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Opening lines of my novels: Do you want to read on?

“Never open a book with weather” is advice often given to novelists. I’m not sure where to attribute said quote, although it is the first of Elmore Leonard’s ten tips for writers. I’m not sure how seriously to take it either. I can name a few classic novels that open with weather (Jane Eyre, for instance).

At any rate, I thought I’d give you the opportunity to judge some of my novels by their opening lines as well as their covers (it’s a myth that people don’t judge books by their covers – they absolutely do, when choosing what to read).

Glancing back over these, I like some, and slightly cringe at others. For instance, I think the opening to Children of the Folded Valley – still by far my most popular novel – is a tiny bit literary fiction try-hard, and I’d probably opt for something more immediately gripping these days. Still, it establishes the melancholy tone, as protagonist James Harper looks back on his childhood growing up amid a mysterious cult.

Folded Valley cover“We spend our adult lives trying to regain what we lost in childhood.

I do not claim to be unique in that respect. Whilst it might be argued that I lost more than some, we all, I think, chase after what we once had or never had. What we lost cannot be replaced, but we chase after it nonetheless.

Some think of what they lost with romantic rose-tinted spectacles, whilst others are more pragmatic. Some deny it, others get angry about it, others still accept it and seek help from friends, family, lovers, therapists, priests, gurus or anyone else who will listen. But I cannot do that. I can never tell my friends, my colleagues, my wife or my children what happened to me in the Folded Valley.”

Children of the Folded Valley is available here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

Onto something a bit more instantly gripping, here is the opening of The Thistlewood Curse. The reader is thrown headfirst into an investigation that has ended badly, which establishes the two main characters DS Laura Buchan, and paranormal consultant Lawrence Crane.

THE THISTLEWOOD CURSE Cover (JPG Print version)“In spite of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the death of Jacob Price, Detective Sergeant Laura Buchan had all but convinced herself there was no foul play. That he died as the result of a bizarre accident had become the accepted version of events for her and most of her colleagues. Only the senior investigating officer, Detective Inspector Ethan Roland, had any further inkling that Price’s demise was in any way suspicious.

Laura kept pinching the bridge of her nose in a nervous reflex. The questioning of her lifelong friend and occasional colleague Lawrence Crane should have been mere formality; an interview that would establish beyond all doubt that he had no involvement in Price’s death. But Roland kept treating him like a criminal. No doubt he considered his actions thoroughness, but Laura thought he was just being rude. Through the two-way mirror Laura watched as Roland continued to question Crane in the interview room.

‘Are you glad he’s dead?’”

The Thistlewood Curse is available here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

Phantom Audition concerns a grieving actress whose actor husband committed suicide in mysterious circumstances. This opening goes for the emotional jugular, establishing the novel’s themes of grief and what it can do to the mind.

PHANTOM AUDITION“What Mia noticed most was the silence.

She kept expecting to hear Steven’s voice, or the insistent thud of his feet, as he rehearsed his lines, pacing up and down. She expected to hear him on the phone to his agent, publicist, or to a director.

In the mornings, she no longer heard his absurd singing in the shower. His seat at the breakfast table stood empty. Mia would avert her eyes, unable to bear staring at the space he should occupy. He should be sipping his tea, scrolling through his phone, crunching his cereal… Silence chewed the room instead, like wind and rain gnawing an eroding landscape.

At nights, Mia would awaken and roll over, hoping to warm herself on his body. But Steven wasn’t there, and he wasn’t coming back. He had been replaced with the same terrible silence that screamed, clawed, and tore at her mind whenever she entered the rooms that still had his smell. The memory of her husband had stained the entire house.”

Phantom Audition is available here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

Onto some of my novels aimed at younger readers (and the young at heart). Here is the opening of Uncle Flynn. This treasure hunt adventure mystery concerns eleven-year old Max. His crippling panic attacks are established in the opening chapter, ahead of the introduction of his mysterious uncle, and the main narrative. Themes of overcoming fear and the dangers of mollycoddling ensue, and Max’s character arc develops in ways that are hinted at in this opening segment.

Uncle Flynn_Cover_600px“Max Bradley didn’t like to climb trees.

It wasn’t that he didn’t want to climb trees. He longed to do as his friends did and climb high into the branches of the great horse chestnut that stood at the foot of Gavin Bainbridge’s large garden. But every time he tried, he became dizzy after ascending just a few feet, and the idea of climbing higher frightened him. This was a continual frustration, since all eleven-year old boys could usually climb trees.

