Every month we feature a different author, publisher or bookseller who has earned the RLK! seal of approval! We will highlight and review their books/company as well as providing author biographies (where available) and publishing information. We hope you enjoy RLK! Spotlight On....

Author Bio:

Phil Rickman was born in Lancashire and now lives in Herefordshire, on the Welsh border, in a village near Hereford.

He has won awards for his TV and radio journalism.

He has just completed working on the second Merrily Watkins 'spiritual procedural' Midwinter of the Spirit which has just been published by Pan Macmillan.

Books Published:


Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:


Thirteen years ago, on a cold night in December, a rock band called The Philosopher's Stone gathered in the ancient ruins of an abbey to record their new album.

Unfortunately, the evening ended in bloodshed and death.

Zip forward to today. The tapes of that night have been discovered and have been released as "The Black Album," and the scattered band members know that it's time for a reunion.

It's time to return to that dark December night...

For one final performance.

Rickman does it again with one of his best yet. This is superior horror with an original twist. His writing here is vivid and memorable along with his grasp, and description, of the dynamic of a performing band. Rickman is one of the best portrayers of believable psychic phenomena and some scenes in this book will have you turning on all the lights in your house just to feel safe.

Supposedly based on real places and events, you can't miss the Beatles references as well as parallels with other popular artists. The characters pull you into a fast moving, spine-tingling plot that won't let you go. Some may find it hard to get into the complex storyline, but after the first 100 pages, the story really takes off.

If you like a well-written novel about supernatural horror with plausible, likeable characters and a great, twisting plot, this is the one for you. There's no gore and no splatter, just great storytelling that's much more scary than your usual run-of-the-mill horror tale.

Highly recommended.


Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:


The long-lived village of Crybbe lies on ley-lines of evil energies that once poured from big cryptic stones that surrounded the town and from an Ancient Monument - The Tump - which overlooks the town. But the stones have been buried or destroyed, and the energies are held at bay by the peace-bringing night-time tolling of a curfew bell.

Even so, tight-lipped townsfolk will tell radio interviewer Fay Morrison nothing about the village's evil history, even though Fay now resides there, attending her elderly dad, and broadcasts from a makeshift station in a former men's room of the Cock Hotel. But "the dragon" - a vast Being of Light now held underground, whose parts are various points in the village and landscape - stirs when New Age impresario and record tycoon Max Goff decides to replace the lost stones, bring new psychic energies to Crybbe, and putting the town on the map as a tourist attraction.

But soon the dead walk...

Fay's dad's dead mistress now arrives nightly and communes with her cat and her old lover. Teenage rocker Warren Preece finds a lead-lined box behind a walled-up fireplace which holds a surprise within.

We follow Goff as he hires old water-dowser Henry Kettle to locate the sites of the lost stones. Kettle once wrote a book about the "ancient science" with Joy Powys, who becomes Fay's lover when he returns to Crybbe to claim an inheritance from Henry. The stones arise - and then the whole town is in danger as the energy-sucking dragon erupts into renewed life.

This was the brilliant debut from Rickman. If you like slow-build-up horror which favours atmosphere to all-out carnage then Crybbe is your novel. It is a very satisfying horror read, especially for fans of H.P. Lovecraft, M.R. James, and H.R. Wakefield. The characters are well-portrayed, without resorting to cardboard stereotypes and the reader can become genuinely nervous reading certain scenes at night. Also, the bloodletting and elements of sexual tension were well timed and present in just the right amounts. All in all, highly recommended.


Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:


To archaeologists, the Man in the Moss is one of the most fascinating discoveries of the century.

He's been dead for two millennia, a victim of the Celtic triple death, and his body is almost perfectly preserved in the black peat. But in the isolated village of Bridelow, his removal from the bog is a sinister sign. And some of the residents of Bridelow have turned The Man in the Moss into their own obsession - with fatal consequences.

In the wild, wet days and nights around Samhain, the Celtic Feast of the Dead, tragedy strikes again and again. And now the icy blue disc of the Beacon of the Moss flickers ever so ominously, and the forces of light and darkness struggle for possession of the Man - and the soul of all those in Bridelow.

Yet another excellent read by Rickman. For those who like their horror more atmospheric than 'blood and gore' The Man in the Moss will not disappoint.

Set in a small community, it details the complex co-existance of Pagan/Christian factions thrown into conflict by the discovery and removal of The Man from the peat bog. The Pagan content is well researched and portrayed sympathetically and the suspense and explosive climax are masterfully handled. The believable atmosphere endures long after the book is read. The Man in the Moss is truly a classic Rickman.

Highly recommended.


Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:


The mystical town of Glastonbury, resting place of the legendary Holy Grail, has always been a place which draws eccentrics. Now it seems to be calling Diane Ffitch home, though with a sense of impending doom...

A new motorway has been planned which will pass very close to Glastonbury Tor, and tensions between locals and the New Age "pilgrims" are high. But there is something going on in the town beyond arguments over the motorway - something deeply evil - and it might be the existence of the Dark Chalice: the anti-grail.

