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Rickman, Phil (Will Kingdom, Philip Rickman)

Rickman, Phil (Will Kingdom, Philip Rickman)

PERSONAL:

Born in Lancashire, England; married; wife's name Carol (an editor and former journalist).

ADDRESSES:

Home—Welsh border. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Novelist and journalist. British Broadcasting Corporation, reporter, and presenter of Phil the Shelf and And Now Read On for BBC Radio Wales.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Wales TV Reporter of the Year honor, 1986; Wales Current Affairs Reporter of the Year honor, 1987, for Aliens (documentary).

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

Candlenight, Duckworth (London, England), 1991.

Crybbe, Macmillan (London, England), 1993, published as Curfew, G.P. Putnam's Sons (New York, NY), 1993.

The Man in the Moss, Macmillan (London, England), 1994.

December, Macmillan (London, England), 1994.

The Chalice, Macmillan (London, England), 1997.

"MERRILY WATKINS" SERIES; MYSTERY NOVELS

The Wine of Angels, Pan Books (London, England), 1998.

Midwinter of the Spirit, Pan Books (London, England), 1998.

The Cure of Souls, Pan Books (London, England), 2001.

A Crown of Lights, Pan Books (London, England), 2001.

The Lamp of the Wicked, Pan Books (London, England), 2002.

The Prayer of the Night Shepherd, Macmillan (London, England), 2004.

The Smile of a Ghost, Macmillan (London, England), 2005.

The Remains of an Altar, Quercus (London, England), 2006.

The Fabric of Sin, Quercus (London, England), 2007.

To Dream of the Dead, Quercus (London, England), 2008.

NOVELS; AS WILL KINGDOM

The Cold Calling, Corgi (London, England), 1998.

Mean Spirit, Bantam (London, England), 2001.

NONFICTION; AS PHILIP RICKMAN

(With Graham Nown) Mysterious Derbyshire, Dalesman (Clapham, North Yorkshire, England), 1977.

(With Graham Nown) Mysterious Lancashire: Legends and Ley-lines of Lancelot's Shire, Dalesman (Clapham, North Yorkshire, England), 1977.

Mysterious Cheshire, Dalesman (Clapham, North Yorkshire, England), 1980.

AS THOM MADLEY

Marco's Pendulum, Usborne Publishing Ltd. (England), 2006.

Marco and the Blade of Night, Usborne Publishing Ltd. (England), 2007.

SIDELIGHTS:

British novelist, broadcaster, and award-winning television and radio journalist Phil Rickman is an author whose books have been attracting notice in the mystery and suspense market since his first novel appeared in 1991. While his works often have the trappings of the horror novel, Rickman does not consider himself a horror writer, even though his early novels were marketed as such. "A horror writer, by definition, is someone who sets out to revolt. I don't care if I don't even scare you, as long as you're intrigued," he noted on his home page. His more recent novels, while dealing peripherally with the paranormal, have been marketed under crime and mystery, and a Kirkus Reviews critic acclaimed him as "a thinking reader's Elizabeth George."

In Candlenight, the Welsh village of Y Groes has become a holdout against the encroaching population of English people buying up cheap Welsh real estate and diluting the small country's cultural identity in the process. When Claire and Giles Freeman arrive, Englishman Giles finds it extremely difficult to find an in with the locals, who hold on to old-fashioned beliefs and ideas with fierce tenacity. Complicating matters, Giles's American-journalist friend arrives to investigate a suspicious rise in the number of English deaths in the area. Meanwhile, subtly, Claire begins to change, and as she becomes more and more like a pagan Druid priestess, the feeling that the village of Y Groes is a living entity in and of itself becomes more pervasive. Rickman's "expertise with pastoral horror" evokes parallels with the work of writers Algernon Blackwood and Arthur Machen, in the opinion of some critics, and "so strong are his characterizations" that the slightest hint of the supernatural can carry the ideas behind his books, commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

Curfew—originally published in England as Crybbe—is a "stylish novel of the occult," according to a Publishers Weekly contributor. The ancient town of Crybbe is outside the life of the British mainstream, and its aging residents prefer to keep their home pleasantly concealed from the world. When millionaire music mogul Max Goff decides to buy the entire village and restore it to what he perceives as a pathway to the spirit lands, terrifying events threaten the life and sanity of both the villagers and the entrepreneur. Radio reporter Faye Morrison, her elderly father, and Joe Powys, a writer, join the effort to abort a disaster it may be too late to stop. Rickman "convinces with his intricate account of both the town's hex" and the supernatural forces at play, a Publishers Weekly critic stated.

