Richard Herley It is 1997. The British government now runs island prison colonies to take dangerous offenders from its overcrowded mainland jails.
Among all these colonies, Sert, 25 miles off the north Cornish coast, has the worst reputation. There are no warders. Satellite technology is used to keep the convicts under watch. New arrivals are dumped by helicopter and must learn to survive as best they can. To Sert, one afternoon in July, is brought Anthony John Routledge, sentenced for a sex-murder he did not commit. Routledge knows he is here for ever. And he knows he must quickly forget the rules of civilized life. But not all the islanders are savages. Under the charismatic leadership of one man a community has evolved. A community with harsh and unyielding rules, peopled by resourceful men for whom the hopeless dream of escape may not be so hopeless after all ...
Richard Herley When the men of Burh, settlers from continental Europe, fall upon the sleeping nomad tribe in the depths of the forest amid the Downs of southern England, Tagart is the only survivor, escaping by sheer chance after his wife and young son have been massacred. Twenty-five and heir to the chiefdom of the roving hunters, he sees his only inheritance now to be an overwhelming urge for merciless revenge - of his family, his tribe and indeed of a way of life which in the England of 5,000 years ago is steadily being eroded by these tillers of the soil.
Tagart’s first objective for his single-handed work of retribution is the fortified village of Burh (in what is now known as the Cuckmere Valley), and the means he uses are more subtle and deadly than any traditional form of attack. This story of his revenge, his subsequent savage enslavement by the new lords of the land and his escape with Segle, the beautiful sister of another captive, introduces a new author of considerable significance. Richard Herley writes with acute sense of place, of wind and weather, of wild life and of the background of Stone Age England when the countryside is in its last virgin state before civilization begins.
Extent: 71,400 words (about 238 conventional pages)
Richard Herley Driven by the sinister forces of his own heritage, Brennis Gehan Fifth, Lord of Valdoe, is planning the genocide of the nomadic tribes who impede the spread of his empire in the land that was southern England of 5,000 years ago. With his army swelled by foreign mercenaries he prepares to march through the snows to annihilate the nomads’ retreat in their winter camp.
Word of the Lord of Valdoe’s intentions has already reached the nomads, but when their chieftain is killed in a hunting accident it seems his successor will not heed the warning. In all the tribes, only Tagart understands the danger and is strong enough to face the Flint Lord, but first he must win the strange battle for leadership, waged according to ancient and ruthless laws. The campaign that he then inspires is a superb story of desperate courage. This novel of intrigue, violence and betrayal in the land of our Stone Age forefathers is a magnificent successor to the author’s The Stone Arrow. Here, spurring the Flint Lord’s drive for conquest, is his passion for his beautiful, decadent sister, a drive and a passion which lead inexorably to catastrophic consequences.
Extent: 71,772 words (about 239 conventional pages)
Richard Herley It is 3000 BC. The cult of the Earth Goddess is controlled throughout the vast empire of Europe by the secretive and unscrupulous Red Order, the priesthood which manipulates all power for its own ends. The land that is now called England has been annexed and its lord, Brennis Gehan Fifth, betrayed and murdered. The Lady Altheme, his consort, has escaped to the forest. She is carrying his son, Paoul, rightful inheritor of the Valdoe domain.
But his inheritance is usurped by his illegitimate half-brother. Ignorant of his parentage, Paoul is orphaned, sold into the priesthood, and sent to the mainland citadel for instruction. His teachers predict a great destiny for him. Only later, beyond the point of no return, do his doubts begin ... This remarkable novel, complete in itself, follows The Stone Arrow and The Flint Lord and concludes The Pagans, a trilogy whose theme finds form in Paoul’s disillusionment and in his illicit passion for his half-brother’s wife, the gentle and beautiful girl who becomes for him the true Goddess of the Earth. The story of their love races to a climax of tragedy that signals devastating consequences for the evil men of the priesthood and the empire.
