My latest novel Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge was inspired by a very imaginative nightmare that my youngest son experienced. The book is dedicated to him.
There were two particularly vivid images that arrested my attention. First: the monster itself, which my son described to me in great detail. Secondly, a white helicopter that chased him across Dartmoor. From these two images an ending suddenly occurred to me and I worked backwards from there.
Earlier outlines of the book were far more densely plotted and suffered from a surplus of craziness in what was already a very wacky and slightly scary adventure story. The original version contained Stonehenge, Nazis, druids, angelic beings, time travel and hidden caches of Bronze Age treasure in addition to the haunted houses, monsters, mad scientists and spies that formed the basis of the final version. The elements I stripped out may emerge in a separate story or stories at a later date, though they will not necessarily be a sequel to Dr Gribbles.
The book shares some DNA with my earlier novel Uncle Flynn, which was dedicated to my older son. In both stories the protagonist joins forces with an older, mysterious and possibly dangerous character on a quest that takes them across Dartmoor. Some of the same territory is covered in both books, including the Two Bridges area and Wistman’s Wood.
I took the name Gribbles from a butcher on the Ridgeway in Plympton, Plymouth. Incidentally, if you live in the area, I particularly recommend their sausages. The people who run the shop are very friendly too.
Setting the story in 1987 performs two functions. First, it gets me out of the whole mobile phone problem, as several of the hair-raising predicaments featured in the story would be escapable in a contemporary setting, assuming the character’s phone battery wasn’t dead (a cliché that has frankly been done to death). Secondly, as someone who grew up in the 80s in the final phase of the Cold War, it provided an opportunity to revisit not the genuine political situation of the time, but the perceived political situation of a 12 year old child raised on a diet of James Bond. It is no coincidence that The Living Daylights was also released in 1987, which went down in history as the last proper Cold War Bond movie.
I didn’t intend any particular message in the story, although obvious morals about curiosity killing the cat and the dangers of playing God could be drawn I suppose. But they aren’t intended to be deep or serious. The book is meant as an entertainment, nothing more.
Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge is now available from Amazon, Smashwords and other platforms in various digital formats.
Print copies can be ordered from Lulu.com.