Today I have a guest post from author Graeme Cumming and I’m also resharing my review of Ravens Gathering as part of the blog tour.
About this book…
As she let her gaze drift around her, she saw that there were more birds. Perhaps a dozen or so, perched among the trees that stood on the edge of the clearing. And yet more were arriving, swooping down through the gap overhead and landing on branches that overlooked them. The birds weren’t threatening, yet the sight of them all coming together in this dark and isolated spot was unnerving. Tanya reached a hand out towards Martin, and was relieved to feel him take it. She felt him move in behind her. After the uncertainty she’d experienced with him in a similar position only a few moments ago, she recognised the irony of her reaction. His closeness offered security.
“You know what they are, don’t you?”
A stranger’s arrival in a small village coincides with a tragic accident. For the Gates family in particular it’s more than a coincidence, but unease increases following a brutal attack. As tensions rise, a dark past returns to haunt them and others, while newcomers to the village are drawn into a mystery with terrifying consequences.
And only a select few know why the ravens are gathering.
Guest post-Living in the past by Graeme Cumming…
It isn’t immediately apparent, but Ravens Gathering is set in 1989. If you’ve read the book, you might wonder why that point in time. A lot of the themes are timeless, so it could just as easily have been set in the present day.
The reality is that, while there are a few good reasons for setting it in the late 1980s, ultimately, it’s because that was a time I felt connected to.
Anyone who reads my blog will know that it’s not demanding, and that’s largely because I’m not a prolific blogger. Sometimes there’ll be short bursts where a few posts appear in quick succession, but it’s just as likely that a month or more will pass before I produce anything. When I do, though, if it’s not about my writing, it’s usually an opportunity for me to take a trip down memory lane. The two key themes come under the headings Gogglebox and The Gigging Years.
As the names suggest, these posts focus on TV shows I used to watch as a kid, and concerts I went to as a slightly bigger kid. As I watched a lot of TV in my childhood, and went to a lot of gigs in my teens and twenties, it’s safe to say that I haven’t really scratched the surface there yet. Do feel free to come on over and read a few if you like that kind of thing.
Nostalgia isn’t something new. In the ’70s, there was a phase when music harked back to the ’50s, with artists like Showaddywaddy and Shakin’ Stevens covering old hits. We also had TV shows like Happy Days set in the same era.
More recently, we’ve seen other signs of popular culture reflecting the ’70s and ’80s. Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes went far enough to cover both decades. So, without planning to, it could be argued that I jumped on the same bandwagon. Though the reality is probably that, like me, the people producing this stuff have their own experiences rooted in those times and are just trying to recreate their lost youth.
Aside from that the nostalgia for the time, there are other books planned with very good reasons to be set in the ’70s and ’80s, and there will be some cross-contamination of characters. That means it made sense to have Ravens Gathering set in a similar period, but it also allows me loads of opportunity to indulge myself with references to TV, movies and music of the day.
I specifically picked 1989 because that was the year I first got the idea for the story (it took me a looong time to get my act together and write it). But I also noticed some similarities between the late ’80s and when I began writing it around 2010. Back then we had a financial crisis. Interest rates shot up, house prices plummeted after rising sharply, and the stock market took a tumble. Interest rates didn’t rise in 2008, but the other things were largely repeated. It struck me that it was worth including references to this to remind us all that everything changes yet stays the same. We can only hope an exception is made where the hairstyles are concerned…
I love this guest post, it’s the perfect post for my blog. When you read my review you will see why! Now about those hairstyles in 1989…
So as you know I don’t normally review Sci-fi or fantasy books but after becoming a big fan of this authors blog where he posts some interesting observations about music and 1970s tv shows, I knew I wanted to read his fictional debut no matter what genre he was writing in. And to be honest I’m quite a contrary madam anyway! I say I don’t like Westerns but my favourite ever film is The Searchers, I say I don’t like Historical Fiction but my favourite ever book is Forever Amber and I say I don’t like marmalade but give me a jar of Roses Lime Marmalade and a pile of toast and I’m in heaven!!! And although I’ve always said I’m not a fan of sci-fi I now have to admit that *whispers* my eldest daughter is named after a character in the 1970s sci-fi series Blake’s 7. So hopefully that explains why I was happy put all my preconceived notions about sci-fi and contemporary fantasy novels aside and order a copy of Ravens Gathering from Amazon and OMFG am I glad I did!
For me, to get all the stars in my review ratings a book has to do one of two things -be totally unputdownable or to surprise the hell out of me!! Ravens Gathering has the enviable honour of doing BOTH of those things! I couldn’t put this book down! I read the first 40% in one sitting then life got in the way and I had to stop reading for a day but that first session really built up the tension for me. I have to say though that it left me wondering where on earth the author was going with the storyline. There was such a menacing undertone but I couldn’t work out WHY!! There were a lot of characters to get to know which was why I wanted to keep reading so I could get them all straight in my head. Most of them were pretty unlikable and seemed to be hiding a multitude of secrets but I do have to say that I loved Tanya from the moment I met her! Her character was built up perfectly without becoming too much of a cliché and, although as a woman I should probably have disliked her actions and attitude intensely, I had a soft spot for her recognising the vulnerability hidden behind her motivation.
Then I read from 40% to the end! WTF?! I saw all the clues but had missed them big time and I was left speechless (yes I know, hard to believe!!). The last few chapters were dark, shocking and full of some very violent and disturbing scenes so do be warned!!! This author has one brilliantly warped imagination!! Mostly though, things aren’t implicitly described which I think is scarier as you tend to conjure up your own worst nightmares instead!
There is a visual feel to the village setting of this novel that inspired me to draw comparisons with a few films, mainly Straw Dogs and The Wicker Man (one of my favourite films-the 1973 version with Edward Woodward still scares the hell out of me!!) and I had to laugh as my first thought when the village pub was entered was also The Slaughtered Lamb from An American Werewolf in London which is mentioned by one of the characters later on.
I absolutely loved Ravens Gathering and am desperate to see if the village will be revisited by the author in any future books. I would like to just say that it’s very difficult to pigeon hole this novel into any particular genre so I would like to see Graeme Cumming branching out into something a little bit more commercial now he has published his all important, personal first book. He has an engaging writing style that is able to conjure up such visions with just a few choice phrases (I loved chapter 14 in part 4 so much I had to reread it-such an evocative observation) so I would love to see him reaching a wider audience bringing him the commercial success and recognition that he deserves.
Highly recommended by me!
Ravens Gathering is available to buy now by clicking on the title which takes you to Amazon UK. (Affiliate link)
Meet the author…
Graeme Cumming lives in Robin Hood country, and has spent most of his life immersed in fiction – books, TV, movies – turning to writing his own during his early teens. He is currently Education Director at Sheffield Speakers Club, is an enthusiastic sailor (and, by default, swimmer), and enjoys off-road cycling.