Following on from my recent post about what inspired my latest novel The Thistlewood Curse, here are some points of interest on the history, geography and other facts that are either directly or peripherally relevant to the novel. Obviously to avoid spoilers I won’t explain exactly how these tie into the supernatural narrative, but as with Uncle Flynn and various other (as yet unpublished) novels, local history and geography provided a fertile ground for my imagination.
Lundy Island is a real place in the Bristol Channel, about twelve miles off the north coast of Devon. The island is small – about 3.5 miles long and 1.5 miles at its widest point. It has a population of about thirty, and many visitors who go to see the wildlife, especially puffins and other birds. The Oldenburg is a real vessel that ferries passengers to and from the island on a regular basis.
As per the novel, the island is bereft of trees, and most of the settlements lie in the south, including the Marisco Tavern and Lundy (or Marisco) Castle, both of which are real places. However, in the novel Lundy Castle is substantially larger and privately owned, whereas in real life the castle has been broken down into self-catering accommodation. The history of the castle as described in the novel (involving Henry III and so forth) is also mostly true. Surrounding the island are spectacular cliffs, which can be better appreciated on boat trips. The only place to land a boat safely is in the south.
Both lighthouses mentioned in the novel are real, along with Quarter wall, Halfway wall and Three-Quarter wall. It is true that supplies of electricity are only in use during certain hours, and that mobile phone signal is all but non-existent. Also, there really is a Tibbet’s Hill on the island, possibly a location where people were indeed hanged, which brings me neatly onto my next point.
As per the novel, the history of Lundy includes tales of pirates and slave traders, and it proved a very difficult place to govern. For example, Barbary Pirates from the Republic of Sale occupied Lundy from 1627 to 1632. These North African invaders, under the command of renegade Dutchman Jan Janszoon, flew an Ottoman Empire flag over the island. They captured Europeans and held them on Lundy before sending them to Algiers as slaves.
Finally, on a more arcane note, the Lundy cabbage is a genuine vegetable (see yellow flowered plant below), though I am fairly certain it has not been used as an ingredient for deadly poison. That however is sailing very close to spoiler territory, so I’ll just leave it there for now…
Here is the blurb from the back of The Thistlewood Curse:
Can a ghost murder the living?
Lawrence Crane’s powers of astral projection are put to the ultimate test when he and his lifelong friend Detective Laura Buchan investigate a mysterious death on Lundy Island.
Sensing a dark power at work, they attempt to identify a human assassin under the control of supernatural evil.
But can they escape a terrifying, centuries-old curse?
You can download or buy print copies of The Thistlewood Curse from Amazon here.