Pressing Matters – Official Press Release for Shadow Beast

Last week, I distributed my press release for Shadow Beast, my debut novel. The book has been an off and on project for me over the course of a number of years, with the final draft mainly being completed in the last twelve months. I was thrilled to have it picked up by the local paper and to have gotten some publicity for it. However, there were a few misquotes and the odd mistake with some of the information. I am the first to defend ‘never let the truth get in the way of a good story’, but I thought it best to have an official record somewhere! So here it is!

Something lurks in the shadows and within the pages!

Kent author explores the mystery of big cats in Britain with new horror novel debut

From time to time the headlines are grabbed by something a little wilder, maybe even more monstrous than we’re used to. Not too long ago, it was the turn of Knole Park in Sevenoaks, where a panther was said to be devouring the resident deer with bloody glee and gladness. And most of us have heard of the infamous beast of Bodmin or Surrey Puma. Truth be told, there isn’t a county in England, Scotland or Wales that doesn’t boast a beast of some kind. As all those newspaper headlines show, there’s definitely a story there.

Luke Phillips, a Sevenoaks based writer and author certainly thinks so. In his debut novel Shadow Beast, he explores these enduring myths as a man-eating monster goes on the rampage in the Highlands of Scotland. But there is more than just a terrifying tale held within its pages. Many real-life locations, incidents and reports have made their way into the story.

“I think that’s the allure of these mysterious sightings,” explains Luke. “It’s the ‘what if’ possibility that sends a shiver down our spines and gives us goose-bumps as we make our way home on a dark night.”

Kent had an alleged 120 such reported sightings in 2014. The majority of these were of large black cats, just as featured in Shadow Beast. But other species such as pumas, lynx and smaller species were also prominent. Maybe truth isn’t just stranger than fiction, but a little scarier too!

Luke will be speaking about his research and writing at the Grapevine networking event to be held on February 3rd at the Bridgman Furniture Store in Sevenoaks. Free tickets are available on the Eventbrite website. http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/15251646084

Shadow Beast is available on Kindle and out in paperback now.

The latest 5* review describes it as “on par with Jurassic Park” and “the build up was intense, and kept me on the edge of my seat.”

About the Author

Luke Phillips is a life-long naturalist who has also studied zoology at Liverpool John Moores University. His knowledge of animal life and behaviour lends a unique aspect to the narrative of his stories.

Having spent time on the shores of Loch Ness as a boy, and with a keen imagination fuelled by horror films glimpsed through his childhood fingers, his interest in myths and monsters was evident from an early age.

Luke lives in the West Kent town of Sevenoaks and Shadow Beast is his first novel, despite having always been encouraged to write by teachers and readers alike. He now plans to continue doing so.

Notes to Editors

Luke would be happy to assist and contribute to any stories concerning the myths and legends, cryptids and creatures of Kent and the wider UK. He has spoken to eye-witnesses across the country and carried out research across the world.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0956298729

Shadowy Beasts

Scary stories are an integral part of every culture in the world. But our myths and monsters have more of a purpose than generating nervous laughter around a camp fire, or making your date squeeze that little bit closer.

When I was choosing the name for this blog, I was thinking about the tales and stories I knew of and had researched, and for the most part, they fell into two categories – black beasts and bogeymen.

When I was choosing the colour of my creature for my book Shadow Beast, there was one obvious choice. Black. It’s the colour of choice for getting your creep on. Just think about it: the bit that makes everybody shudder in the 80’s fantasy film The Never Ending Story, is the mural that reveals Gmork, the big black wolf-like creature to Atreyu. Think of a monster and most of the time, it will be black in colour. Dracula, the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and even Death himself all go for the ‘any colour as long as its obsidian’ motto.

This dark coloured continuity goes well beyond Hollywood and literature though. One of the UK’s most prominent tale-types is of large, spectral black dogs. Depending on who sees them and in what part of the country, they can be viewed as anything from an omen of death to a guiding spirit for a lost traveller. The oldest of these tales can be traced back to 1127, where a Dr. Simon Sherwood writes of a very curious incident of a dog in the night time.