Max, Gavin, and Gavin’s cousins Jenny, Paul, Mark, and Katie had been playing a game of football, but Mark had kicked the ball into the upper branches of the tree. No amount of hurling sticks or stones had dislodged it, and the only way to retrieve the ball was for someone to climb up and get it.

Ordinarily, Gavin would have nipped up and retrieved it, but he was in one of his awkward, showing-off moods. He knew of Max’s fear of climbing and began to tease him.

‘Why don’t you go up and get the ball?’”

Uncle Flynn is available here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge is another action-packed children’s adventure story which well and truly throws the reader in at the deep end. Chapter one alone features a haunted house, a monster, and mad scientist.DrGibbles_1600x2400_front cover

“Being trapped inside a haunted house was turning out to be every bit as terrifying as Tim had feared. He sat on the moth-eaten hallway carpet leaning against the crumbling plaster walls, putting his hands over his ears to shut out the horrible muffled roars.

Tim desperately tried to think of a way out, but his options were limited. The front door was blocked shut, as was the back door. That left the downstairs windows, but they were boarded up; as were most of the upstairs windows, except the small bathroom window on the top floor. But getting to it would mean climbing the dusty wooden staircase and it didn’t look particularly stable…”

Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge is available here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

Finally, here’s the opening of Echo and the White Howl. My youngest son begged me for a story about wolves, so I wrote this novel about a wolf pack in Alaska. It’s a vivid, thrilling tale of betrayal, exile, and vengeance, with a touch of the supernatural. I am particularly pleased with this one, even though writing animal fiction is way out of my “comfort zone” (if you’ll forgive my use of an obscenity) and is something I’ll almost certainly never attempt again. We join protagonist Echo and the rest of his pack during an elk hunt, establishing the bleak, unforgiving landscapes, and the main characters.

“The pack stalked the bull elk in the forest. Having successfully separated the beast from his herd, the wolves finally closed in for the kill.

Echo crouched in the snow behind a rock, a short distance above the elk, on a steep slope. He anticipated the imminent pounding thrill that would course through his veins when the attack signal came. He could practically smell the blood on the icy air. Every sense in his body tingled, and he longed to sink his teeth into the succulent flesh. But still he waited. Aatag, the Alpha and his father, would make his move soon.

The elk had spotted Aatag, some twenty yards away, lurking next to a large pine tree. Aatag no longer hid himself but stared down his prey, attempting to both intimidate and distract the elk from the danger at either side. To the right, Echo and his brothers Malakai and Puyak, both of whom lurked behind trees, waited high on the slope. To the left, Echo’s mother Kiana remained concealed in the undergrowth with Copper, Aatag’s fiercely dutiful second-in-command, as well as sly and clever Imalik.

Presently Puyak broke his cover and trotted across to Echo. Irritated at his brother’s impatience, Echo cocked his head, indicating for him to get back under cover. But Puyak disregarded this and eventually shuffled up next to Echo.

‘This is getting boring,’ said Puyak. ‘Why can’t we just attack?’”

Echo and the White Howl is available here (in the UK) and here (in the US).

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Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge Revisited

Last month, I revisited my debut novel Uncle Flynn with a number of articles. This month, I’m putting the spotlight on Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge, but with just one article this time.

Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge is a page-turning adventure story aimed at all ages, although primarily of appeal to those who enjoy novels such as Anthony Horowitz’s Alex Rider series. Check out this rather cool cover (courtesy of the excellent Charles Bown).

DrGibbles_1600x2400_front cover

A thrilling, fun, and sometimes scary ride (particularly in the first act), the opening chapter alone features a haunted house, a monster, and a mad scientist.

Set in 1987 towards the end of the Cold War, we’re introduced to our hero, eleven year old Tim; an intelligent, witty, but bullied child who gets trapped in the afore-mentioned haunted house. After a frightening encounter and narrow escape, he and his older brother Rob are drawn into a gripping adventure involving their neighbour; the mysterious, seemingly insane Dr Gribbles, a former government scientist.

