A new story from Monocle 24: Culture with Robert Bound


Hello and welcome to Monaco on culture I'm rebound on this program again to meet the author Edward Parnell his new book ghost land is a beguiling mix of memoir travelogue nature writing and literary journey to the life and work of writers with partial for the supernatural from the Ghost Stories of M R james to Conan Doyle's was known homes entails to Alan Garner's Cheshire wg say belt suffered the folk horror of the wicker man and the strange stories of Road Aikman and many more more a real lot more in fact that encompass myths local ghost stories film and TV and some lonely walks through churchyards but panels book he's moving the tool through a spooky literary landscape is also look at his own family's sad history both of his parents died before their time followed soon afterward by by his beloved older brother and nells diving into scary stories seems like an unlikely sort of therapy to this seems a good time to publish a book that searches for the strange not only are we just between Halloween and Guy Fawkes night that time when the spirit world it be closer to the human one than at any other but the fashion for new wave of folk horror and nature writing that looks at the readiness of nature in tooth and Claw Rav the purely pastoral is on the rise as well so to talk about ghost land here is Edward Edward thank you so much for joining us today a thoroughly enjoyed getting to grips with ghost land only to strip it right back to the the beginning for you you right so entertainingly about sort of watching public information films and I think some vhs on your TV yeah of your formative views of the spooky perhaps before the written word with TV and things like this tell us how you you got into the Spooky World I think thing I was always into it at least that's the sort of family legend on a on a holiday to Wales when I was about four I I famously asked the tour guide in Cavan Castle whether whether we might see the ghost that was the spectra lady that was said to haunt the place we didn't see it so after that I was yeah I remember I had had an US born in a W H Smith Book of horror films was full of these fantastic old stills from will all the universal pictures all those kind of things and a few more kind of way out there lurid ones as well so I wanted to see all of those films and often actually I did gets the most slightly disappointed because those still the best things in a lot of those mirrors but we didn't I remember before we had vhs my aunt and uncle had one so this would have been kind of I guess start of the eighties so I often got her to video me things she quite likes horror as well as think but she she would video stuff off TV so again this would have been kind of classic Bela Lugosi kind of staff so I watched that but gradually managed to get her to video of the stuff that I probably shouldn't shouldn't have been watching things like the weaker man and I remember getting my older cousin to get term an American Werewolf in London out of the realm screening of that at school like a private school and that was that was terrifying still still lives me to this day the scene in the woods transforms himself in the hospital bed absolutely absolutely terrifying we clearly shouldn't be watching eleven of all those false awakening bits with the Nazis on they they weren't good and I remember I watched that and I was stopping ran my aunts and uncles that evening and I couldn't get to sleep on my uncle snored quite loudly which was a little bit where wolf-like and that wasn't wasn't a great experience but I love the film and then of course went back to this sort of feeds into it this is your kind of young imaginings and awakenings the rest of it I had similar books to these when I was growing up I kind of found it quite difficult she look at these these pitches I love you went carbon also wanted to see the next you kind of do and you I don't like like I suppose that's that's the success of a lot of the material that you talk about in Ghost land is that is the is the thrill of wanting to see just enough to be scared but not enough to be absolutely petrified do you still have the same reaction to some of what we might call set texts of which will talk in a minute but do you have the same reaction into them are you the satisfaction of being frightened by these things or the air of eerie notice that surrounds them so they have the same thrill for you now as I did as a as a kid I think I think they do I think there's not that many things I read that well I suppose reading you don't get those jump out sort of scares than get whilst whilst watching something on the telly or or movie but certainly when I was researching and writing Ghoslan I reread the haunting of Hill House spy Shirley Jackson and I think that was the one thing that I really found quite uncomfortable reading and I know sort of going to sleep I was sort of the yeah not sure is that annoys two downstairs that that that got me for some particular reason the other things I kind of liked the way they're put together and I am as you were so hinting I love I love the atmosphere perhaps more I think that's the thing that now attracts me as much as anything else but certainly that did it for me again yeah and the book is such a wonderful mixture of other whether they're happy or unhappy bedfellows but you mix them two together so well a mixture of of this exposition this looker especially British spooky stories ghost stories weird fiction and nature writing and personal memoir you write very movingly about how you lost your parents your brother how did it come to pass this that you wrote the book in the