It is 1951 and a remote mining village on the North Staffordshire Moors is hit by one of the worst snowstorms in living memory. Cut off for over three weeks, the old and the sick will die; the strongest bunker down; and those with evil intent will bring to its conclusion a family vendetta spanning three generations.
Inspired by a true event, 'The Soprano' tells the story of Grace Holland - a strikingly beautiful, much admired local celebrity who brings glamour and inspiration to the grimy moorland community. But why is Grace still here? Why doesn't she leave this staunchly Methodist, rain-sodden place and the isolated farmhouse she shares with her mother?
Riddled with tales of witchcraft and rife with superstition, the story is mostly narrated by the Whistler family who own the local funeral parlour; in particular six year old Louise and her recollection as an old lady, of one of the most shocking crimes imaginable
“He is lying in his bed,
He is lying sick and sore,
Let him lie intill his bed,
Two months and three days more…” 1.
The boy jumped back from the doorframe, spine flat to the cool, damp staircase wall, adrenalin flooding into his heart and lungs. She knew he was there…her back had stiffened…
For several long seconds the only sound was that of dead leaves scratching around the front door. He held his breath. Perhaps she hadn’t seen the flicker of movement, and maybe, maybe there was an outside chance he could still creep away? He looked towards the front porch, at the prism of light streaming through the stained glass square onto the hall rug; then back to the dark, back kitchen where she’d been chopping, crushing and boiling.
The new baby snuffled and the cradle creaked on its hinges by the old range. A fresh gust of wind buffeted the walls.
Cowering into the hallway he made himself as small as possible, sliding onto his haunches and praying....praying so damned hard she hadn’t seen him.
Her voice cut through the air. “Come here, Billy!”
The cold, hard blade of fear plunged into his stomach. Instantly his bladder relaxed and tears burned his eyes with shame as urine trickled down his thigh. Standing up, his good leg - the normal one - shook violently, the other – the one withered to bone – a lead weight that dragged behind the rest of his body as slowly, reluctantly, he forced himself to rise from the shadows and shuffle into the kitchen.
Not meant to be here today he’d caught her out, and they both knew it.
“Well now,” said Annie.
He focused intently on the chopping board spread with herbs, nettles and thorns; at the pestle and mortar filled with insect wings and dirt, at the dead mouse…at anything except her. Don’t look into her eyes…
Candles spluttered and oozed with wax…the flames now flicking higher, more strongly…
The force of her stare was magnetic. In desperation he concentrated on the open book spread out on the table….Must not look into her eyes….must not….Do not…Soon she will just tell him off and then he can go. He pictured bolting into the garden and hobbling down the lane. Still she did not speak. The ancient text blurred and the desire to look at her intensified. Must not… must not….Then to his horror his head started to creak around of its own volition, jerking with tiny movements on its stem, until finally their eyes locked. And a slither of ice slipped beneath his skin.
The air crackled with static and everything stilled. There was not the slightest movement or sound from anywhere inside the house or out, as silently her lips began to move and she raised her right arm to point directly at him with two fingers outstretched.
Paralysed to the spot he stood helplessly as dark shapes slithered from the corners of the kitchen and began to crawl across the floor towards him. The table, the dresser loaded with plates, the cooking pots - all vanished into a vacuum of blackness. He gripped the nearest chair and tried to close his eyes but found he could not.
The day had chilled to ice and wind screamed in a vortex of trapped, angry voices ripping through his head. Terror shot through him in fire-cracks. This was death. His heart would burst. Collapsing to the floor, he scrambled onto all-fours and skittered like a whipped dog for the door.
His next conscious moment was to find the hall skirting board in front of his nose. For a moment he lay there trying to recall where he was and what had happened. Leaves blew against the door and the sound of coughing came from upstairs. The light through the square in the porch door streamed onto the hall rug in precisely the same place as it had before; and in the kitchen she was still chopping and crushing, stirring and muttering as if nothing had happened.
However, life would not be the same for him again - not ever. And he would have to leave. Just as soon as his father had finished dying - retching and writhing in the room upstairs.
The pre-order is now available for kindle on amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0737GQ9Q7 and http://www.amazon.com/dp/B0737GQ9Q7 - And it will be ready for release on 30th August - in paperback as well as Kindle. Okay...the amazon clock is ticking and I have a lot of work to do yet...back soon!