Dr Gribbles was involved in a number of top secret experiments, one of which draws the attention of spies from Britain, America, and Russia – as well as Dr Gribbles’s estranged daughter Emily. Mayhem ensues amid a game of cat and mouse on the bleak wilderness of Dartmoor, hushed-up military research bases, mysterious archaeological digs, hidden tunnels, vehicular chases, twists, turns, betrayals, and much more. At one point, there are also wasps. Lots of horrible, angry wasps…

I should add that the wasp incident is actually based on a rather nasty real-life incident that my children and I had the misfortune to suffer (though we look back on it now with some amusement). The book is dedicated to my youngest son Thomas, on whose elaborate and imaginative nightmares the story is also partly based.

To get your copy of this madcap but marvellous adventure, simply click here.

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Christmas Presents: Children’s Novels

Looking for the perfect Christmas present for that difficult relative? Why not give them a book this year? To be more specific, why not give them one of my books?

In this second of three articles, this post explores my children’s novels. Yes, I don’t just write gothic mystery horror thrillers. I have also dabbled in children’s adventures, mainly aimed at the Harry Potter/Alex Rider demographic. Most of these novels were written for my children, often at their request (Echo and the White Howl was penned for my youngest for instance, who wanted a story about wolves). But these stories aren’t just for children. They are for the young and young at heart, often tackling themes and ideas that are just as incisive for the adult reader.

Here’s is the blurb from the back of each novel:

Uncle Flynn_CoverUncle Flynn

When timid eleven year old Max Bradley embarks on a hunt for buried treasure on Dartmoor with his mysterious Uncle Flynn, he discovers he is braver than he thought.

Together they decipher clues, find a hidden map and explore secret tunnels in their search.

But with both police and rival treasure hunters on their tail, Max begins to wonder if his uncle is all he seems…

Click here to order Uncle Flynn.

DrGibbles_1600x2400_front coverDr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge

September 1987.

Curiosity lands Tim Rawling in a world of secrets, spies and a desperate race against time.

The haunted house, the monster and the mad scientist are only the beginning of a terrifying adventure…

Click here to order Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge.

Echo and the White Howl Cover 10 (FINAL)Echo and the White Howl

When a wolf pack discovers humans lurking near their territory, Echo senses dark times ahead.

Despite the warnings and omens, Aatag, the pack Alpha, refuses to flee… leading to a cruel turn of events that forces Echo into exile, and a quest for revenge that will change the pack forever.

Click here to order Echo and the White Howl.

 

B17Kak0+TOS._SL250_FMpng_George Hughes Trilogy (comprising George goes to Mars, George goes to Titan, George goes to Neptune)

From the back of George goes to Mars:

When George Hughes discovers he has inherited the planet Mars, he goes from poverty to becoming the richest boy on Earth overnight.

Accompanied by his new guardian, a mysterious secret agent, and a crew of astronauts, George voyages to Mars to sell land to celebrities wanting to build interplanetary homes.

But sabotage, assassination attempts and an alien threat plunge him into a deadly adventure.

Click here to order the George Hughes Trilogy.

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Christmas Present ideas

If you are scratching your head this year over Christmas presents, why not consider giving one of my novels? At the risk of sounding like a cliché, I have written across a variety of genres and therefore have “something for all the family”.

First and foremost, I have a novel about to be released on the 20th of December entitled Spectre of Springwell Forest. A nail-biting, page-turning ghost story, this supernatural mystery is my first novel to be published by Dragon Soul Press, and a must for any fan of bone-chilling suspense. Simply click here (in the UK) or here (in the US) to pre-order your copy. (NOTE: at present this pre-order is for the Kindle version only. Stay tuned for updates on the paperback.)

SSF coverHere is the blurb from the back of the book:

Lily Henderson has a horrifying secret buried far in her past. She hoped it would never be revealed. Now she has no choice.

To save her family, Lily must keep them from returning to the village of Springwell, where she lived with her first husband and young daughter decades previously.

In the past, after moving to Springwell, Lily encounters secretive locals, government scientists, and rumours of a ghost haunting the forest.

Are they linked to the mysterious deaths of local children? Do paintings by a local artist predict when tragic events are getting closer? Will Lily’s daughter be next?

“Two were taken. More will follow.”

If you enjoy stories with devious twists on the spectrum between psychological thriller, supernatural mystery and horror, why not also try The Thistlewood Curse or The Birds Began to Sing? The former is a gripping mystery involving astral projection and murder on Lundy Island. The latter concerns a peculiar writing competition in a remote and sinister Dartmoor house.

