Tag Archives: Black Shuck Books

My writing year 2022

This year I had the following work published:

Sherlock Holmes: The Defaced Men (Titan) – my second Holmes novel (after The Back to Front Murder), featuring cinema pioneer Eadweard Muybridge.

Sherlock Holmes – The Twelve Thefts of Christmas

Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas (Titan) – a ‘Christmas special’ of a Holmes novel, featuring Irene Adler’s ‘advent calendar of crimes’ and with central roles for Mary Watson and Mrs Hudson.

Shade of Stillthorpe (Black Shuck) – a weird, folk horror-ish novella about family, fatherhood and changelings.

The Marshalls of Mars

‘The Marshalls of Mars’ (IZ Digital / Interzone) – a short story about parenthood and isolation, featuring Meryl and Rich, the protagonists of my first published Interzone story, back in 2014.

It’s less than in previous years, but still a substantial enough output overall, I think. Most of all, I’m proud of all of this work.

I’ll be honest: 2022 hasn’t been the easiest year for writing and publishing. The year began with the disappointing cancellation of an anthology that would have included one of my stories, and would have represented a huge ambition fulfilled. It was also the first year in around a decade in which I didn’t begin working on a new original novel, which leaves me feeling that I haven’t made proper progress. Instead, most of the year was spent making revisions and editorial changes to two projects begun last year, and drafting the first half of a commissioned tie-in novel.

While I spent just under 300 hours writing, so much of my time was spent editing that I wrote fewer words than I have since 2018 – just over 172,000 words, compared to 286,000 words last year.

The year also involved a great deal of waiting. Though waiting is a fundamental characteristic of the publishing industry, and usually I’m fairly resistant to it, the long delays for feedback on drafts and submissions hit me hard this year, making progress on new projects far more difficult. It’s the first time I’ve been conscious that my writing career can have a negative impact on my mental health.

Another frustration was that my Christmas Sherlock Holmes title, The Twelve Thefts of Christmas, was affected by the IT software issue that has disrupted Waterstones warehousing and supply since the summer. The book was a month late to arrive in bookshops, and even then it failed to appear in most stores, despite (it seems) copies being ordered by booksellers. Given that it’s very much a seasonal novel, it’s now had its chance.

However – I mention these things not as complaints, but simply as a record of my year. I’m aware that I’m in a privileged position, and that I’m fortunate in that my work is still being published. More than anything, I continue to love writing, and I still have the luxury of plenty of time in which to do it.

The year to come is a little unpredictable, but there is one exciting element: the publication of an original novel that I’m really excited about, and that I’ll hopefully be able to announce soon. In fact, I’m determined to do right by this book in terms of publicising it widely, so I’ll be talking about it a lot. Apologies in advance.

Publication day: Shade of Stillthorpe

Shade of Stillthorpe

Book birthday! SHADE OF STILLTHORPE is published today by the excellent Black Shuck Books. It’s a lost-in-the-forest changeling story. A teen boy disappears during a camping trip & the person who reappears is entirely different – but only his father refuses to be taken in.

“A seemingly impossible premise becomes increasingly real in this inventive and heartbreaking tale of loss.” Lucie McKnight Hardy

“Parenthood is a forest of emotions, including jealousy, confusion and terror, in Shade of Stillthorpe. It’s a dark mystery that resonated deeply with me.” Aliya Whiteley

The novella’s available from all the usual places – but please do prioritise bookshops or buy direct from the publisher.

Finally, here’s a Spotify book soundtrack which acts nicely as a teaser to the story.

Shade of Stillthorpe

Book soundtrack: Shade of Stillthorpe

As I’ve explained in previous blog posts, I create soundtracks for most of my novels and longer fiction. My lost-in-the-forest changeling novella SHADE OF STILLTHORPE is steeped in music, and definitely required a soundtrack, which I created between drafts and which in turn shaped the narrative.

You can listen to the playlist via Spotify or via the widget below.

Here’s a track-by-track explanation of the selections:

1. The Earth With Her Crowns – Laura Cannell
This track represents the ‘opening credits’, for want of a better term. SHADE OF STILLTHORPE is partly a folk horror, and this sparse track evokes plenty of Blood on Satan’s Claw-esque foreboding, and it’s utterly beautiful too. And what a title! If you haven’t been listening to Laura Cannell these last few years, do.

2. The Geography – Belbury Poly
The protagonist, Key, has a relationship with the wild that’s primarily nostalgic, and this hauntological track from Belbury Poly evokes secondary-school textbooks as much as nature. I love the sampled final line – Look for this sign to show you’re on the right track – leading directly into the immediately more pessimistic ‘Get Lost’.

3. Get Lost – Tom Waits
A track that Key might well love, without recognising the implications. Here, the command to ‘get lost’ could be interpreted as an invitation to check out of normal, dull life… but after his camping expedition with his teenage son Andrew, Key will become lost in a far more profound sense.

4. Sirene – Machinefabriek & Anne Bakker
Another folk-horror-ish, hauntological track, its beauty increasingly interrupted by glitches and errors. No spoilers, but it’s all key to Key’s experience in the novella.

5. Kool Thing – Sonic Youth
The first of three diegetic tracks (that is, music that explicitly features in the story). Key loves Sonic Youth, but when his son professes a love for the band, it’s hardly reassuring. Who is this strange boy who insists that he’s Andrew?

6. Cat Claw – The Kills
Andrew – or Andy, as this unfamiliar boy calls himself – plays the simple riff from this song on the electric guitar, and not badly. Why does Key find that so unnerving?

7. The Titans / The Chamber / The Door – Bernard Hermann
Key, Alis and Andy watch Jason and the Argonauts together, partly to allow me to feature this snippet of Bernard Hermann’s score, which accompanies the discovery of the statue of Talos. It’s one of my earliest soundtrack memories, and still gives me shivers every time I hear it.

8. Tulpar – Galya Bisengalieva
This is the turning point, I suppose, when Key finally determines that he’s losing control over his environment. Galya Bisengalieva is leader of the London Contemporary Orchestra, and her first couple of EPs are outstanding, and subtly terrifying.

9. Magic Doors (live) – Portishead
Another band that Key presumably loves, and another track that takes on new meaning in the context of his gradual unravelling. This live version is a little wilder and more frenetic than the album track, with a constant threat of the rhythm section racing ahead too fast and leaving Beth Gibbons behind.

10. 1req – Grischa Lichtenberger
Utterly terrifying, dry, relentless beats, with… what? Bat swoops? There’s no turning back now.

11. Something Big – Burt Bacharach
‘End credits’, and jarringly, deliriously upbeat. Draw your own conclusions.

You can stream the playlist via Spotify, or play it directly below.


See here for more information about SHADE OF STILLTHORPE, published by Black Shuck Books on 26 April 2022.

Announcement: Shade of Stillthorpe

New book news! My novella SHADE OF STILLTHORPE will be published by Black Shuck Books on 26th April 2022. It’s a weird changeling story about a teen boy who is lost in the woods and then returns looking entirely unrecognisable – to his father, at least.
It’s had some wonderful endorsements from writers whose work I love. Firstly, from Lucie McKnight Hardy: ‘A seemingly impossible premise becomes increasingly real in this inventive and heartbreaking tale of loss.’
And Aliya Whiteley said: ‘Parenthood is a forest of emotions, including jealousy, confusion and terror, in Shade of Stillthorpe. It’s a dark mystery that resonated deeply with me.’