SWARM is now out in paperback from Amazon. It’s available worldwide although the link below is for the UK store.
The night before is near sleepless for a couple of reasons. Firstly the pillow beneath my head was uncomfortable thanks to it having feather quills sticking out of it- I eventually solved this problem at 3:00 AM by covering it with a sweater and sleeping on that. Secondly, my head is swimming with thoughts of the future and what I might do and where I might be going with my life. I know I have to move on, away from ‘hell’ and the idea to return to Bangor full time is exceedingly tempting. But sleep I do, eventually, and thank goodness as for the day ahead I will need all of it. For I am going to climb… A mountain!!!!
There are a lot of characters in the Dark Legend books. All the books have one main protagonist, Will, and principle antagonist Harris appears in all but the third and fifth books. There are the secondary characters and support characters, who vary from book to book. Secondary includes any character who narrates a section or has a major role whilst I consider support characters as anyone else who features across multiple books or sections or has a big enough impact on the plot but isn’t always involved in the main action. These secondary and support for the first two books are:
-SPAWN: Joe, Dan, Doug, Randy, Eliza- SUPPORT: Harper, DI Fisher, Murdoch, Greg, Amanda, ‘Erac,’ Gertie
-SWARM: Joe, Dan, Doug, Randy, Eliza, Lydia- SUPPORT: Harper, Gabby, Amanda, Greg, DI Fisher, Dr Necropolis, Niamh, ‘Erac,’ Gertie
After this it becomes a bit difficult without a few potential spoilers, due to a lot of secondary character deaths and departures in the second book. So if you want to skip the next section feel free.
-STOP THE CAVALRY: Joe, Doug, Dast, Hailey, Lydia- SUPPORT- Wilson, Visco, Jazz, Niamh
-STING: Joe, Doug, Lex, Dast, Hailey, Lydia- SUPPORT- Visco, Ericson, Jack, Fisher, Dr Necropolis + others
I’m not going to go further than that because that would mean spoilers for books that aren’t even out yet. As you can see there are ten secondary characters, though not more than six in one book. There’s also a sizeable support cast, especially in the fourth book. Just mentioned above are a whopping twenty seven characters. That is before I even get to the one section wonders (guest support I suppose you could call them) and the whole multitude of named and unnamed extras who crop up all over the place.
But there are characters who, in the whole process of creating this thing, got tossed to the wayside.
The character of Wayne (who makes a cameo in book 1 and is a one section wonder in book 2) never existed originally. The whole prologue, where he acts as the audience surrogate, wasn’t there. The thing began in the midst of the action with Randy seeing the graffe chasing Will into Beiderbecke. Where he appears in book 2 was also radically different and instead of Wayne being rescued from a Harris controlled hospice it was a nursing home full of graffe. Wayne was also a weird old lady by the name of Madame Oscilly Rosette. She fulfilled much the same role but the explanation for how she knew everything about Will was much, much sillier- She knew the rest of his family, having cryogenically frozen herself in 1963. The reason she disappeared entirely, beside the whole thing not making a jot of sense, was because I thought it would be better for me to link back into the prologue and to look at the consequences of what happens there.
Other characters to fall by the wayside, either because they were too silly to be allowed a place in the new world order or because they weren’t needed, included Dave, a guy who Will promised to avenge after he was attacked in the first section; Mr Ication & Miss Nichols, two Beiderbecke teachers. There were two more teachers, one of whom was a literal child and the other a killer robot- The child went for obvious reasons and the robot when that whole sub-plot was dropped. There were Freddy Mercury impersonators in there, some guy called Tarquin, and a mime artist. All got nixed for not making an ounce of sense. The Freddie Mercury impersonators were particularly egregious and silly.
At one stage the OSW character, Sgt Vaughn, got killed mid way through his section and was replaced for the rest of it by a WPC called Ophelia Varley. She went after Vaughn was given a brief reprieve.
Robert Alderman, who does get name dropped in the second book, was originally an actual character as well. He was the original Magna.
And then you have Wellington. Wellington was a Beiderbecke student who had an obsession with screwdrivers. His only survival is as a complaint from Dan about how one of Harper’s detentions will be ‘a load of geeks and nerds talking about the durability of a screwdriver.’ He would turn up at random moments and behave in a generally annoying way. His most important scene was in the battle during the second book where he let Randy out of the Beiderbecke common room- The remnants of this scene are still there, only now it is Niamh who lets Randy out and it is from Harper’s office, not the common room.
