I have a confession to make, for the past three nights, I’ve been taking another man to my bed – Phil Rickman. Well OK, not really – the husband would probably have noticed – in fact I’ve actually been reading Phil Rickman’s latest book, The Secrets of Pain – another in his series of novels featuring Merrily Watkins.
Now if I tell you that the main character in these books is a widowed female thirty-something vicar, living in rural Herefordshire with her teenage daughter, you might wonder what there is to get excited about, but if I tell you that she’s also the Diocesan Deliverance Minister (exorcist to you and me), and that murders and mildly supernatural happenings are the mainstay of the novels, would it tickle your fancy at all?
I suspect that this type of novel is a bit like Marmite, but I love Marmite and I’m a huge Phil Rickman fan too, although not scraped over burnt toast.
To demonstrate just how much I like these books, I should tell you that they are the only ones I’ve ever pre-ordered from Amazon – praise indeed.
Phil takes mostly real places in the Welsh Marches area, and weaves stories from local legend and real events into what his website calls ‘crime novels with a restrained element of the paranormal’.
The characters are soothingly well observed. My own favourite is Gomer Parry – how I wish he was around for real. He’s a bit like a superhero, but older than your granddad and sporting a roll-up ciggie.
Anyway, I could probably wax lyrical until your pants fell off, so all I’ll say is, if your bedtime needs a bit of escapism, give him a go. Try and start with The Wine of Angels, if you are the obsessive type who likes to get in at the beginning – you can read them in any order, but it probably makes more sense to go in sequence if you can.
If you run out of the Merrily Watkins books, he also wrote a couple of books under the name Will Kingdom – The Cold Calling and Mean Spirit – both also excellent reads.
When I first started reading his books, it was quite difficult to find them, but recently I’ve actually found a couple in local charity shops, a true sign that an author has really made it into popular culture – so well done Phil, please keep them coming.
NB: Rest assured, I’m not getting paid anything for this glowing report – it’s entirely independent and if you go out and buy everything the author’s ever written, I won’t see a penny – that’s the way it should be in my book.