 

My short story Once in a Lifetime is also available, as part of the Dragon Soul Press All Dark Places anthology. A disturbing tale of existential dread, this short is based on a nightmare I had earlier this year. It concerns a man waking up in an entirely different life. As he struggles to understand what has happened, memories of his previous existence rapidly vanish, and are replaced with those from the life he has awoken inside.

Folded Valley coverOn a rather different note, we have my most successful (and arguably most “personal”) novel to date, Children of the Folded Valley. A dystopian memoir mystery with a science fiction edge, the plot concerns a man looking back on his life growing up in a strange cult.

For the young and young at heart, I have written a number of gripping tales, including treasure hunt adventure Uncle Flynn (my debut novel) and Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge, which involves spies, haunted houses, mad scientists, and monsters (and that’s just chapter one).

My most recent novel for younger readers, Echo and the White Howl, is a thrilling animal fiction adventure about a pack of wolves set in the wilds of Alaska.

 

In addition, my George Hughes trilogy (comprising George goes to Mars, George goes to Titan and George goes to Neptune) are a trio of fast-paced science fiction adventures with thrills and perils galore.

 

I must emphasise my stories aimed at children are not just for children. Amid the humour, thrills and scares are themes many adults will appreciate too.

LvsHonour 1600 x 2400Finally, Love vs Honour represented something of a departure for me, in that it is a teenage romantic drama. But many of the themes present in my other novels – religious oppression, abuse of power and so on – are present and correct here, and this is a much darker tale than it first appears. I don’t consider it a complete success for reasons I have discussed in more detail here, but I still think it is well worth a read.

All the above books can be ordered on Kindle or as paperbacks from Amazon here (for the UK) and here (for the US).

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The problem with contemporary settings

Recently I have read and heard first-hand from fellow authors that mainstream publishers are increasingly hostile to novels that don’t have a contemporary setting.

I have a hard time believing this, because if it is true (and I assume even if it is, it doesn’t include the Hilary Mantel/Ken Follet type-genre historical fiction), then the publishing industry really is limiting itself. Anything that a publisher reads with a contemporary setting can be dated in a couple of years, once the novel finally hits bookshops. Given the recent acceleration of technological advancements, not to mention ongoing tumultuous economic and political changes, insisting a book be contemporary seems foolish. Besides, certain stories require an historic setting. Here are some examples purely from my own writing:

Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge – I chose to set this action-packed, somewhat scary children’s adventure in 1987, not so much because the plot involves the final stages of the Cold War, but because a contemporary setting would have meant the protagonist would own a mobile phone, and mobile phones are a frequent impediment to proper peril. There are only so many times you can say “the battery has died” or “I’ve got no signal”.

Love vs Honour – When I wrote this in 2006, it was a contemporary novel. However, I didn’t publish it until 2015, and a lot changed in the intervening years. The story feels very much a product of post 9/11, Tony Blair Britain/George Bush America. More importantly, in the story, Sabina’s father has escaped from Iran following the revolution, and moving the setting forward nine years would mean Sabina was twenty-five, not fifteen, which destroys the teenage forbidden love dynamic. With the Iranian revolution a fixed point that anchored the narrative, there were only so many years I had to play with for a teenage daughter to be plausible in the timeline, so I ultimately opted for a setting in the recent past.

Spectre of Springwell Forest – This novel has been acquired by a publisher, as I announced recently. Thankfully, Dragon Soul Press did not question my desire to set the bulk of the story in the 1970s (in an extended flashback), which I did partly because the 1970s represent the golden era of horror films, and partly because certain historic events (such as Margaret Thatcher’s rise to power) are a key reference point. At any rate, the novel is released on the 20th of December.

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FREE Children’s Books Month: Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge

This month is Free Children’s Books Month at Simon Dillon Books. Check back every Thursday for a new free novel. Each book will be available free between Thursday and Monday.

DrGibbles_1600x2400_front cover

This week, Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge is available to download FREE from Amazon Kindle, between the 8th and 12th of March.

A gripping and scary tale involving spies, monsters, haunted houses, mad scientists and lots more besides, with action and thrills to spare, this is fast-paced romp will delight young and old alike.

It was inspired by the nightmares of my youngest son (when he was about three), and the book is duly dedicated to him.