Violence and death envelop the town, and Diane, along with esoteric-bookshop owner Juanita Carey and New-Age writer turned skeptic Joe Powys, must face up to the evil.

Rickman's books are always much more than horror, as the reader gets caught up in the ambiance of the setting, and involved in the human drama Rickman so skillfully creates. The characters are so real.

After finishing the book you'll feel like you've emerged from a whirlwind and will likely be dazed by it all. A gripping story.


Date of Release: Sept '98

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:


The Herefordshire village of Ledwardine was once known for its cider. Now it is a haven for the wealthy. The rich newcomer residents want to attract tourists to the quaint “black and white” village by playing on its heritage. Thus the first Ledwardine Festival is planned, to include a play written by a famous but controversial playwright - and to be staged in the church - on the sad and mysterious tale of Wil Williams, the village’s minister who was accused of being a witch during the late seventeenth century witch-hunts. The real story of Wil Williams, however, is one many of the village’s old families would rather not unveil.

This is the controversy the Reverend Merrily Watkins must deal with on being installed as the new vicar of the village, along with the sexism against female ministers, a haunted house, and a creepy apple orchard. And her troubled fifteen year old daughter.

Tension in the village mounts as Merrily is forced to make a decision about whether to hold the play in the church. Then on the night before the Festival, a local girl disappears, and the the omens in the orchard indicate that deaths will follow.

Rickman is excellent at building the tension in this ghost story and tale of the machinations of small village life. It may be a tame horror story by Laymon standards, but there is certainly enough suspense and mystery to make this a fantastic read.


Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:


Giles Freeman is delighted when his wife Claire inherits an old cottage in a remote village in Wales. The village of Y Groves is small, friendly and very alluring - the perfect escape from London. But American reporter Berry Morelli tries to talk Giles out of moving, believing something is very wrong.

And she's right!

The locals are slow to welcome the Freemans but they believe that in time they will be accepted. As the couple try to participate in village life despite its standoffish citizens, they are horrified when events culminate in a town uprising against them, and they discover a sinister truth. The Freemans have fallen under an ancient Celtic curse - and soon they will learn the truth about what it means to be outsiders.

If you're in to page after page of horror and gore, then this book won't be for you.

Rickman again takes the subtle approach and masters the art of storytelling through characterisation. Candlenight is slow to begin and the Welsh history and pronunciations might put off some readers. Even the complexity of the plot (with it's large cast of characters) is sometimes too much to handle.

The characters are very likable and Rickman gives us a good feel for the setting to produce a gripping, if not too scary, tale (although the kids and the Welsh schoolteacher are genuinely creepy). The horror in the story is subtle and well-done, but it builds very slowly. The resolution was gripping, but the evil in Y Groves isn't explained too well - which may leave room for a sequel.

Those who enjoy Phil Rickman will enjoy this novel, but he has written better.


Date of Release: Nov '99

Publisher: Pan Macmillan

Review Source:


Phil Rickman's latest release is being billed as the first "spiritual-procedural thriller" even though it is the second spiritual thriller to feature Reverend Merrily Watkins. And Midwinter certainly delivers! This is an unsettling scary thriller that will keep the reader captivated.

The Church of England doesn't use the words "exorcism" or "possession" anymore. They prefer to use the term "Deliverance Ministry" if and when it is needed.

In fact, the Church likes to stay hush-hush about all psychic matters if at all possible.

Which is why it's very strange when the Church offers the job to Reverend Merrily Watkins, rural parish priest and single mother. She's been very outspoken against the Church's reluctance to deal with these psychic issues, and now they're offering the plumb role.

Merrily has had unexplainable events occur in the past and fully believes in possession and the evil that lurks on the fringes of night and day. Merrily would like to take the time to ease into the job and make sure she's not being setup to take a fall. But there is no time...

Strange things are happening in the town of Hereford. The local church has been desecrated, a dead body is pulled from the local river, and there's rumors of dark rituals taking place just outside the town.

Thrown in at the deep end, Merrily must fight the unknown horrors of evil, as well as the Church if she is to survive. Can she deal with forces beyond her control and defeat the evil surrounding her? Will the Church allow her?

An electrifying and highly original novel full of expertly drawn characters and a plot that just builds and builds. Certainly one of Rickman's best!


Phil Rickman does not currently have a website. However, an interview with the author can be found at http://www.iplus.zetnet.co.uk/nonfiction/intrick.htm.

Where to buy:


For those who order online, try:

Amazon UK!   Buy Laymon & Others Here!   

 RLK! Spotlight On...
Past Features

 November 99: Paul Thomas, Author Click here to view.
 October 99: James Lee Burke, Author Click here to view.
 September 99: Leisure Books, Publisher Click here to view.
 August 99: Gerald Seymour, Author Click here to view.
 July 99: Brian Lumley, Author Click here to view.
 June 99: Michael Connelly, Author Click here to view.
 May 99: Stephen Laws, Author Click here to view.
 April 99: Gemma O'Connor, Author Click here to view.
 March 99: Simon Clark, Author Click here to view.
 February 99: Obsidian Books, Publisher Click here to view.
 January 99: John Case, Author Click here to view.

 A new Feature added monthly so check here often...

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