Set in Lancashire, the province of ‘superstition and rain’, the realm of witches and boggarts, mediums and spirit guides, Tom Catlow and William Melling’s latest adventure leads them to investigate a Victorian cold case.
Shimmering with séances and ethereal manifestations, Ian Thomson’s latest page-turner takes the childhood friends beyond the veil and into the spirit world in a novel rich and evocative of time and place.
An Extract from Spirit of the North
MY GRANDMOTHER SAID she had seen a red Indian chief come floating out of the full length mirror of her ward- robe. He wore warpaint and a headdress bristling with feathers of many colours. Around his neck were strings of beautiful beads. He seemed to give off his own light, and his red skin was shiny and the muscles of his arms were powerful.
‘Weren’t you scared?’ I said.
‘Nay lad,’ she said. ‘There were no cause to be frit. I’ve never felt so safe in all my days. He was my protector, my spirit guide. His name was Blood Moon.’
I couldn’t say whether I believed her or not at the time. I was probably only six or seven. I think I believed her as I believed in Jesus and Father Christmas, taking their existence for granted whilst having doubts at one and the same time. I remember being glad that there was no mirror in my parents’ wardrobe at home.
I liked going to Grandma’s house because she spoilt me rotten. She lived on Hope Street, off the top of Montague Street. Mum used to drop me off there for a whole day a couple of times a month.
‘It’s nice to have a break once in a while,’ she would say. ‘He’s no bother, only he never stops talking.’
Gran used to call me Little Tommy Tittlemouse be- cause my name is Thomas and I was such a chatterbox. She would sing to me:
Little Tommy Tittlemouse
Lived in a little house;
He caught fishes
In other men’s ditches.
I was full of questions. ‘What’s this, Grandma?’ And ‘What’s that, Grandma?’ and she would often reply with ‘it’s a layore to catch meddlers’. I would ask what it meant, but she would just tap her nose and say nothing. I still don’t know. Blackburn friends of my own age re- member the expression, but nobody can tell me what it means, or where it comes from. I’ve tried Googling it, and there are a number of variants suggested, but no satisfying answers.
‘What’s for dinner?’ I would ask.
‘A doll and a drum and a kick up the bum,’ she would say.
‘What’s for afters?’
I would get so frustrated at her evasions that I would throw a cushion at her. There were cushions all over the house with covers she’d knitted, crocheted or embroidered.
She would throw one back at me, and a full- blown cushion fight would follow, until she collapsed wheezing with laughter into her armchair by the range. Then I would climb onto her lap and snuggle into her ample bosom and she would tickle me until I screamed at her to stop.
Winner: Book of the Month Award
Cover image (copyright pending) with thanks to Blackburn with Darwen Library and Information Service.
Ian Thomson was educated at QEGS, Blackburn, and at Downing College, Cambridge.
He lives in exile in Lincoln.