All of those that were dropped were not great characters. Most of them appeared in one scene and shuffled off never to be seen again. Every so often one might stick their head above the parapet but they were still nothing moments. Mr Ication existed in place of Silverman’s role in the second book (Silverman existing elsewhere before getting pushed over to fill the gap) and like Silverman he didn’t do much beyond a couple of scenes. The only time he appeared again was during a car chase when he inexplicably turned up in an ice cream truck.
These characters are gone and they are best forgotten.
Building Worton is a series of posts going behind the scenes of the Dark Legend books- Spawn, Swarm, Stop the Cavalry and Sting. All are available from Amazon.
If you haven’t read the previous Aunt Mable stories, and you really ought to think about it, (clue- They’re here) then this is the basic gist of what is going on: On the day the Second World War begins Mable Morfasson (one S is silent, remember that) comes shuffling out of the fog and back into the castle of Cythry, much to the annoyance of the boys who live there. With her feet well and truly under the table and with all attempts to convince their absent father of her presence, the six boys (Edward having been dispatched to boarding school) plus friend Seb tried to escape to London. They failed. Only now, after this incident, has their Father decided to return…
The history of Worton is not something that is ever explicitly spelled out during the Dark Legend books, or at any point in the books that surround it. We only ever get snippets here and there and much of that is modern history.
The oldest thing we know about Worton is dropped in the as yet unreleased fifth book and hinted at in the second. The highest point in the Mender Vale forest, north of the town, is called ‘Witch’s Rock’ and it gets its name from a local event where three sisters were hung for witchcraft during the seventeenth century. The hint in the second book comes in the name of the café, The Witch’s Coven where Will, Dan and Joe have breakfast shortly before everything goes tits up (or after if you want to be pedantic, considering the events of that book aren’t exactly portrayed in any linear fashion.) It’s a slight nod to the distant past.
The idea of Worton having some connection to witchcraft was a very early one and it fits in gorgeously with the history of the wider area. Being in the extreme southern part of Bowland, Worton is a stone’s throw from nearby Pendle, a place that is world famous for its witches. In the year 1612 ten women and two men were accused of witchcraft and eleven of them were tried and ten hanged- One was found not guilty. Tried at the same time were the Salmesbury witches, three women, although unlike the Pendle Witches all three were acquitted. Between Worton, Salmesbury and Pendle there is a triangle of witchiness. There is something called ‘The Pendle Witch Trail’ in the area, it’s big tourism business. I like to think that the Worton witches never had a trial (if they had they would have been hung at Lancaster) and that the Wortonians decided to take matters into their own hands and lynch them based on spurious evidence. The story of the Worton witches would be seriously overshadowed by the Pendle withces, to the point where it is almost forgotten.
At that point in the seventeenth century Worton would have been no more than a collection of farms and isolated houses and it’s only with the coming of the industrial revolution one hundred and fifty plus years later that it would grow into the industrial town we see in the books. For the location this is unusual as most settlements in this part of Lancashire are small and rural. Most of the major industrial centres of the north were in a belt between Liverpool and Hull, many of them around Manchester. Worton is quite a way to the north of that and probably only grew due to the River Mender providing navigable access down to Preston and the Ribble valley, an easy, convenient way to get goods in and out. The coming of the railway in the 1830s would have only expanded the town’s industry- Which was based around lead mining and manufacturing.
By the time of the books Worton’s industry, like of much of industrial Britain, has severely declined and the town has slumped with it. The river is said to be so poisonous that it’ll kill anyone who sets a toe in there. This is thanks to years of people dumping lead waste into it. Being so far back from the M6 (and the main A5069 road into town not being marked as an A road on major maps) hurt the town and whilst some companies still operated from the town (mainly science based companies such as LUPUS,) many found other places, closer to Preston and Manchester, more economically viable.
Whilst numerous investments and rejuvenation projects are apparent in the books (Police Tower, the shopping mall, the Plaza, Chinatown,) most of them are white elephants or failed attempts to bring in tourists. Worton acts as an embodiment of British industry and industrial towns as a whole, lacking a purpose and looking for some way to adapt and survive. Much of Greater Manchester can be seen as a less extreme example of the same sort of thing- Places like Bolton and Rochdale, towns that once thrived, now struggle.
In the fourth book we get a suggestion that Tolkien may have visited Worton when he was writing Lord Of The Rings- Indeed, Tolkien did write bits of the book in the area- and this leads Doug to speculate that he may (in part) have immortalised the town as Mordor. He almost certainly didn’t. Will also says, in book 3, that Jane Austen stole the town’s motto for the title of Sense and Sensibility. She almost certainly didn’t.