“Let no-one be surprised at the truth of what we are about to relate, for it was common knowledge throughout the whole country that immediately after [Abbot Henry of Poitou’s arrival at Peterborough Abbey] – it was the Sunday when they sing Exurge Quare – many men both saw and heard a great number of huntsmen hunting. The huntsmen were black, huge and hideous, and rode on black horses and on black he-goats and their hounds were jet black with eyes like saucers and horrible. This was seen in the very deer park of the town of Peterborough and in all the woods that stretch from that same town to Stamford, and in the night the monks heard them sounding and winding their horns. Reliable witnesses who kept watch in the night declared that there might well have been as many as twenty or thirty of them winding their horns as near they could tell. This was seen and heard from the time of his arrival all through Lent and right up to Easter.”

After that, what became known in East Anglia as Black Shuck decided to go it alone, making a very grand entrance in 1577 at the churches of Bungay and Blythburgh. As the congregation at Holy Trinity Church offered their collective praise on the 4th of August, a monstrous black dog burst through the doors to a clap of thunder. It ran up the nave and turned its attention to a man and boy, both of whom it killed. Its thunderous bark then caused the church steeple to collapse through the roof, at which point the phantom dog decided to get the shuck out of there, but not before leaving scorch marks on the north door of the church, which are still there to this day.

What’s interesting to me is the possible truth behind the tale. Other old English legends speak of the Church Grim, an attendant spirit and guardian. They may appear as rams, horses, roosters or ravens, but black dogs were the preference. It used to be a commonly held belief that the first man buried in a new churchyard had to guard it against the devil. Apparently, there was rarely a rush of applicants, so alternative arrangements were made. A completely black dog would be buried alive on the north side of the churchyard, creating a Church Grim to protect the church. The RSPCA wasn’t founded until 1824, so old shuck was out of luck in 1577.

To back this up, the bones of a 7-ft dog that could have weighed up to 14-stone were discovered in a shallow grave in the grounds of Leiston Abbey, Suffolk, in May 2014. Given the size and age of the remains, dating from the 1500’s, it’s probably safe to assume the dog was in fact a type of mastiff and that the general practice of burying dogs was still fairly commonplace in 1577. It also doesn’t take a huge stretch of the imagination to realise that any dog escaping from such an ordeal would be mightily pissed off and somewhat set against church-goers!

These tales have always inspired literature. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles is a prime example. The story of a hellish hound and a cursed country squire almost certainly stem from Devonshire folklore surrounding Squire Richard Cabell, who was described as monstrously evil, was suspected of murdering his wife and was best known for bad behaviour all round. On the night of his death, it’s said a monstrous pack of hounds came baying across the moor to howl at his tomb, and since then, he has led the pack on their phantom prowling. Devonshire also boasts the Yeth Hound, so Doyle had no lack of inspiration for his tale of a devil dog.

The same was for me. I couldn’t resist the allure of the often reported mysterious big black cats seen up and down the UK. In the end, many historical events such as the capture of Felicity the puma in Cannich, where the book is set, made their way into the narrative. Lara the lynx was another example, captured in Cricklewood North London in 2001. Truth really can be stranger than fiction!

So, a quick look at the other category – bogeymen, boogeymen, or bogiemen, depending on where you hail from. Although Hollywood and popular culture has made them into something else, their purpose has always been fairly uniform and universal the world over. They are there to scare naughty children into being good! And there are literally hundreds of them!

My favourite, and possibly surprising choice to feature here is Bigfoot. Not so much the gentle forest giant, picking flowers and protecting his animal kin, more picking up and running off with the children of Native Americans and eating them, as well as those kin’ animals. In the southern states, Sasquatch is referred to as a booger, and Cherokee braves would often take part in the booger dance, chasing young children and women just like their hairy neighbours. Many different tribes tell their children to stay close, or they are likely to be taken up by; Choanito (the night people – Wenatchee), Skookum (evil God of the woods – Chinook), Windago (wicked cannibal – Athabascan), Tso apittse (cannibal giant – Shoshone), Atahsaisa (the cannibal demon – Zuni), Yayaya-ash (the frightener – Klamath), Skukum (devil of the forest – Quinault), and so on. In fact there are over a hundred different names, none of which mean giver of sloppy kisses.

So, the stage for this blog is set. Expect some interesting tales of the weird stuff in the woods, the odd fictionalised account and news and items about my writing. It’s all meant to be fun, as well as a little frightening sometimes. Hope to see you around here again!

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0956298729