The book is the result of a competition run by the M.R.James Ghosts and Scholars Newsletter, to write a prequel or sequel to one of M.R.James' ghost stories. The number and quality of entries was considered to be sufficiently good that a book was proposed.
I'm very busy these days working on my novels so I rarely get time to write short fiction any more. However, I really couldn't resist this competition! I've loved the ghost stories of M.R.James since I was a child and my father used to retell them to us to amuse us on boring journeys and long walks. I've also written a number of non-fiction articles about M.R.James, some of which I have republished on this blog, and some of which are available online at the excellent Ghosts and Scholars website:
I have a particular interest in the foreign locations of M.R.James' stories and have visited and written about Steinfeld abbey, St. Bertrand de Comminges, Viborg and Marcilly-le-Hayer. Perhaps for this reason, I chose to make my entry a prequel to Canon Alberic's Scrap-book, which is set in Comminges. Location is very important to me when I'm writing and I like to use real places (sometimes disguised and renamed) as my settings. Two of my first three novels are set in Bad M√ľnstereifel, the German town where we lived from 2001 to 2008, and my upcoming novel Silent Saturday is set in Flanders, where we lived from 2008 until 2011. I spent nothing like as long as that in Comminges - just a day and a night - but the town and particularly the environs of the cathedral are very clear and vivid in my memory.

Above: the cathedral of Notre-Dame, St. Bertrand de Comminges.

Above: interior of the cathedral showing the amazing carved wooden chancel and organ.

I've always liked Canon Alberic's Scrap-book a lot anyway - there are so many unanswered questions such as what exactly was the much-desired thing about which the Canon asked on the night of December 12th 1694? My story aims to answer some of those questions.
I haven't read the other stories yet but am very much looking forward to doing so. If I can possibly bear to, I may try to save at least one of them up for Hallowe'en! 
The book is very much for M.R.James fans; as the tales are prequels and sequels you need to have read the original stories! 
If you are interested in ordering the book, which is a limited edition hardcover, here are the details:

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