My fifth novel will be published by Fourth Estate in spring 2018.
A Roman road, an Iron Age hill fort, a hand-carved flint, and a cycle of violence that must be broken.
The Devil’s Highway is the folk name for a Roman road in north Surrey where I grew up. The name is rooted in superstition: for in the Dark Ages, it must have seemed that only the devil could build anything so straight and strong. The Roman road marks the beginning of written history, of a civilisation that destroys in the name of progress. Physically and metaphorically, the Devil’s Highway runs through the interlinked narratives that make up the novel. For one place over centuries becomes many places – the site of human struggles that resemble one another more than they differ.
Set in the unforgiving sandy ‘wastes’ of Bagshot Heath, the three sections of The Devil’s Highway consist of three agons, or battles, against our self-destructive nature.
In ‘Blueface’, an ancient British boy discovers a plot against the Roman occupiers, and must betray his brother to save his tribe. In ‘No Man’s Land’, two twenty-first century people – one traumatised by war, another by divorce – clash over the use and meaning of a landscape. Finally, in the futuristic ‘The Heave’ (where language is as degraded as the planet), a gang of feral children struggles to reach safety in a time of war.
Three narratives, one location, combine in a passionate and intimate novel that spans centuries and challenges our dearest assumptions about civilisation. Combining elements of historical and speculative fiction with the narrative drive of pure thriller, The Devil’s Highway is an epic tale of love, loss, fanaticism, heroism and sacrifice.
“The Devil’s Highway is held together by place, by the persistence and frailty of the natural world, and by the havoc wreaked on it by its human inhabitants. Spanning three civilisations and their conflictual relationship with the world in which they live, the novel is also a deeply human examination of the cruelties people inflict on one another, through war and need, and of the eventual possibility of love, the only defence against the destructive force of fire.”
– Charles Lambert, author of The Children’s Home
Abandoned wartime pillbox, Bagshot Heath (Copyright Alan Hunt)