way that you have that you've melded these things together so so successfully that it's difficult balancing actor too today well the book came around in quite an interesting way because I was a written one own book before a novel called the listeners which is class Gothic World War Two novel and I was I was procrastinating I guess messing around not writing another novel and just casting around for ideas I went with a friend of mine to wear 'em Jane's the Victorian Born Ghost story writer where he spent his formative years a little village called Great Liderman just outside bracing Edmunds in Suffolk and it's a it's an odd place as they strange Thamel lagoon of ruined church over the other side of it used to be a a grand hall in James's Day that sort of inspired him a little bit I think that's no longer there so I was casting around thinking for ideas and I was thinking about novel that might feature Jane's kind of bit part character in his Cambridge professorial guides but after I after I got home I wrote I just wrote a sort of a a blog piece about it basically Steve Lots of photos and editor harpercollins happened to see it's getting contact with me to ask whether it ever thought about writing a nonfiction book about the subject so of course I went obviously went down to meet him and we got on really well we bonded over a love of trashy movies things like that fairly terrible terrible although quite entertaining psycho mania is strange seventies Zombie Bicocca totes play strange part in that film some reason call so so I mean I'm not sure I can't remember now whether they're licking the toads in a sort of cane toad way yeah it's just an odd film it's not let's not go into that too much because we'd be all day trying to decode it but yes so I then went away thinking well would I like to ride a nonfiction book about it and I suppose I hadn't thought about tackling that subject before in that manner and then you have to kind of thing well how would I do it and I guess I was conscious that there's lots of academics probably knew a a lot more about the writers I'd be interesting talking about a lot more than I did so I wanted to them bringing the personal and it kind of struck me when the more I thought about it that lots the locations that happen to have an influence on some of the people that I wanted to write about that they kind of tied in with old family memories as well so there are places that we'd been on on family holidays like to the Suffolk coast which ties in with James as well as two people like see all of you in a related fashion awesome walking in Suffolk holidays through the new forest where there's lots of links to where Arthur CONAN doyle had his his holiday home which had where he he carried out various spiritual things with his Mesopotamia in spirit guided financial family holidays we re such psycho geographically dividend and so I guess I looked for those coincidences and found them but it seemed a good way to kind of also get into trying to tackle my own past I guess also in a kind of Mo James Wade sort of well it was there buried decided perhaps perhaps wisely or unwisely to it was time to go rooting around in there and you draw parallels I mean of see not just in terms of the geography you you were born and brought up and I still think you live in Norfolk Yup and the flatness of that landscape has inspired you certainly in the beginning of Ghozlan talk a lot about that and about the echo of the Mr James's landscape he lived in Suffolk Suffolk the next county down similar landscape I suppose how much is landscape affected or inspired your book and the and the books of the novelist the east side yeah I think landscapes a big factory my books I grew up in the fans at she in Lincolnshire on the Mike Grandmother lived in Norfolk so where I lived it with this kind of flat steroidal beak fields landscape which I know a lot of people I think find quite unearthing to me it's it's it's what I grew up with so I don't think do particularly but I was kind of enchanted by those slightly rolling hillsides and woodland's in West Norfolk where my grandmother some of the lived there were trees that you could go off in and there were lots of legends around the village you know there's something called the devils pit that was meant to be bottomless and all sorts of kind of little bits of folklore and things that tied in with various things so I was always kind of conscious of of landscape playing a big part and when you you look the works of Jane's and you can you can see absolutely there so when you walk round great live near where he grew up in the graveyard five yard where his father was vicar there's lots of gravestones bearing the name of mother soul who's the the terrible witch in the story the ashtray he obviously that kind of old park land landscape that would have been around there before the the big house was destroyed that's also in lots of that's really familiar thing in his stories but but then you you go to the the surf coast and there's a whistle come to you and this is kind of a warning to the curious they're also tied in with the adaptations which was how I first came to in sort of seeing those nineteen seventies made adaptations. Yeah these rich strand of British TV wasn't as play for today the reality of things that were short stories spooky stories that seems to be such a kind of sort of motherlode of Spooky S- going on there that was easily translatable or walls also there's an appetite for it to be translated onto TV much more so than there is today you look at a lot of TV and film in your bookers as much as short stories the things.

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