In The Rain With The Dead, a novel by Mark West

“In The Rain With The Dead” is now available as an eBook from Tim C Taylor’s Greyhart Press.

This is a revised, leaner version of the novel, which originally appeared from Pendragon Press in 2005 (an edition that is completely sold out now). “In The Rain With The Dead” features Jim and Nadia, once teenaged sweethearts, reunited now after a decade apart and Magellan, a demon who is desperate to make Nadia his own.

“A tale of lost love and gut-wrenching terror”.

If you choose to give it a chance - and I hope you do - I hope you enjoy it.

My Afterword (from the original Pendragon Press edition)
Beware - spoilers

“In The Rain With The Dead” is not my first novel (that honour belongs to a thriller called “To Save The Moon”, which I wrote in 1990), but it is my first horror novel and I’d forgotten just what kind of undertaking it was to produce a work of this length. I started writing it on Friday 29th December 2000 and finished the third draft on Monday 18th February 2002 (whilst at the same time studying for - and passing, thankfully - my AAT qualification).
The Pendragon Press edition cover
(which I designed - and the one I prefer,
 if I'm totally honest)
I had decided - not for any cast iron reason, but just because it seemed like a good idea - that I wanted my first novel to be published by a Brit house and very quickly realised that was akin to trying to find rocking horse poo. In March 2002, I sent queries off to agents, who all said that horror was difficult to place in this country and so the novel sat there. In the meantime, I wrote some short stories, got some pre-readers for the novel and had my first collection - “Strange Tales” - published by Rainfall Books in 2003.

Inadvertently, however, I did do one very clever thing. At a Terror Scribes gathering, I happened to mention to Chris Teague (the editor of “Tourniquet Heart”, which featured my story “Up For Anything”) about the novel and he offered to read it. At subsequent gatherings, he’d tell me how he was getting on with it, what he thought of it and offered some good pointers. Then, one Sunday afternoon in 2004 as I was working in the spare room (now the nursery) on my novella “Conjure” and Alison was in the front garden, weeding, he sent me an email. Saying that Pendragon Press would like to publish the novel. I read the email two or three times, went down to tell Alison, rang my sister and parents, did the happy dance several times, probably hyper-ventilated at some point and then read the email again. My novel was going to be published. By a Brit house. How cool was that?

- - - - - - - - -
Head back a little way - to October 2000. Even before I started the novel, I wasn’t entirely sure where the central (at that time) image of the mother in the rainbow came from. I decided to try it as a short story (to be called “Chasing The Rainbow”, where Nadia was very depressed and wanted to kill herself so that she could join her mum) and took two attempts to get into it, but it didn’t work. In fact, nothing seemed to work for it so I put the whole thing to one side and wrote something else. A couple of weeks later, I got this very strong image of Alison’s mum standing on the stairs, watching me as I was laying in bed. It freaked me out for a while and seemed to slot in with the rainbow idea.

A little while later I was reading about things people have experienced whilst using Ouija boards. This tied in to a technical idea I’d been thinking about for a while, where you write a character that the reader is supposed to become involved with and then - bam - they get killed and you’re only a third of the way through the book. After that, surely, everyone is fair game.

The different strands felt like they were coming together. The story would start in the past, lead up to the Ouija incident and then flash forward to Nadia being depressed and wanting to end it all.

I was very excited for a couple of days.

Then I began to pick it all apart. Why flash forward? What came out of the Ouija board? How did it link together? For some reason, I thought it might be a demon that came out (“hey, that’s a good idea!”), but why would the demon come back ten years later and pick on the same people?

Disgruntled, I left it to rattle around in my head for a while, until a clearer picture started to come together. The Ouija board had nothing to do with the later demon (I’d fallen in love with the idea of a demon by then), it was just a shocking incident that pulled the characters apart and gave them the space of ten years. At that time, another demon would come through one of them (possibly the partner of the person that died - wasn’t sure of the sex then) and then, for some reason, go after the other two.

It was obvious, by now, that I wasn’t working on a short story or even a novella, this was much bigger. That scared me, but I also knew that having a crack at a novel would be a good idea - my short stories had been doing relatively well and I was planning to put together a collection. Also, I was seduced by having just read “Bag Of Bones” and wanted the space and time to really luxuriate in the story.

Setting out to write a novel meant writing a plan - something I didn’t usually work with - which I knew would be necessary for this. I was doing six hours a week at college for AAT, I wouldn’t get a novel written in a month and I knew that I’d forget what I was trying to do. At first, I was worried that the plan would be a hindrance but, in the end, it was quite the opposite and I loved working to it. I knew how long something should be, I knew where I was aiming for, I had a rough idea of the chapter before I started it - it was a dream. Far from stifling the creative process, I found it actually aided it because I could think about the detail, having already worried about the whole picture.

In addition to the plan, I wrote copious notes, but my nerves and procrastination skills were starting to build. I was making notes so that I didn’t have to write and I got that awful feeling that the window of opportunity was passing me by. With that in mind, I finally gave in, took a deep breath and on December 29th 2000, I starting writing, still unsure of how everything tied in together but convinced that, somehow, it would.

