Church of the White Rabbits
***NEW Kindle edition published 14th June 2014 – print edition coming soon***
Black Island is a fictional outpost of the British Isles, set far out in the Atlantic and far adrift of mainland life.
For more than two centuries, the Black Family has ruled the island as their personal fiefdom. Now, it’s 1998 and the company that runs their affairs is struggling to stay in business.
Clarence Wherry, the Black’s grasping and arrogant steward, is selling off shares on the sly as he tries to cover up his financial mismanagement.
Keziah Black, now in her 70s and generally regarded as a deranged old witch with few social graces, is secretly manoeuvring to buy the business. Whether it’s by blackmail or rigging games of poker, Keziah isn’t going to let anything stand in her way as she tries to take revenge on her family for locking her up when she was a young woman.
Meanwhile, timid distant cousin Margaret McAllister begins her own mission to wrest control from Clarence and starts trying to find a lost heir to the family fortunes.
Down in the island’s only town, impulsive ex-fisherman Arthur Judd has returned after a 15-year absence. Now, he’s trying to introduce a dash of contemporary culture to this remote community with a new café offering everything from skinny lattes to breakfast muffins.
Arthur’s world is turned upside down twice: first when he suddenly finds himself looking after a baby daughter he never knew he had and again when the lovely but elusive Lola Maguire appears on the island.
Most of the time, there’s little contact — or love lost — between the Black Family and the rest of the islanders.
However, trouble breaks out after Clarence Wherry’s former assistant falls off a balcony, suffers a breakdown and runs off to live in the hills with a colony of white rabbits.
After several years, the white rabbits have been doing what rabbits do best and Clarence decides to thin their numbers. The locals take umbrage at Clarence’s high-handed behaviour and a plot is hatched to save the white rabbits.
Church of the White Rabbits takes place over a six-year period and follows the course of Keziah’s scheming, the ups and downs of Clarence and the Black Company, plus Arthur’s attempts to woo the mysterious Lola.
Around it all is woven the fate of the white rabbits and the islanders’ efforts to keep them away from Clarence and find them a permanent sanctuary.
Church of the White Rabbits is also the first volume of The Black Island Chronicles, a series of novels that will follow the island’s roller coaster ride into the 21st century.
A long time coming
If you’ve read any of my other books, you’ll know this one is a little different. (If you haven’t, the others are all generally a bit more gritty, dealing with crime, murder, injustice and other not so light-hearted topics.)
I first thought of the book as a kind of blend of Cold Comfort Farm and the 2001-03 BBC series Two Thousand Acres Of Sky (if anyone else remembers that one). So if you enjoyed one or other of these then hopefully the book might appeal to you and maybe tickle your funny bone.
I first started thinking about Black Island over a decade ago, jotting down the first rough notes in June 2002 while living in Cornwall – which certainly inspired some of the landscapes and slightly maverick nature of the characters.
As with all of my books, the basic concept – of a feuding family living on a remote island – was then left for years to simmer away in my subconscious. I did write down a few more notes and ideas at intervals but was kept busy by other writing projects and adventures.
It wasn’t until 2012 that I felt I had the outline of a full novel in my head. Over the summer, I wrote down the basics of several of the stories that appear within this novel. Then in the autumn I sat down to work on the actual book.
I began with what I thought would be the first few chapters. My idea was that these initial chapters would set the scene and quickly bring us up to the current day. Once I began writing, though, more and more ideas kept coming. Arthur Judd – who was only ever meant to play a minor part – suddenly became one of the main players in the unfolding novel. Other characters also had stories that had to be told.
The end result is that the opening sequence turned into a complete novel. Which means, there’s plenty more to come!
This is the first volume of The Black Island Chronicles and I’m just starting work on the next book – provisionally titled The King of Monkey Island.
Church Of The White Rabbits will be the first volume of The Black Island Chronicles and I’ve put some links below to the first few chapters.
Below are the first extracts – click on the chapter titles to download PDF files for the first four.
I’d love to get reactions and responses to these stories. Please post your comments or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
In which an unfortunate retainer’s brush with death leads to an unlikely revelation and a routine business meeting reveals various shady shenanigans. We also meet many of the characters who will have a bearing on our story and get an insight into some of their conflicts and aspirations.
In which a man’s past catches up with him and the last surviving member of the Black Family has a secret assignation with a mysterious Irishman. We also witness youthful debauchery, learn about the dangers of jumping to conclusions, hear news of the white rabbits and observe a rigged game of poker.