Books

Belins's Hill - Synopsis & Inspiration

Red Fox Books ISBN 0-099-48223-1

Synopsis

Huw is supposed to be the lucky one. He survived. But when he tries to start a new life - after tragedy has ripped his old one apart - he finds he can't shake off the past. Strange dreams and weird visions seep into his waking moments until real life becomes a living nightmare, and Huw knows he has no choice but to come face to face with the mysterious myth of Belin's Hill and bury its legacy for good.

Inspiration for the book

Belin’s Hill is perhaps the book of mine that has the longest history. The origins of it go way back, to when I was a student in Caerleon, a wonderfully interesting village built on a Roman legionary fortress and said to be King Arthur’s original Camelot.

Above the village is a hillfort which caught my imagination. On old maps it’s called Belin’s Hill, Belin being a Celtic god. There are often archaeological digs going on. So I imagined a very troubled boy- Huw- whose parents have been killed in an accident, and who is traumatised. He sleepwalks one night to the village, jumps down into the muddy trench of a dig and scrapes with his hands until he touches the eyes, nose, mouth of a stone face. And when he wakes up next morning the stone  head is smiling its crooked smile at him from his bedside table.

Of course, the thing is evil and impossible to get rid of. Mixed up with this is the story of a woman once burned as a witch, and her descendant, Hal, the only one who understands what is happening to Huw. The story builds up to a climax and it doesn’t end happily, be warned.

The roots of Belin’s Hill lie not only in the place, but with two writers to whom I am deeply indebted, Alan Garner and Arthur Machen. Garner’s novels have always been my touchstone for quality of language, and the conjuring of magic from the landscape; Machen, who was born in Caerleon, was brilliant at suggesting spiritual dangers, and his books The Hill of Dreams and The White People certainly lie somewhere in the shadows of Belin’s Hill.

If you’re interested in learning more about how this book was written, look for How Novelists Work edited by Maura Dooley; it contains an essay I wrote some years ago about Belin’s Hill. (ISBN 1-85411-192-2 SerenBooks.com)

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