Building Worton is a series of posts going behind the scenes of my Dark Legend books- Spawn, Swarm, Stop The Cavalry & Sting- and the world they inhabit. All are available from Amazon and iTunes.
Whether it was in my secondary school or college library where I was first confronted by Edward Gibbon’s monumental history of the Decline and Fall of The Roman Empire I can’t recall. It is likely to have been the former as before they cut it down by half and moved it to a disused classroom across the campus, where it was never open, my secondary school library had a whole wall of ‘classics’ which nobody except the likes of myself ever went near. I am convinced that Gibbon was included on that wall of books. What I can definitely recall is how astonished I was by the scale of it, six incredibly thick volumes of tiny and complex writing which I could never have hoped to understand at that age. Even if I could have understood it I felt that I would never be able to get through all six volumes. It was too vast, too daunting for me to even comprehend. Naturally, I avoided it for this reason. Continue reading
STING has arrived… It took a while, two and a half years actually, and mostly because I had to rewrite a couple of chapters. I’ve also been working on other things so there’s that as well. Whilst for ourselves it’s been two and half years since our hero and legend, Will, survived the perils of Runcorn and exposed the arms manufacturer NIRA for the corrupt bastards they are, for him it’s only been a couple of months and he’s determined to find out why they played humanity off against each other. Then it goes horribly wrong. The remnants of humanity, meanwhile, are once again united but there’s a lot of suspicion and doubt and mistrust hanging around. Things are about to break.
Actually, we begin eighteen months ago… From the book’s perspective… But that event is important for it plays into one of the major themes of my epic tale, consequences. Both this and the next book (No Angel Born in Hell) rely heavily on the consequences of the character’s actions. For Will the consequences here are about not being able to save the world, about having to give things up as a dead loss and starting again… Was he right to do that? Joe, meanwhile, is suffering consequences for his both his current actions and his past actions, both good and bad, and like Will he’s going to have to face up to them, though for him it will be a harder road than his best friend has to take (for the moment.) In fact, for everyone, the consequences are starting to show.
With this book we’re going somewhere we’ve never been before, over to the other side of that weird glass wall (the one that disappeared from the old Serpent’s Fall back in Swarm)- It’s Worton, but not as we know it. This is Worton after the fall, after the apocalypse. Will and his friends are about to embark on a road trip into the unknown- But they’re going to soon learn that there’s life beyond the end of the world after all.
If you like things like The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy or Doctor Who you’re likely going to like this- It’s a bit more adult than Doctor Who though, just a warning- In fact, the whole epic saga could be described as Doctor Who meets Skins now I come to think about it. There’s plenty to enjoy in here- Body snatching, gladiatorial combat, Harris doing his best to impersonate Hannibal Lecter… And a significant death. I should also warn you of that one. An already established character is going to die before the end of this book.
One other point of note- There are couple of things in this book which, owing to recent terrorist attacks, some people may find upsetting or distressing. If this is likely to be you then I can only apologise and ask that you only do whatever you feel is right. If that includes avoiding the book for however long you need, that is fine by me. I did delay the release the book by a couple of months but I do have a living to make and other books to get out and I couldn’t put it off any longer. Again, I do apologise. I’ve put a temporary warning in the front of the book as well.
For now it’s only available as an eBook but should be available in paperback next year- The previous book, Stop the Cavalry is having its paperback release in September and I have other new books coming out in November and May so it should be after that.
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0746P6LSZ (just change to .COM for the US/whatever local store you use)
Anybody under the age of, say, twenty five, might be unaware of the milkman. They may only know them, at best, from old TV shows or as passing references made by their elders. The chances are that the under twenty fives will have never even seen a milkman in the wild. All they’ve ever known is milk from a plastic carton, emblazoned with the logo of whichever supermarket it happens to have been bought from. They won’t have known of glass milk bottles, which I have to say were much more environmentally friendly than the plastic ones because they could be reused, and they won’t know about milk floats, those ridiculously slow, elongated golf buggy type things which the mythical milkman used to pootle around in. Is this a shame? It depends on your point of view.
Aunt Mable started out life as a joke, a portrait of an ugly woman whom nobody had seen for years. This portrait would always appear in some irrelevant incident, as a kind of Easter Egg. In a previous draft of Eboracvm she fell down the stairs and broke. In The Rebels she was found hanging upside down, exactly like the old bat she is. Her earliest appearance was my first attempt at writing Cythry, a book called Satan Claws. She dislodged herself from over the fireplace in an effort to throw in some foreshadowing, a portent of doom. I never had any intention of having her actually appear. She was to remain only as a portrait, a mystery to the reader with only vague hand waves as to who she was. That is no longer the case.