Balmoral Kill

Balmoral Kill was the first Sean Miller adventure, followed by the recent Dangerous Game.  Both novels are set in the 1930s and suggested by actual historical events. I’m hoping to write the third book soon.

“Sean Miller – a rogue of the first water; a former Army sniper, he seems unable to stay out of a fight.”

Sean Miller’s fighting a guerrilla war in Spain when he’s called back to Britain. His task? To seek out an assassin as dangerous as himself. A sniper whose deadly aim could plunge the world into war. As the shadow of the Nazis falls across Europe, a sinister conspiracy plots a secret war closer to home. Miller’s pursuit leads from the menacing alleys of London’s East End to the lonely mountains of Scotland. A duel to the death where there can be only one victor in the Balmoral Kill.

Looking For A Wintry Mystery?

If you enjoy a wintry mystery, you might enjoy our novella The Holly House Mystery.  Available on Kindle for just 99 pence/cents for Christmas week.  

It’s an affectionate homage to Golden Age detective fiction and the enclosed world of country house murder.

Christmas week 1931. The body of a young house-maid lies near the ruins of an ancient priory. How did she die… with only one set of footprints in the snow? Inspector Chance investigates murder in a snow-bound, Sussex village. As New Year approaches, can he work out whodunit before the house-party ends?

Just click on the link to start reading: 

Our Ghostly Outdoors

Have you had any odd spectral experiences in the great outdoors?DSCF1764

I recently celebrated the tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas, remarking on the fictions of MR James.

But I know many ramblers and hillwalkers have had their own weird experiences, so I thought I might relate a few of mine. Not asking anyone to believe, but…

My first was on a Scottish walk as I went out from Kinlochleven to the Blackwater Dam, which was built by navvies just over a century ago. I was following the pipeline back to Kinlochleven when….

A track took me to the conduit and I headed back to Kinlochleven. And it was just then that I had one of those weird experiences that seem natural when you are high in the lonely mountains, but appear to be irrational, unexplainable, when back at home.

As I approached a turn in the pipeline track I heard some men in conversation ahead of me. They were talking loudly, their voices echoing back from the side of the mountain. I turned the corner, but there was no one in sight and the talking had stopped. But a few hundred yards on it began again, seemingly right in front of me, then in the air all around.

There was a strong masculine voice speaking with an Irish accent.  I could barely make out the words, but I knew the conversation was not in English. More likely Erse or perhaps Scottish Gaelic. There was one very loud speaker and two fainter answering voices. I saw nothing, but it felt as though the loudest of the men was standing right next to me and his fellows some little distance down the slope. The air seemed to tingle as the voices grew louder and then melted away. Suddenly, as I descended, the voices stopped as though the spell was broken. The strange atmosphere was gone.

I am aware that sounds travel in peculiar ways in the mountains, and it’s certainly not the first time I have heard conversations in this way. But I know that these sounds were not inside my head, but external. And they were too close to me and vivid to be the carried conversations of distant hillwalkers.

Were the voices some ghostly echo of the Blackwater navvies? It is true that I had been in a very atmospheric place that had moved me, and the navvies were heavy in my thoughts. But I remain convinced that the sounds were not some imaginative projection. I do think that it is possible for great emotions to be imprinted on landscapes and played back in the same way that we listen and watch recorded music and pictures on disc and silicon chip. There is something that we do not yet understand about these matters, but they are inexplicable only in the sense that our science has not yet found a way to bring them to our understanding. (from my book Wayfarer’s Dole).

I had a very similar experience on the summit of the Lake District mountain Seat Sandal, as I rested against the stone cairn.

On a day of good visibility as I sat against the summit stones, I heard a muffled conversation between two or three people not many yards away. There was no one in sight. As far as I could tell I was alone on the mountain. Were they the ghosts of some long past fell wanderers? Sounds do carry in strange ways in the mountains so perhaps not. Maybe the conversations echoed across the ether from a neighbouring peak. Maybe there really was a supernatural explanation. Sometimes in the mountains you do feel that you are on the boundary of some other world.

My weirdest experience was as I climbed up to Ben Vrackie from Killiecrankie on an autumn day. I saw what appeared to be my own ghost…

One autumn day I had stood for a while on the rocky edge of Meall an Daimh and looked across to the higher summit of Ben Vrackie, then climbed down into the lower ground between the two.

As I turned and looked back to where I had stood a few minutes earlier, I saw myself as clear and as solid as I am in life. I watched for several minutes, thinking at first that it must be some other walker with identical clothes and rucksack, and with a passing resemblance to me. But I knew it could not be so, for no one could have attained the top that quickly without me seeing their approach.

The figure was in exactly the same place that I had been just a while before, looking in the same direction towards the summit of the Ben. I remained transfixed, watching what seemed to be my own ghost for some minutes, then as suddenly as this vision had appeared it was gone. I cannot explain that peculiar apparition. I am sure that it was not an hallucination, some projection from my own mind, but a being as temporarily solid as the rocks around. (Wayfarer’s Dole).

And you don’t have to be on a mountain summit to see weird things…

Late one evening, we were driving from Keswick to Penrith on the way back from the theatre. As we went downhill on to a level stretch of the A66, we both saw a figure crossing the road from the opposite carriageway (south) to the north, clearly caught in our headlights. I slowed down as we approached. The figure seemed to be wearing a hat and a cloak. But drifting rather than walking across the road. A car coming in the other direction, heading towards Keswick and closer to the figure, braked very harshly to avoid hitting it, but, as the figure reached the northern side of the road, it faded away just as it reached the verge.

