The world is not as it should be, it is not the world we want to see, and it is not the world we used to know. Over the past sixty years, concern over Green issues have moved from the hippie fringe to become mainstream. While scientists and campaigners look forward to a better future, seeking technical fixes and changes in behaviour to heal the damage humanity has done the the planet, others look back to the past. Some imagine a golden age, where in Tolkien’s words there was ‘less noise and more green’. Followers of New Age practices seek to rediscover that time of peace and harmony with the earth, a time that never was. The past was never idyllic, and people of the ancient world could be as greedy, jealous and violent as twenty first century humans.
This was the seed that inspired to me to write Darkness Rises. An impressionable archaeology student goes missing and her sister persuades Dr Jeffrey Flint to investigate. The book is set in 1989 when the Green movement was gaining momentum and interest in New Age religion grew in parallel. Flint is a junior lecturer at London University, a laid-back pacifist who rebels against authority and convention. His initial enquiries suggest that the student has dropped out to discover herself, but energetic local news reporter Vikki urges him to continue the hunt. How do they find a young woman who doesn’t want to be found? Aided by research assistant Tyrone Drake, Flint and Vikki delve deeper into the mystery and find the darkness rising around them.
I used my background in archaeology to add texture to the five Flint novels. Unlike the way archaeologists are often portrayed in fiction, mine tend to be young, idealistic and underpaid. Sense of place is important to me, so Flint roams where I have roamed – in this case London and the marshlands of Kent. I have made up a fictional town for the central action of the story, for reasons that will become obvious to the reader. Without the benefit of the internet, emails and mobile phones, Flint relies on his wits, well-stocked libraries and a network of colleagues to solve challenges and stay alive. Undertaking research is half the fun of writing a novel, not just to compose the ancient mysteries underlying the plots but the gritty realities of sudden disappearances and grisly discoveries.
This was my first novel, originally published by Severn House in hardback under the title Shadow in the Corn. It has been re-released as an ebook by Lume Books this month with a new title and new cover. For the ebook I undertook a number of revisions to the original text, chiefly amending some of the 1980s language which would grate with an audience in the 2020s. Flint was however ahead of his time and kicks against many attitudes that were common in the 80s. He deplores machismo but encounters death and violence that is visceral and comes suddenly.
Check back over the next four weeks when I discuss Flint’s further adventures.