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There’s so much to know. It will never end, I suspect, even when it does. So much in all these lives, so many stories, even in this small place.
Villages are full of tales: some are forgotten while others become a part of local folklore. But the fortunes of one West Country village are watched over and irreversibly etched into its history as an omniscient, somewhat crabby, presence keeps track of village life.
In the late sixties a Californian musician blows through Underhill where he writes a set of haunting folk songs that will earn him a group of obsessive fans and a cult following. Two decades later, a couple of teenagers disturb a body on the local golf course. In 2019, a pair of lodgers discover a one-eyed rag doll hidden in the walls of their crumbling and neglected home. Connections are forged and broken across generations, but only the landscape itself can link them together. A landscape threatened by property development and superfast train corridors and speckled by the pylons whose feet have been buried across the moor.
Tom Cox’s masterful debut novel synthesises his passion for music, nature and folklore into a psychedelic and enthralling exploration of village life and the countryside that sustains it.
Tom Cox is the author of thirteen books, including Notebook, Ring the Hill, Help The Witch and 21st Century Yokel, which Robert MacFarlane described as 'just a glorious book - funny and wry and wise, and utterly its own law maker'. It was longlisted for the Wainwright Nature Writing prize. Help the Witch was described by Ben Myers as, ''Often unnerving, frequently funny and always original, the tangled roots of these haunted stories reach into deep, dark places to unearth an alternative England."
But he was not a person entirely devoid of hubris. He had the complacency of many people who arrive in the British countryside from a country populated by bears, coyotes and mountain lions, and the sun massaged that complacency. He was still a newcomer to the moor and even oldcomers to it knew only a fraction of a fraction of what there was to know about it. One of the many things he didn’t yet know about it was that, in late August, in days of heat after heavy rain, on the stretches where it was still most fully permitted to be itself, it breathed and growled as deeply as it did in the height of the harshest winter. Terrain you’d visited always compacted its scale in your mind afterwards and he had begun to learn that but, even so, the route back to the ruined house was surprisingly arduous. The river told him he was going the right way but it seemed further than before and something had happened in the dripping folds of earth above the banks: an angry awakening, a last wet sucking of life into the lungs before autumn’s dry death. Brown flies clung fiercely to his flesh. Huge tufts of grass shoved him from side to side, arguing over their custody of him. Blue and pink and yellow flowers spilled over the damp ground like ornate vomit. An old octopus of a tree reached down a rough tentacle and anointed his cheek with a bloody scratch. In his shoes, the soles of his feet sloshed about and blistered and began their transformation into a sore kind of paste. Every path became a whisper and then a lie. A stiff gate opened but led directly to a shrub of insanity. The song the old man and his wife had sung was in his head again and he hummed the song and then he barked it at the impassable bracken that stretched all the way up the valley walls and then he croaked it at the sky. An area of oxygen finally widened ahead but the ground beneath it drank his feet then low branches formed a roadblock and he crawled under them then lost most of his left leg in a peaty bubbling hole and had to use all his strength to retrieve it. He could not have been more wet if he was in the river itself up to his neck and the burnt moist state of him attracted more and more tiny winged life and he knew then that one day, once again, this would be the the world. Not a car, not a sandwich, not an ambition, not sense, not a cow, not a horse, not love, not a song, not a girl. Just this sucking and gargling and burping thing beneath him. When the dizziness came, and the pain in the head, just before the light clicked off, it was a relief to submit, to just fall into the mouth of everything and not go on fighting any more. And then night fell smoothly in and not thirteen yards away the river, which was not interested, continued to yell as it rushed over the rocks.
- 4th May 2022 Villager news
Hello lovely supporters,
Villager is now finally out in the world! Thank you again for making it happen. I'm very pleased to say that the book made it to number 18 on the UK hardback fiction bestseller chart in the week of publication and has already had some lovely reviews. You should all have your first edition hardbacks now (please email email@example.com if not) but if you'd like to buy another…5th October 2021 Sneak preview of some of the art for Villager
Here's a little sneak preview of the art my mum, Jo, has been coming up with so far for the inside of Villager. The book is now edited and will be going to the printers in a few weeks, once she has finished the linoprints, and my dad has finished the map for the front (I'm especially excited about this, as I've always wanted to write a book with a map in it).
Tom21st September 2021 Villager: The Cover!
It gives me huge pleasure to reveal Joe McLaren's brilliant cover for my debut novel, Villager. I haven't shared this on social media yet, as I wanted to give you the the first look, as a thank you for your generous early support of the book. I think the image - co-devised with Unbound's art director Mark Ecob - really encapsulates the feel of the book and works as a lovely companion…
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