I finished the first draft, with everything else going on, on September 4th, 250 days later.

The second draft was written from September 24th 2001 through to November 21st 2001 and it was this version that my pre-readers had. My first drafts are always over-long (this revision cut the ms from 126k words down to 111k words), over-complicated and occasionally confusing, so I very rarely ask people to read them.

I got some good feedback from my readers, which really enthused me and so I cracked on and wrote the third draft (cutting the ms to 107k words) from January 4th 2002 through to February 18th 2002.

Whilst the book was being considered by Chris Teague at Pendragon Press, I did no more editing work to it. When he accepted it for publication, I was working on my novella “Conjure” and producing the interior illustrations and cover art for that.

I put off revising the book until the last minute and the fourth draft (which cut the ms down to 103k words - a total cut of 23k words from the first draft) was written from April 25th 2005 to May 23rd 2005 (three days before my son was born). Which was cutting it a bit fine!

Around Christmas 2004, Chris mentioned that I might like to think about cover ideas for him to pass on to his artist. I asked - since I’d designed the cover for “Strange Tales” and was then in the process of doing all the artwork (cover and interiors) for “Conjure” - if he’d mind me having a go at it myself. He agreed, on the understanding that I’d come up with something both of us were happy with and I set to it. I’d had a rough idea, from the second draft, that a key image was the wood-working sequence, but I also loved the imagery of the cinema. With that in mind, I scoured the Net for suitable pictures and eventually found them - only having to compromise slightly betweeen my mind’s eye vision and what I was able to achieve. Thankfully, Chris liked it a lot and so I got another ‘cover designed by’ credit!

The final process came in late August, when I went through the proof. I took a week or two to read that and then sent it back to Chris, for him to pass on to the printer.

- - - - - - - - -
The launch date for the book was set at October 1st, to coincide with FantasyCon XXIX. As it happens, the printer wasn’t able to get anything other than the proof ready, but Alison & I turned up on the Saturday and made a beeline for Chris and his Pendragon stall in the dealer room.

Holding the book was a wonderful feeling and, as I walked around that day talking to old and new friends and helping Chris to sell the book, I realised (with both a happy and slightly sad heart) that this particular creative odyssey was now over. “In The Rain With The Dead” is available for people to buy and read. I am still fully behind it, will do everything I can over the coming months to set up signings and the like, but the words are locked now.

What I started, back on that cold December day in 2000, is now - on this overcast October morning - a published novel.

Trivia & Injokes
Writing a novel is a long process and, as with my short stories, in order to keep myself entertained, I tend to put in trivia and little in-jokes from my own life. This is a list of some of the key ones, just in case you’re interested:

* The lead characters are named for The Three Investigators, who appeared in a series of books (created by Robert Arthur) that I read and loved whilst I was growing up - Jupiter Jones, Pete Crenshaw and Bob Andrews.

* Bentley’s is my ode to the Ohio cinema in Russell Street, in Kettering (though it’s named for the one in Burton Latimer). I spent a lot of happy hours in that cinema and was saddened when it closed down (to be replaced by a multiplex on the outskirts of town). I haven’t been in there since then (about 1994 or so), so the layout of the interior is a mixture of memory and imagination. As I write this, in September 2005, the cinema is still there but being encroached now by new houses. It probably won’t be long before it’s gone forever.

* Nadia’s parents house is the double of my parents’ and Jen’s house - and the alley behind Truro Street - is where our friends Jon & Sally used to live. Jon took a couple of pictures of the alley for me and it’s almost identical to the one I described.

* I loved the idea of putting Magellan in the Motorhead T-shirt. The inspiration for that came when Alison & I were in Focus and we bumped into Paul Sumpter (my chum from the AAT class at Tech) , who was wearing his Motorhead T-shirt.

* Magellan’s action takes place in 1986 simply because I remember that year fondly - I left school, started work and passed my driving test.

* Theresa is named for my friend and collaborator, T.M. Gray though BOB (from the Ouija) is not named for her husband.

* The novel is set, for the most part, in Gaffney and I tried - as much as possible - to follow the rules that I’d set up for it with my short stories. The common is based on Abingdon Park in Northampton and appears in “Smile” and “The Darkest Hour”. The bandstand is in the Rockingham Road pleasure park in Kettering and features in a lot of my stories, especially “The Darkest Hour”. Apart from Russell Street (see above), I created most of the streets especially for the novel and named a lot of them either for friends or for things that mean something to them (for example, Kilby Street comes from Kilby Close, where Alison grew up).

* Most of Gaffney is based on Kettering though the walk they take on their first date is in Rothwell - they go from the War Memorial, past the church and down to the bottom of the Rec. where the Pooh Sticks bridge does exist.

* Magellan’s flat is in the same house as Martin Anderson’s (from my story “Speckles”, which appears in “Strange Tales”). When Magellan hears of the suicide and goes to the flat to raise the devil, it’s Martin’s (ignoring the fact that the short is set in the present day and Magellan was back in 1986).

* The murder of Ashley takes place in the shop next door to the butchers in Bakewell Street (the title of one of my more graphic short stories).

Mark West
3rd October 2005
Kettering, Northants

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