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Return To King Death's Garden

How long ago it was. We moved into the house where nothing had changed for forty years the year after we came back from Singapore, drawn back to Brighton and the old gang after an abortive attempt to install ourselves up north. We painted (notably the big yellow flash on lilac in the front room, that left a radioactive yellow film on everything, because we were rank amateurs with a stencil and a spray can). We had the roof done, we decorated, we put up shelves, and I took possession of King Death's Garden, the Brighton and Preston Cemetery & Extra-Mural Cemetery next door; with only a small brown cat for my companion. My dear Siang, who walked along with me, lost in her own thoughts, only yelling at me when she'd found something interesting and I wasn't paying attention. I was working as an accounts clerk at Amex, I was writing Telebug scripts, I was teaching myself computing, and in the midst of all this I wrote King Death's Garden, the first of my "Ann Halam" ghost stories. It was amazingly successful, it sold buckets, I got invited to a posh party on the grounds of my sales figures . Wow. An experience never to be repeated. But I still liked it, and I still like it now. I found my memories of those years enshrined within the pages, as I was converting it for epub, and I was very glad to meet them. So much has changed. You can't get into the Extra-Mural valley from the Brighton and Preston part anymore, not without climbing the wall. The gate is bricked up and the steps where Maurice met Moth for the first time are mouldering into the earth. The two great copper beeches have gone from in front of the funeral chapel (deliberate; I suppose meant to make the place look more cheerful); Siang's cypress is gone, and most of the great elms on the drive, which have not been replaced. But the limes on the lime walk have been, and are now grown trees. I cried in King Death's Garden when I saw the devastation, the morning after the hurricane in 1987, and a gardener came up to me and said don't cry love, we'll make it beautiful again. I sat in a shower of petals under the cherry trees on the slope where the slave boy is buried, and told Gabriel (10mths) about Bushido and the Cherry Blossom Way. (someone had given him a book of Japanese folk tales). We walk there often, though we no longer live next door. And I visit the weeping ash on Clementina Brown's tomb: going strong, and looking exactly as described by Maurice right now, the tentacle branches still almost bare, and trailing to the ground.

Jessica Raven was next (camping in France), then The Fear Man (my brother's Battersea and Clapham London stamping grounds; the desolate, dreamy feeling of a long, dirty London street, on a silent Saturday afternoon, long ago), then The Powerhouse* (nameless setting but really it's Manchester); then Crying In The Dark (a cottage with ghosts in Devon); then Nimrod (Brighton again; called "Beachcombe" this time; I have no idea why); the one that surprised me, this time round. Clearly I'd decided to have a ghost story of every popular shade, but I'd forgotten there was a noir in the pack. And finally Don't Open Your Eyes, the only real horror story & not at all coincidentally the only one with even a whisper of sex in it, as Charles Brown, god rest him, pointed out. Anyway, after a labour of love that nearly fried my eyes out (350,000 plus words, reviewed, edited, proof-read, in 2 months) the Ann Halam ghost stories are now available in epub, at several of the usual retailers, including Kindle, Smashwords, Barnes&Noble, Apple etc. Very reasonably priced, fine covers, and you can buy them!

*See The Powerhouse for some pre Bold as Love: the first version of immersions; an experimental techno band, black magic and Seventies hippies in a rather poor light

Ann Halam On Smashwords

More Balcombe trials this week. That's where I'll be tomorrow. This afternoon I'm taking off, to go and see The Past

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