I had had it in mind for some time to write a vampire novel. I had given much thought to the idea but it needed to be different from all that had gone before; these blood suckers had been done to death in both books and movies, all spawned by the legendary Dracula. I needed a plot and characters that were refreshing, if that was possible.
Also, following the success of “The Black Fedora”, I had toyed with the idea of bringing back that strange character. So, why not write a vampire novel set around himself and with vampires that were a far cry from those that had gone before from the days of the Penny Dreadful up to the Hammer film portrayals? Forget Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, icons of the genre as they had been.
Then came another idea. Why not set the book locally? I chose Knighton just over the border from my home in the hills.
So, I wrote “The Knighton Vampires” just a year after the publication of “The Black Fedora”. Sphere Books were thrilled with the idea. I had a proof cover within weeks for the paperback version and then everything sank, literally. Robert Maxwell, the publishing legend, was drowned, and Sphere and other publishers owned by him were put in receivership. “The Knighton Vampires” was snapped up by Piatkus who issued it in hardcover in 1993.
Everything was back on course and the Man in the Black Fedora returned, hunting some very unusual vampires in Knighton. The book enjoyed one of the best launches I have ever had at the town’s Community Centre with a hundred or so visitors including the mayor. I sold a lot of books that night and the library had to order extra copies in order to cope with the lending demand.
Locals were eagerly looking to see if they could recognise themselves amongst the many characters featured. One did, a pure coincidence on my part. One of the town’s police officers engaged in the investigation, I called Phil Morris. As it happened a Phil Morris had joined the local bobbies after my book was written. He thought it was great and even now, several years after his retirement, when we meet in the street we share a laugh about the coincidence!
Piatkus, like most other publishers, followed the trade’s trend to discontinue horror, so “The Knighton Vampires” remains one of my most collectible titles. I still hear from fans who are excited because they have found a copy somewhere, perhaps in a charity shop priced at 50p or on e-bay at £20 plus.
All of which has me thinking about resurrecting The Man in the Back Fedora in another novel of strange intrigue with a horror theme.