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Book Review: Devil’s Day

Devil’s Day by Andrew Michael Hurley.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Devil’s Day is another masterpiece of folk horror fiction from Andrew Michael Hurley. Boiling the plot down to a single sentence, it’s the story of a man and his wife who return to his family farm for a funeral, and to help with preparations for an annual festival in advance of bringing their sheep down from the moors for winter.

There’s much more to it than that, including some sub-plots, and the usual folk horror tropes of superstition, tradition, a rural setting, breath-taking nature description, and a cast of expertly drawn characters to act out the story.

There is nothing I disliked about this book, and I count it as one of the finest I have ever read. For me, it resonates particularly strongly because I grew up not far from the area in which it’s set, and my own novel, A Different Path, is set in the same area, a few miles east.

Just superb.

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Book Reviews

Book Review: The Loney

The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley.
My rating: 5 of 5 stars.

Andrew Michael Hurley’s The Loney is a novel about two brothers who make a pilgrimage from London to the stretch of Lancashire coast that sits between the Lune and Wyre estuaries, known as the Loney. There, over the Easter period, they stay in a big old house with their parents, their parish priest, and some of their fellow parishioners. The bulk of the novel is set in the 1970s, but it begins and ends in the present day.

The above paragraph sums up what the book is about, but it doesn’t come close to doing it justice. This is one of the most beautifully written novels I have ever read, with stunning scene setting passages and haunting, eerie narration.

I grew up a catholic in East Lancashire during the 1970s and 1980s, so I can relate to many of the elements in the story. I can also relate to the attitudes of the locals as they are shaped by Hurley. The rural north has changed considerably nowadays, but back then, it was very much as he describes.

There is not a single thing I disliked about this novel. If I were to be nit-picky, I might say it wasn’t clear when it was set until the very end when the protagonist mentions the 1970s, although I personally guessed the time period.

Highly recommended for fans of the Folk Horror genre, but also for those who love to read novels that are abundant with stunning descriptions of nature.

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Getting Critical Distance when writing

It’s very difficult for writers to get true critical distance from their work, especially when the work in question is a novel that has consumed almost every waking moment for months. Unfortunately, critical distance is exactly what’s needed in order to view a piece of writing objectively.

First draft

After completion of the first draft, one approach is to put that novel away in a drawer for a couple of weeks and forget about it. I did this after finishing my most recent novel, A Different Path, and it was an effective technique. The first draft took three months to write, so some of the earlier chapters were already unfamiliar to me, and this extra two week break gave me some much needed distance from the work as a whole.

Subsequent drafts

That first distanced read-through is a crucial one because it gets progressively harder to obtain any real critical distance after each pass. I’m currently trying to get a couple of weeks of distance after making changes for my second draft, but this will be the fourth time I’ve read the work through, and I’m worried I’ve now become so familiar with it, a two week break won’t be enough.

As I write this, the second draft has started calling out to me from inside the leather portfolio case it’s been trapped in for the last ten days. I’m now tempted to unzip it, caress the pages, let some light fall on them for a few minutes, maybe even read the first sentence…

Work on something else

A possible solution to the problem of diminishing distance might be to put every second draft away for six months and work on the first and second draft of a new idea instead. Six months is a good chunk of time, and that should be enough distance to bring back the objectivity.

Twenty six years of distance?

I recently re-read a novella I wrote twenty six years ago during the winter of 1993/94. The story was about a particularly dangerous type of computer virus, hence the image at the top of this post.

Reading it back after so long was a wonderful experience in many ways, but the critical distance I managed to get from the writing was unbeatable. I was able to come back to it purely as a reader, without remembering anything about the writing process, the plot, or the characters, apart from one or two names.

Photo by Justus Menke on Unsplash.