Perhaps it’s something to do with my grey hair, but I don’t often read Young Adult books. I started Bone Jack out of curiosity, intrigued by a tale about ancient, rural traditions that have their roots in a pagan past. Within a page I was reading for pleasure. The opening is masterful; a boy willingly teetering on a cliff edge, held from falling only by the uncertain push of the wind. From that point on you know you’re in the hands of a great storyteller.
Central to the book is an annual ‘stag run’ in wild, mountainous country, a slice of local folklore which pits a young man, the ‘stag’, to outrun the pursuing ‘hounds’. The protagonist, 15-year old Ash, is to be the stag, and Crowe builds the tension steadily so you know he’s going to be running for his life. The setting of a drought- and disease-ravaged countryside is well crafted, and even the supporting characters are finely drawn. Ash has to contend with plausible human relationship issues such as a war-damaged father and a best friend who goes off the rails in the aftermath of tragedy. He also has to face Bone Jack, a shadowy figure who may be a hermit, or perhaps something much more sinister. Such supernatural elements are introduced progressively and subtly, and in a way that tightens the pace towards a climax that is as fulfils the promise of the first pages.
Above all, Bone Jack is extremely well written. Some passages I found myself re-reading purely for the pleasure of the prose. A stunning debut and highly recommended.
Today is the UK release date for Saxon’s Bane. To mark the occasion, Jonathan Oliver of Solaris sat me in front of a video camera and asked me loads of questions, ranging from my thoughts on genre, to the background to key characters in the book, and my writing journey. We even touched on the healing power of horses! The interview has been posted on YouTube at:
A wonderful crowd of friends and family swelled the shoppers at The Forbidden Planet in Shaftesbury Avenue, London, on Wednesday night, for the launch of Saxon’s Bane.
My agent Ian Drury of Sheil Land Associates kindly kicked off the proceedings before I was persuaded to read the first chapter. A Q&A followed, in which the questions were mercifully uncontroversial but lively enough to swell the numbers queuing to buy the book.
I’d found a very suitable wine, so perhaps it was inevitable that a little frivolity would creep into the occasion, in which a Saxon replica helmet (gratifyingly close to the book’s cover image) featured heavily!
I was humbled by the number of friends who came along in support, some of whom had traveled a long way to be there. The Forbidden Planet team were stunned that I was still signing books when they were preparing to close the shop, which I gather is almost unknown for a debut launch.
It was great to share a glass with friends and the guys from Solaris afterwards in De Hems. A great evening, with brilliant company.
Saxon’s Bane is now available in print form (Mass Market Paperback) in the United States and Canada, and will be released in Trade Paperback format in the United Kingdom on 12th September. It is also available worldwide in all standard eBook formats.
This fabulous replica helmet was a gift from a friend. Something tells me it is going to spice up many book signing sessions. And for those coming to the launch at Forbidden Planet, London at 6pm on 4th September, there may be a little extra surprise…
My wonderful publishers, Solaris, sent an Advance Review Copy of Saxon’s Bane to Christopher Fowler, the author of thirty published novels including the Bryant and May mysteries. Christopher commented:
‘Once there was a great classical tradition of rural British horror from MR James to The Wicker Man. Now Geoffrey Gudgion has revived the style and modernised it to great effect, proving there’s still nothing as creepy as the countryside.’
Thank you, Christopher! Definitely a quote for the cover.
Let me share the excitement of the cover for Saxon’s Bane, from the very talented artist Clint Langley and the team at Solaris.
Rather than enthuse about it myself, (well I would, wouldn’t I?) I’ll also share the observations from an online community of writers and agents, some of whom have been part of my own writing journey ever since Saxon’s Bane started to take shape.
‘Perfect! … dramatic and classy. There’s a sinister feel to it and an impression of today (from the road) and history.
Stirring, evocative, all the things a cover should be. I’d grab it if I saw it on the table!
It has a darkly beautiful feel … this absolutely would make me pick up and buy Saxon’s Bane. It says to me that it’s both historical and contemporary. Anglo-Saxon. Pagan. Powerful.
That’s fabulous I can’t wait to get my paws on a copy!
Very dramatic, and promises an intriguing combination of ancient and contemporary (just as the book delivers.)
I’d definitely pick it up. The cover puts a shiver down my spine and says modern/historical/edgy/scary mix.
Oh I like it. It says hardship and violence and a good story.
It’s very strong. It makes me think dark, dark things are afoot.’
Saxon’s Bane will be released in the UK and USA, in print and ebook formats, in September 2013.
I’m delighted to hear that Saxon’s Bane has been selected by The Qwillery for their 2013 Debut Author Challenge. Watch this space for guest blogs and interview. Further details at http://qwillery.blogspot.co.uk/p/2013-dac.html