While I go through the usual mix of frustration and bad mood that hits me when I have a new story (or a series of stories, really) growing, I am spending my nights reading The Chalice, a supernatural thriller by British author Phil Rickman.
I first discovered Rickman in the ’90s with the novel The Man in the Moss, and I had acquired his whole back catalog of standalone horrors a few months back. Rickman can be classified, probably, as folk horror, and he’s very good – tight, twisting plots, interesting characters, and a strong sense of place.
The Chalice is set in Glastonbury, the alternative spirituality capital of the UK, and hinges on a number of local legends and historical characters. It is a fun read, and it also struck a strange chord.
I was born and grew up in Turin, Italy’s most haunted city (sorry Rome, we got there first), a city that always boasted… well, maybe boasted is the wrong word, but always had its fair share of crackpots, mediums, cult leaders, conspiracy theorists, reincarnated Egyptian princesses, and people that talked to the angels, or to the aliens. And while the alternative population of Turin was never so open and visible, compared to the one in Glastonbury as described by Rickman, indeed in the ’70s and ’80s the impression of living in a weird place was very strong. And right now with the ensuing crisis, I’ve seen a return of this sort of pre-New Age magic thinking. It’s weird.
An, interestingly enough, we do have our very own ancient and mysterious St. Michael abbey (that Umberto Eco used as the template for the abbey in The Name of the Rose), and our own mountain on which weird lights are seen, and where people often had weird experiences, either scary or elating: case in point, Emperor Constantine, that just outside of Turin had his famous “In hoc signo vinces” experience.
And we have our Holy Graal legend, too – and even the Black Graal legend that Rickman uses as the central engine in his novel. It’s weird (maybe I already said that).
It almost makes me want to start digging into this thing. Maybe this summer… do a quick study on the local ley lines, maybe.
In the meanwhile, I’ll keep reading Phil Rickman.
And hope to finally find the missing bit and start writing this series that’s pushing on my mind.