Welcome to Halfman, Halfbook for my stop on the Blog Tour for Villager by Tom Cox and published by Unbound.
About the Book
There’s so much to know. It will never end, I suspect, even when it does. So much in all these lives, so many stories, even in this small place.
Villages are full of tales: some are forgotten while others become a part of local folklore. But the fortunes of one West Country village are watched over and irreversibly etched into its history as an omniscient, somewhat crabby, presence keeps track of village life.
In the late sixties a Californian musician blows through Underhill where he writes a set of haunting folk songs that will earn him a group of obsessive fans and a cult following. Two decades later, a couple of teenagers disturb a body on the local golf course. In 2019, a pair of lodgers discover a one-eyed rag doll hidden in the walls of their crumbling and neglected home. Connections are forged and broken across generations, but only the landscape itself can link them together. A landscape threatened by property development and superfast train corridors and speckled by the pylons whose feet have been buried across the moor.
About the Author
He is the author of the Sunday Times bestselling The Good, the Bad and the Furry and the William Hill Sports Book longlisted Bring Me the Head of Sergio Garcia. 21st-Century Yokel was longlisted for the Wainwright Prize, and the titular story of Help the Witch won a Shirley Jackson Award. @cox_tom
Tom Cox has 80k followers on Twitter and 33k on Instagram. He is also the man behind the enormously popular Why My Cat is Sad account, which has 240k followers. He lives in Devon.
The Dartmoor village of Underhill is exactly where you would expect, under a hill. It has a long history of occupation, the stone circle taking it back beyond recorded history. Some of the stories from the landscape have gone forever but others have permeated the local folklore if you know where to look.
The people that have lived in the village over this have their own stories to tell and the narrative switches between different characters from 100 years ago to almost 150 years in the future. They all have a different story to tell of their time spent there, from the music that was created there and became a cult in its own right. There is the story of a doctor seeing the ghost of a woman in a ruined barn and the discovery of a body by two golf man teenagers.
Each of these stories is connected by the main character of the book; the landscape. Its presence is often brooding and sometimes comforting in each of these short vignettes and it feels like it is watching over the inhabitants of the village as they change the land for better or for worse.
The stones will talk, I think, if you give them long enough
I have been a big fan of Tom Cox for ages, so much so that I have even read his golf book, and I really liked this. It took a few days to grow on me, and this, like his non-fiction, is full of quirks and tiny details that make me wonder just where he gets his ideas from. I really liked the underlying rumble of folk horror in the stories, it is there like a satisfying bass line in a favourite track, not enough to scare you, but enough to give a feeling of unease. It is not a conventional novel by any means and is a strong reflection of his interests and passions. I am so glad that I read this, if it wasn’t for Unbound then we may not have seen this as most publishers wouldn’t consider this a commercial book. I still think that his non-fiction writing has an edge over this, but I am very much looking forward to whatever he writes next.
Don’t forget to visit the other blogs on the blog tour
Buy this at your local independent bookshop. If you’re not sure where your nearest is then you can find one here
My thanks to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for the copy of the book to read.