*I am proud to post this #GuestPost this morning as not only does the novel sound intense and intriguing. The title pretty much summarises how I feel this cold foggy November morning! lol*
Lord Of The Dead by Richard Rippon
A woman’s body has been found on the moors of Northumberland, brutally murdered and dismembered. Northumbria police enlist the help of unconventional psychologist Jon Atherton, a decision complicated by his personal history with lead investigator Detective Sergeant Kate Prejean.
As Christmas approaches and pressure mounts on the force, Prejean and Atherton’s personal lives begin to unravel as they find themselves the focus of media attention, and that of the killer known only as Son Of Geb.
Lord Of The Dead is a gripping, startling piece of modern noir fiction.
“A stunning debut. If Thomas Harris was to write a British take on the Nordic-Noir genre, this would be it. Rippon is an exciting new voice in British crime fiction.”
Nathan O’Hagan, author of ‘The World Is (Not) A Cold Dead Place’
Cave, Mann and Deep Red
I wrote my new novel, Lord of the Dead, on the back of cigarette packets. Not literally of course – that would be just mad. What I mean is that it was written in a very piecemeal style and on the hoof, using snatches of stolen time. Anyone with a full-time job and a family knows how hard it is to find spare time for a hobby or passion. And so, my book was written on the bus, to and from work, or an hour here and there after the kids had gone to bed.
I wrote in notebooks, on scraps of paper, or in emails that I’d send to myself. Sometimes I’d write a few hundred words in one go, other times just a few lines. Sometimes, weeks would go by and I’d not have written a thing.
The result was inevitably patchy. Names – or their spellings – would mysteriously change from one chapter to the next. Plot strands would begin only to be completely abandoned. Once, a character was spectacularly killed off, only to appear in much better health later on.
Time for research was scant. I relied on Google and Twitter; the latter providing a forensic expert and someone living with cerebral palsy, who graciously helped to answer my stupid questions online. Close friends – a cop and a nurse – helped to keep things real when it came to police and hospital procedures.
When I grew closer to finishing, my patient agent – a former editor – helped me make sense of the mess, and told me what was working and what wasn’t. After multiple reworks, revisions and redrafts, it grew closer to something resembling a novel.
Over almost two years of writing it, I had a number of inspirations. Michael Mann’s 1986 film, Manhunter, featured a killer who’d watch the families who would eventually become his victims. Brian Cox – as Hannibal Lector – has a great line: “Have you ever seen blood in the moonlight, Will? It appears quite black.” I became interested in writing a killer who revelled in the night, felt empowered and emboldened by it. It was the starting point for the character and his motivation. I wondered what aspect of the night and darkness might fuel his fantasies. I also loved the idea of someone who was a watcher. I wrote my villain as someone who liked to surveil the cops as well as his victims, and was always one step ahead, and ready to strike.
I became obsessed with the Manhunter soundtrack. A difficult-to-find collection of electronica and eighties pop-rock. Similarly, I was listening to Nick Cave’s album, Push the Sky Away on endless loop. There were a number of tracks that seemed to resonate with what I was aiming for. Songs like We No Who U R, Water’s Edge and the title track, had a beautiful, hypnotic and ominous quality that I’ll forever associate with Lord of the Dead. Later I saw the video for We No Who U R, with a shadowy figure wandering through a forest at night, which could have been depicting my antagonist himself.
As a teenager, I became a fan of horror movies and decorated my bedroom with gory posters from Fangoria magazine. When I was writing the book, I bought a blu-ray of an old favourite, Dario Argento’s Deep Red, which I’d previously owned on bootleg VHS. Back in the day, the ‘video nasty’ scandal had led to a number of titles being banned outright, and others severely cut by the British Board of Film Classification. Me and my friends, who preferred our horror unadulterated, would buy copies by post, videos that would have terrible image quality, colours that bled into each other and tape-chewing tracking issues. Deep Red features a number of gruesome and ritualised killings and an antagonist who’s hiding in plain sight. Both of these elements feature in Lord of the Dead, and although I don’t think the book is an outright horror, it certainly doesn’t shy away from the horrific.
As I write this, I’m pondering a sequel to Lord of the Dead and hopefully, I’ve learnt something from the chaotic way I tackled the first book. Planning is the key. Then, I’m going to take it one chapter at a time. ‘Write one true sentence, and then go on from there…’ was Hemingway’s advice. I’d like it to have a subtly different vibe – the same, but different. It exists in the same world of course, but the main characters have been dramatically and permanently affected by the events of the first book. The villain needs to be completely different, something we’ve never seen before, and therein lies the challenge – and the fun.
Richard Rippon has been writing since 2007, when his short story, Full Tilt, was long-listed for a Northern Dagger award. In 2009, he won a New Writing North Award for his first novel, The Kebab King. Since then he’s had a number of short stories published in newspapers, magazines and online. In 2012, he was commissioned to write a short story (The Other One), which appears in the Platform anthology. He lives on the North East coast with his wife and two children, and works in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Richard was also a social media phenomenon in 2016, as one of the men behind the twitter sensation #DrummondPuddleWatch.
Follow Richard on Twitter @RichRippon