I’ve had similar weird experiences over the years. Supernatural? No, I think these occurrences are perfectly natural. Something to do with science and physics. But a puzzle we haven’t yet decoded.

Christmas Ghost Stories – MR James

Christmas is, by tradition, a time for ghost stories. And MR James is my favourite writer in this genre. James was himself a devotee of mystery fiction and particularly a fan of Sherlock Holmes.

But he is, of course, best known to us as the greatest writer of traditional English ghost stories. Ruth Rendell famously commented that “There are some authors one wishes one had never read in order to have the joy of reading them for the first time. For me, MR James is one of these”.

I couldn’t agree more – We’ve both loved MR James for a great many years and read and re-read his wonderful ghost stories, always finding some new delight. So with Christmas in mind, here goes.

Montague Rhodes James (1863-1936) was the finest medieval scholar of his generation, spending a great deal of his academic time seeking out and recording manuscripts that might otherwise have been lost. He was born near Bury St Edmunds, the son of a clergyman and, in the course of a long and distinguished life was assistant director of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Provost of King’s College, Cambridge and Provost of Eton.

It’s worth pointing all that out, because many of his leading characters are academics in a similar way, solitary characters who seek out lost manuscripts or who investigate strange elements of our mysterious past – encountering the forces of the supernatural along the way.

James wrote his ghost stories originally as entertainments for his college fellows, and would read them out loud by candlelight, sometimes around Christmas. Newspaper or magazine publication would follow and then volume publication in collections such as Ghost Stories of an AntiquaryMore Ghost Stories of an AntiquaryA Warning to the Curious and more. Collected Ghost Stories is a volume worth getting as it includes most of the canon, though there are a few omissions.

What I admire best about James is that he would have been a superb writer of short stories whatever genre he had chosen. He was an exceptionally good writer. Some of his succinct descriptions of landscape are quite beautiful and atmospheric – whether the story be set in the English countryside or in the shadows of some great cathedral. He had the enviable gift of summoning up a sense of place in a very few words. There is also a subtlety that you rarely get with some writers in this genre and occasionally a delicious sense of humour.

A View From a Hill is one of my favourite stories, if not one of the strongest of James’s ghost stories from a chills point of view. Its depiction of rural Herefordshire is deftly done,  from its opening on a lonely railway halt to the views of a lonely landscape.

I’m not going to say too much about the story because you may want to read it and I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment. Sufficient to say that an academic, Fanshawe, visits a remote part of Herefordshire to visit his friend Squire Richards, the owner of a small country manor. Fanshawe’s host lends him a pair of binoculars with a mysterious provenance. But is what he sees of the landscape through the binoculars quite the same as what is actually there?  Ghost Stories for Christmas - The Definitive Collection (5-DVD set)

The BBC, in their splendid series of filmed Christmas ghost stories by M.R. James, did a version of A View From a Hill, though there were changes to the plot which took the story rather a way from what James actually wrote. Even so, as with all the films in the series, it was beautifully shot and well acted. Well worth seeing even if you admire the original more.

As Christmas approaches, we have been watching again some of these films of James’s stories, directed by Lawrence Gordon Clark (and we do commend the box set from the BFI, with its excellent extras and introductions if you want to give yourself a Christmas treat). So far we’ve watched “The Stalls of Barchester”, “A Warning to the Curious” and “Whistle and I’ll come To You,” 2010 version (though the last is a disappointing take on the original story.)  

But do seek out the original stories which, around a century after they were penned, are as addictive and readable as ever. If you are reading them for the first time, I do envy you. If you are revisiting an old favourite, then enjoy these tales once more.

Do I believe in ghosts? Well, all I will say is that I’ve seen things I can’t rationally explain.… What they are though? Well, who can say? Fortunately, none have been as malevolent as the demons created on the page by MR James.

I’ve always wanted to write a ghost story in this classic English tradition, but it’s a hard task. A ghost story either works – gives you a chill – or it doesn’t. And, as James himself suggested, has the electric light killed the dark potential of the classic ghost story? It takes great ability to pull a chilling ghost story off. But I’ll keep trying.

Meanwhile, draw the curtains, turn down the lights and enjoy these classic stories by the master himself – and have a very enjoyable Christmas.

Writing Update

We are going to expand this blog over the coming months, not just featuring our own books but reviewing some of the books, films and television programmes we’ve enjoyed. We’re also going to say more about writing itself, so please do keep following and tell your fellow readers.

I’ve just started writing the next William Quest adventure, set in London in 1855. Hopefully, it’ll be out by next summer.

Thank you to everyone who’s bought a copy of the latest Sean Miller adventure Dangerous Game. If you haven’t read it yet, it’s set on Dartmoor in 1937 – a place I’ve known for a very long time. It’s out in paperback and on Kindle if you are looking for a Christmas read…

Just click on the link below to start reading…

Looking for a Christmas Read?


Looking for a Christmas mystery? Our Inspector Abbs novella A Christmas Malice – set in wintry Norfolk – is on sale for just 99 pence/cents on Kindle for the next few days. It’s also available in paperback. Here’s the link…

December 1873. Inspector Abbs is spending Christmas with his sister in a lonely village on the edge of the Norfolk Fens. He is hoping for a quiet week while he thinks over a decision about his future. However all is not well in Aylmer. Someone has been playing malicious tricks on the inhabitants. With time on his hands and concerned for his sister, Abbs feels compelled to investigate…