Whilst writing my latest supernatural horror/conspiracy thriller novel The Irresistible Summons, I researched a number of paranormal, religious, and scientific subjects, as well as locations that were crucial to the narrative. However, in this article I’m going to skirt around some of what I delved into, for fear of spoilers.
One of the primary reasons I wrote the novel was because I wanted a haunted house story that wasn’t set in a traditional gothic house, but instead in a modern office building. The seeds of this idea came as far back as my university days. One particular building where I attended lectures had been designed in such a way that when lights were mostly switched off, the lobby, corridors, and staircases looked very sinister indeed. I even partially shot my dissertation film – a vampire short – in that building. The late, great Ken Russell himself saw a rough cut of the film, and rather liked it. But I am digressing (and showing off)…
When it came to write this novel, setting it in London became a no-brainer, because I wanted the climax of the film to take place in the labyrinth of abandoned and disused London underground railway tunnels. I often joke that the only thing I need to write a good story is an imperilled heroine and a sinister labyrinth. To that end, The Irresistible Summons features a haunted office block on Canary Wharf, where a software company and various other businesses are based. Underneath this building are secret lower levels where nefarious top secret experiments are taking place, which in turn connect with the passages that lead into the old railway tunnels, and even darker ancient secrets.
It’s not all set in the city. Some locations in the south-west are important to the story too, especially Wistman’s Wood on Dartmoor. This ancient and atmospheric forest of stunted dwarf oaks has now featured in several of my novels, and one short story. However, this novel features, in my view, my most vivid, memorable, and emotionally resonant use of the location.
As to the scientific fields I researched for the novel, I must remain tight-lipped so as not to spoil the surprise, but let me just say that one major theme of the story is far less outlandish than it sounds. Indeed, experiments and research into this particular field are being conducted and have advanced to an alarming degree. That’s all I’ll say, in the hope that it arouses curiosity about the novel.
Finally, it’s worth mentioning that the main protagonist in the novel, Naomi Levinson, is from a messianic Jewish background (although she is certainly what you might call “lapsed”). A minority religious group often derided by both Christians and Orthodox Jewish communities (especially in the Middle East), this proved an interesting subject to delve into, as I personally know a number of people in these groups. I used my own background in television as a knowledge base for the characters involved in documentary productions, but other obscure subjects touched on in the novel required more detailed research (Kabbalah exorcism, for instance).
In short, as ever, the research process for this novel proved fascinating and illuminating.