Here is the blurb from the back of Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge:

September 1987.

Curiosity lands Tim Rawling in a world of secrets, spies and a desperate race against time.

The haunted house, the monster and the mad scientist are only the beginning of a terrifying adventure.

Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge can be downloaded FREE here.

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Christmas Present Ideas Part One – Books for Children

Christmas is rapidly approaching, but if you are scratching your head over potential presents, why not try one of my novels?

Here, in the first of a two-part series, is a quick look at what I have written primarily for children, though I must emphasise these stories are not just for children. Amid the humour, thrills and scares are themes many adults will appreciate too – from the dangers of mollycoddling to overcoming fear, difficult parent/child relationships, murderous religious fundamentalism, sexual equality, civil rights, slavery, political corruption, the metaphysical and more…

My most recent novel, Echo and the White Howl, is a thrilling animal fiction adventure about a pack of wolves set in the wilds of Alaska.

Echo and the White Howl Cover 10 (FINAL)

Here is the blurb from the back of Echo and the White Howl:

When a wolf pack discovers humans lurking near their territory, Echo senses dark times ahead.

Despite the warnings and omens, Aatag, the pack Alpha, refuses to flee… leading to a cruel turn of events that forces Echo into exile, and a quest for revenge that will change the pack forever.

Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge is a gripping and scary tale involving spies, monsters, haunted houses, mad scientists and lots more besides, with action and thrills to spare. It was inspired by the nightmares of my youngest son, and the book is duly dedicated to him.

DrGibbles_1600x2400_front cover

Here is the blurb from the back of Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge:

September 1987.

Curiosity lands Tim Rawling in a world of secrets, spies and a desperate race against time.

The haunted house, the monster and the mad scientist are only the beginning of a terrifying adventure.

Uncle Flynn, my debut novel, was received very positively. A properly old-fashioned treasure hunt adventure with a big twist, this book is dedicated to my eldest son. and was largely inspired by our many excursions over Dartmoor, as well as a bit of local history.

Uncle Flynn_Cover_600px

Here is the blurb from the back of Uncle Flynn:

When timid eleven year old Max Bradley embarks on a hunt for buried treasure on Dartmoor with his mysterious Uncle Flynn, he discovers he is braver than he thought.

Together they decipher clues, find a hidden map and explore secret tunnels in their search. But with both police and rival treasure hunters on their tail, Max begins to wonder if his uncle is all he seems…

The George Hughes trilogy (comprising, in reading order, George goes to Mars, George goes to Titan and George goes to Neptune) is a thrilling, action-packed space tale set just over a hundred years in the future. Each story is a stand-alone adventure, but I recommend reading the novels in order nonetheless.

Here is the blurb from the back of George goes to Mars:

When George Hughes discovers he has inherited the planet Mars, he goes from poverty to becoming the richest boy on Earth overnight.

Accompanied by his new guardian, a mysterious secret agent and a crew of astronauts, George voyages to Mars to sell land to celebrities wanting to build interplanetary holiday homes. But sabotage, assassination attempts and the possibility of an alien threat plunge him into a deadly adventure…

Here is the blurb from the back of George goes to Titan:

The thrilling sequel to George goes to Mars…

A year on from his adventures on Mars, George Hughes faces an even deadlier peril as he travels to Titan on an urgent rescue mission. The mysterious Giles returns to help him, but assassins are once again on his tail, and a new, far greater alien menace lurks in the shadows waiting to strike.

Here is the blurb from the back of George goes to Neptune (my personal favourite of the three):

In this spectacular sequel to George goes to Mars and George goes to Titan, George Hughes faces his most dangerous adventure yet.

Following the Titanian invasion, a deadly and very personal threat forces George to undertake a voyage to a top secret Martian research base on Neptune.

On this remote outpost, he uncovers a diabolical plot. But George is too late to prevent the catastrophe.

A catastrophe that will change his life forever…

All the above books can be ordered on Kindle or as paperbacks from Amazon here.

 

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All my novels now available as paperbacks from Amazon

At long last, I have stopped procrastinating, deferring, delaying, dilly-dallying, putting off, hanging fire, dragging my feet, beating about the bush and taking a rain check (or a “precipitation verification” as I sometimes call it, since the expression, American in origin, uses the spelling “check” rather than “cheque”). At any rate, I have finally decided to get off my backside and do what I should have done long ago and, to finally come to the point, ensure all my novels are available in paperback from Amazon Create Space, complete with physical pages that you can actually turn.