Extent: 73,653 words (about 246 conventional pages)
Richard Herley The setting is feudal Sussex in the thirteenth century, a landscape and society that have changed almost beyond recognition. The power of the Church is at its zenith; yet the King, ruling by divine right, is sovereign, above all.
Ralf Grigg is the young son of a master carpenter whose business fails when Ralf is small. The family have come to live in the seaside village of Mape, where Ralf’s mother was born.
Ralf’s solitary evening walk along the sea-wall is interrupted by the distant sight of someone - a boy of about his own age - trapped in the mud of the saltmarshes. The tide is flooding. There is no time to fetch help.
The decision Ralf makes in that moment has profound and far-reaching consequences, not only for himself and his whole family, but for the lord of the manor, his sovereign, and the ruthless struggle for supremacy between Westminster and Rome.
Extent: 125,773 words (about 419 conventional pages)
Richard Herley May 1944: dawn in the Bay of Biscay. A U-boat lies crippled on the seabed. Within earshot of the warship that sank her, a solitary survivor breaks the surface. Injured, in shock, hypothermic, his life-vest torn, he cries out for help.
The captain is on the bridge and brings his binoculars to bear.
The order he gives sets off a train of consequences reaching down through the landscape of post-war, post-colonial Britain, changing not only his own life and the lives of his men, but those of civilians ashore and of children yet unborn.
Spanning seventy years, set in England and in Nigeria during the Biafran crisis, this is a sweeping, compulsive story about conscience and selfishness and the far-reaching damage that cruelty can do.
“The Drowning” is the latest novel from this award-winning author.
Extent: 125,200 words (about 417 conventional pages)
Richard Herley Annie and Laurence Trent are a young, professional couple living in a London suburb. Laurence is beset with worry: about money, about his job, about the economy and the future. He and Annie long to start a family but can’t afford to.
It is 18 December, 2009. Just before midnight, she urgently turns and wakes him. There are sounds of intrusion downstairs.
Laurence arms himself with the hammer they keep by the bed and ventures out to the landing.
He waits and listens at the rail; and with a surge of relief decides the thief or thieves have taken what they wanted and gone.
Then he realizes someone is still below: still below, and heading for the stairs.
Richard Herley This is a very black comedy indeed – but it is also a story of innocence, redemption and, above all, love.
The setting is England in 1955. Nigel Dodd is 23. Still living at his parents’ home, he is heir to the family business, a thriving estate agency. Unknown to Nigel, his father is embroiled in an ambitious and crooked land deal involving corrupt politicians at the County Council.
Brenda Vale is 26, a nurse, highly intelligent and extremely pretty, with a newly acquired German girlfriend named Grete. One of Brenda’s unrealized ambitions is to “find and marry some pliable man with money”. Circumstances bring her into the Dodd household; Grete’s permission to stay in the UK unexpectedly runs out, and suddenly Brenda is in need of hard cash and plenty of it.
Nigel could hardly be more pliable. Nor could he be more infatuated. The future looks black for him and bright for Brenda and Grete: but looks can be deceptive, and when the land deal goes horribly wrong Brenda must use all her wiles to keep her scheme on track.
Richard Herley Eleven years on from a bitter divorce, Adrian Stowell is becoming not only a hermit but a misanthrope. He has vowed never to get caught again, to concede to another woman influence over himself and his property, and has surrounded himself with a wall of cynicism and mistrust.
One June morning he is working in his front garden. An attractive neighbour, not long arrived in the Hampshire village where Adrian lives, comes through the gate. He has never seen her before and might never have met her but for the fact that her cat has gone missing.
He accepts the flyer she offers him and promises to search his outhouses. Her eyes are kind; she smiles at him, and from then on Adrian can’t stop thinking about her.
This is a story about the alienation wrought by the increasing fragmentation of modern society and the difficulty one modern man has in adjusting to it. He struggles besides with the sort of masculine mindset which was once critical to the rise of civilisation, but whose value is becoming more and more derided, even despised.
It is also an unsentimental love story touching upon loneliness and bereavement and, above all, the magical power of forgiveness.