One piece of writing advice I sometimes give is to forget about research until after you’ve finished the first draft of your book. I certainly try to obey this rule, believing that it is otherwise easy to get bogged down and distracted by all sorts of interesting things which in the end might have very little to do with the story.
I don’t believe I broke my rule on Sunday by visiting Fernworthy Forest to investigate the reservoir and surrounding woodland. The trip was more about getting some inspiration from the area for a certain part of book four – Tell-Tale. The day turned out to be a fine one with blue skies and sun. This was good for the accompanying family, not so good for recreating the kind of atmosphere I was looking for. At least that’s what I thought at first. Turned out that once we were deep in the forest there was atmosphere aplenty. I could almost hear the banjo plinking away as we pushed our bikes through the low hanging branches of an overgrown track. In four hours meandering around and picnicking we only encountered a single set of people, a couple, ‘London types’, strolling hand in hand wearing spotless new Berghaus waterproofs. They were unaware of the danger, unaware of the demented mind passing feet from them. I don’t know if they made it back to Chagford for dinner. Maybe they did, maybe they didn’t. I guess it depends which turning they took after they left us. I should have warned them I suppose. It’s something I’ll have on my conscience when their car is found by the police. If,I mean.
He’s clever, you see. He’s got an old tractor and he pulls the cars deep into the wood, pushing them into an old mineshaft. His victims he takes back to his shack where he wiles away many a pleasant hour tormenting them. The couple should have stayed up in London. Waitrose. Lattes. A night at the theatre. Down here locals prefer their own sort of fun.
When we got back to the car the shadows were long and the chill reminded us it was still only mid April. We loaded the bikes and drove off. Was it my imagination or did something move in amongst the trees as we left? A lumbering figure with a crooked smile wearing a brand new Berghaus.