With that deliberately silly paragraph out of the way, to be more succinct, all my novels are now available from Amazon in dead tree format. Simply click here, and you’ll find them all listed accordingly.

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Inspiration: Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge

Continuing my series on inspiration and influences for my books (which I began earlier this year), here’s a look at stories which informed my novel, Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge.

This is a gripping tale for all ages with action and thrills to spare, involving spies, monsters, haunted houses, mad scientists and lots more besides. Inspired by the nightmares of my youngest son, here are five stories that also informed Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge.

Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) – An obvious influence. Whilst I don’t pretend that Dr Gribbles is a particularly weighty addition to the canon of literature on the dangers of playing God, those themes are present in my novel nonetheless.

Moonfleet (J Meade Falkner) – The chapter near the start of the novel, with John trapped beneath the crypt, definitely influenced the scarier, early sections of Dr Gribbles inside the “haunted” Blackthorn Lodge.

The Goonies (Film) – This film was a more obvious inspiration for Uncle Flynn, but the sequence where the gang hearing growling from the cellar and think the villains have a monster chained up is a clear influence on the section where Tim and Rob find the Creature in the cellar of Blackthorn Lodge.

The Living Daylights (Film) – In addition to obvious spy thriller influences, the novel is set in 1987, the year this film was released. Another homage to this underrated Timothy Dalton James Bond adventure can be found in the names of two key characters, Saunders and Whitaker (in The Living Daylights, Saunders is the MI6 Head of Section in Vienna, and Whitaker is an arms dealer villain).

An Unspecified Popular Fairy Tale – I cannot actually reveal the name of the fairy tale in question as it would make the ending of my novel too guessable, but if you read Dr Gribbles it will become very obvious that I’ve created my own rather demented take on said fairy tale.

You can download or buy print copies of Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge from Amazon here.

 

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Download Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge – for five days only!

My novel Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge is available to download FREE from Amazon Kindle for five days only.

Of all the novels I have published, Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge remains the one that seems to have singularly failed to find a readership or generate reviews. Besides the obvious possibility that people simply don’t want to read it, I suspect there are a number of factors as to why:

It’s primarily a children’s book. 

I am amazed how many readers are put off for that reason alone, especially as my children’s novels are designed for all readers, not just children. Like all the best children’s books I try to appeal to all ages, and take the CS Lewis view that a great story for children isn’t a great story for children unless it can also be appreciated by adults.

Children’s books (at least mine) don’t seem to find an audience on Kindle in the same way as grown-up books.

This is speculation on my part, but I suspect it is a factor.

I haven’t marketed the novel properly.

This is a given, as I am no businessman or marketing expert. However, I think it is perhaps true that, given how protective I am of the twists and turns in this story, I have perhaps been more reticent to discuss the plot than was wise. I shall therefore attempt to remedy this situation a little in this article.

The plot of Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge begins with a haunted house, a monster, and a mad scientist – and that’s just chapter one! Our hero, the intelligent Tim Rawlings, is then drawn into a thrilling, scary adventure involving spies towards the end of the Cold War.

Tim’s path crosses with the eccentric but mysterious Dr Gribbles. Together they are forced to undertake a dangerous hunt on Dartmoor. Along the way spies British, Russian and American help and hinder, or sometimes both. One such spy is Dr Gribbles’s feisty daughter Emily, who plays an absolutely pivotal role in the story.

Thrills galore ensue, including helicopter chases, monstrous encounters and all manner of narrow escapes, including a nightmarish encounter with a room filled with wasps and a nuclear detonation. Secrets are revealed, characters are double crossed, and ultimately spies of all nationalities prove untrustworthy.

The nail-biting final act includes a homage to one of my favourite fairy tales. I cannot say which, although it might be guessable. At any rate, the overall tone is one of fun and adventure, with some scares (particularly in the first act), and plenty of humour.

In short, I think it is a shame Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge hasn’t had more readers as I think it is a rattling good adventure yarn. The book also features my favourite cover of any of my novels and is even dedicated to my youngest son Thomas, since it was primarily inspired by a very imaginative nightmare he had when he was three.

In short, why not give it a go? Download your FREE copy of Dr Gribbles and the Beast of Blackthorn Lodge here.