Gamebook store

Friday, 9 September 2011

Invisible bridges of "what if?"

I wrote a few months ago about the brilliant, award-winning Binscombe Tales series written by my friend and writing mentor John Whitbourn, concluding that "the stories would be perfect for Kindle, but John is never going to sanction that."

Well, I have great pleasure in announcing that I could not have been more wrong! John Whitbourn is not only licensing Fabled Lands LLP to release the stories in a set of Kindle "chapbooks", but we are also preparing a three-volume print edition of the never-before-collected Complete Binscombe Tales. The new covers will be by Leo Hartas (though the illustration above is by Alan Hunter, from an earlier edition of the tales) and whether your penchant is for ebooks or old-fashioned paper and ink, there'll be a version for you.

The books should be out by Halloween, and Jamie is even talking about releasing some of the stories in audio format. It's still rather summery to be thinking of drawing the curtains, stoking up the fire and settling down in a deep leather armchair with a classic collection of whimsical spine-chilling tales, but so that you can start to plan your autumn, here's the author himself on the inspiration to the series:
These are stories about the "least vivacious" and "most threatened" people in the world - the aboriginal South-East English. They concern a mythical village where strangers are welcome, but not always safe. The cast comprises, to quote Oliver Cromwell, "men of modest means and ancient principles" while the spirit which imbues the Binscombe Tales is best expressed in these words of Kundera's: "On the surface, there was always an impeccably realistic world, but underneath, behind the backdrop's cracked canvas, lurked something different, something mysterious or abstract... On the surface, an intelligible lie; underneath, the unintelligible truth".

It sometimes strikes me that the English are losing sight of their history, that is to say, the vital perceived links between past, present and future - and, just as importantly, their shared mythology. I also gibe at the growing Americanisation and Londonisation of everything. The Binscombe Tales emanate from that vague sense of loss. They perhaps seek to prompt an alternative perception of life in England (and Britain).

There is, more or less, a real place called Binscombe, a village with a working men's club still known as 'the Moscow', with old men with Anglo-Saxon names like Aethelbert, and where many family trees verge onto that interesting time before records. The two Binscombes are not the same but they are linked with subtle and invisible bridges of 'what if'? However, the truth of the matter is that these are just ghost stories which I hope you will enjoy, and that:

"God gives all men, all earth to love
But since man's heart is small,
Ordains for each one spot shall prove,
Beloved over all."


  1. As a long expatriated southeastern english who still somehow often allows herself the right to lament the americanisation of her native country, I believe my book-devouring girlfriend might be the right audience for these. "Whimsical, spine-chilling tales" you say? Yeah I think I might have a right winner for belated birthday gift (of course she got one already, and on time, but I wasn't quite satisfied with it...)

  2. I've got proof copies of the Binscombe Tales books, Milk, and I think they'll make an excellent late birthday (or early Christmas) gift - and not just for British readers, but for anybody who enjoys a good weird tale.