Good Friday 1612. Pendle Hill.
A mysterious gathering of thirteen people is interrupted by a local magistrate. Is it a witches’ Sabbat?
In Lancaster Castle two notorious witches await trial and certain death, while the beautiful and wealthy Alice Nutter rides to their defence.
Elsewhere a starved child lurks. And a Jesuit priest and former Gunpowder plotter makes his way from France to a place he believes will offer him sanctuary.
But will it? And how safe can anyone be in Witch Country?
‘Utterly compulsive, thick with atmosphere and dread, but sharp intelligence too…Ultimately she combines compelling history and poetic dialogue with suspense’ Daily Telegraph
‘Sharp-eyed view of history… Winterson is at her best her when she’s dealing with real horrors’ Observer
‘If you like her other novels, you will adore this. She has done her homework… the beauty of the writing, exemplary in its pared-down simplicity. It’s so seductive that by the middle I was hooked’ Independent
This novella began as a Dare.
Hammer Horror used to be a part camp part scary British Horror Movie outfit that made Draculas and Frankensteins’s and classics like My Wife The Zombie.
Hammer dropped down dead for years and was assumed buried, but was lately revived by entrepreneur Simon Oakes who made Woman in Black and Let The Right One In.
The decided to start a publishing deal with Random House. Simon said to me: You lived near Pendle Hill didn’t you? Write me a novella about the Lancashire Witches.’
Nuts, I thought. And then I did.
It’s true I was brought up in the shadow of Pendle Hill where the most famous witch trials in the world took place in 1612.
James 1st was on the throne. He was obsessed by witches – actually he was terrified of female power, and you can’t altogether blame him. His mother was Mary Queen of Scots and his aunt was Elizabeth 1st.
James wrote his own book about the supernatural – Daemonology – and the very first thing he did when he came to power was bring in The Witchcraft Act 1604.
At the same time, James was bust dealing with difficult Catholics – all responsible for the Gunpowder Plot (1608) and all hidden away in Lancashire – catholic stronghold of England. And of course where the witch trials took place.
Lancashire. Wild, remote, untamed. The place James feared.
It looked like a good story to me.
Publication: 16 Aug 2012