The Wine of Angels introduces Rickman's recurring series character, the Reverend Merrily Watkins, a single mother and Anglican priest. When Watkins and her daughter Jane arrive in the idyllic community of Ledwardine, where Watkins has been appointed head priest, she finds a pagan influences underlying the town's cheerful façade. When a locally performed play dredges up connections between the village and a brutal, centuries-old murder, Watkins must act as intermediary between longtime residents and new families strongly at odds over the village's historical scandal. A Publishers Weekly reviewer called The Wine of Angels "a first-rate thriller with supernatural overtones."

As part of her duties as diocesan deliverance minister, or exorcist, Watkins investigates an alleged case of spirit possession in The Cure of Souls. Before her investigation can begin, she is asked by the bishop of Hereford to investigate whether or not an old hopkiln, once used to dry hops to make beer but also the scene of a dreadful murder, is haunted. An attempted exorcism of the kiln has little effect, another murder occurs, and the allegedly possessed girl Watkins first set out to help attempts to kill herself. Her investigation into these events, aided by daughter Jane and best friend Lol Robinson, uncovers a string of deceptions, cover-ups, and things that simply cannot be explained. The book's "pace is fast and plot twists await the reader around every corner right up until the very end," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer.

A serial killer is operating in the small English town of Underhowle, and in The Lamp of the Wicked Watkins has to unravel the mystery of the killer as well as deal with the suspected presence of both angelic and demonic phenomena in the town. When a suspicious fire destroys Gomer Parry's business and kills his nephew, Parry thinks he knows who did it. Watkins's investigation leads to the discovery of the suspect's girlfriend, murdered. The suspect is coerced into suicide, which the villagers think has closed the case, but Watkins finds only more complicated and mysterious connections to murders committed by Frederick West, the most infamous real-life serial killer in British history. Watkins follows the case in directions that surprise her, all the while trying to help her daughter overcome a crisis of faith and working to keep her budding relationship with Lol Robinson under wraps. The tenacious Watkins "dig[s] deeper into evildoing just when most fictional sleuths would be calling it quits," observed a Kirkus Reviews critic.

The Remains of an Altar finds Watkins's seventeen-year-old daughter Jane on the verge of being expelled from school. The local town council is preparing to level an old meadow for some new development—a series of luxury houses—and Jane has been protesting, convinced that the site has a history as a place of worship that dates back to the Druids. Watkins has her hands full, as she has also been asked to handle the exorcism of the ghost of Sir Edward Elgar, formerly a great ecclesiastical composer, who has been sighted recently on the main road and caused a number of accidents, among other developments. A contributor for Kirkus Reviews remarked that "readers will be left with an urge to wander the English countryside while whistling Elgar's tunes."

In The Fabric of Sin, Watkins sets out with her daughter and her boyfriend Lol to calm any lingering spirits at the Master House in Herefordshire as the estate is being restored by its new owner, the Duchy of Cornwall. There is a possibility that the house itself has some connection to the Knights Templar in its earlier history. Watkins has been called in to investigate by the local vicar, after one of the young women working on the restoration alerted him to the presence of strange psychic tensions. Initially Watkins is skeptical, as the girl's report resembles a popular ghost story, but when both the worker and her boyfriend turn up dead, she begins to step up her investigation. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly commented that "the writing and characterizations are first-rate," but noted that the writer "gives away part of the game" a bit early in the book.

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.

PERIODICALS

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2003, review of The Lamp of the Wicked, p. 783; September 1, 2004, review of The Prayer of the Night Shepherd, p. 841; October 1, 2007, review of The Remains of an Altar.

Library Journal, October 1, 2004, Rex E. Klett, review of The Prayer of the Night Shepherd, p. 65.

Publishers Weekly, June 14, 1993, review of Curfew, p. 62; July 24, 1995, review of Candlenight, p. 57; June 3, 1996, review of December, p. 81; March 11, 2002, review of The Wine of Angels, p. 57; May 13, 2002, review of The Cure of Souls, p. 55; June 9, 2003, review of The Lamp of the Wicked, p. 39; February 25, 2008, review of The Fabric of Sin, p. 56.

ONLINE

Infinity Plus,http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/ (April 21, 2005), David Mathew, interview with Rickman.

Phil Rickman Home Page,http://www.philrickman.co.uk (April 21, 2005).

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