Ancient woodlands have always fascinated me. This began with Hopwas Wood, directly behind my family home, from a very early age when my grandfather used to take me for walks there. This was the location of that World War II bomb crater which filled up with water and its surface was thick with algae. Years later it became ‘The Sucking Pit’ in my second novel.
Such woodlands are beautiful, twisted oaks several hundred years old, lichen, wildflowers etc. But they are also eerie. What took place here in the distant past? The mind boggles – devil worship, human sacrifice, obscene orgies? Who knows?
One wood which plays havoc with my imagination is Wistman’s Wood’ on Dartmoor. Google it and see for yourself. Conan Doyle stayed in the area to research material for his famous ‘Hound of the Baskervilles’ and I have no doubt that Wistman’s Wood was a major source of inspiration. It is said to be haunted and locals avoid it after night. Most certainly I would not care to venture there after dark.
So, in 1985 I wrote ‘The Wood’ (New English Library). “With the mist came figures from the past, lurching, reaching out to clutch and choke and smother…”
The book was highly successful. The first edition is recognizable by its title in green, reprints were mauve. Front cover blurb: ‘The Living died but the Dead lived on.’ The skeletal figure portrayed on the cover sends shivers down your spine.
“The Wood” was also published in the USA and Poland. It is one of my own favourites. Writing it was a scary experience!