The Blackheath Séance Parlour, written by Alan Williams, brings to life Blackheath and Greenwich during the rise of Séance Parlours in Victorian London.
From its opening paragraph, The Blackheath Séance Parlour races past and into the pubs and landmarks of South East London, plummeting the reader into a page-turning epic filled with horror, laugh-out-loud humour and suspense.
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Author Alan Williams said:
Blackheath is a great exposed common overlooking London; it’s prone to crazy storms, battering rain and knee high snow. It is often so dramatic it lends itself to imagination so it’s a great place to write. Everywhere I turned in Blackheath inspired one scene or another. My book opens with a storm, Maggie Cloak struggling against the gale past the Hare and Billet pub. She continued onward, but on the night that scene was born, I went inside the pub and wrote it.
The book attempts to be as factually loyal to Blackheath at the time as I could make it, right down to the names of the people who owned the shops back in 1842 and the building of the iconic church. It also clears up the misconception over the name Blackheath, which contrary to popular belief is nothing to do with the Black Death; disappointingly it got its name because the soil was darker.
As I started to research Blackheath properly, incredible stories began emerging, the history and importance of the place is astounding; golf was invented here, weather forecasting, the rules of rugby were decided in the Princess of Wales pub, Dick Turpin reigned terror, a suspect in the Jack the Ripper case resided just off the heath, powerful slave traders and ship builders dominated Dartmouth Row’s huge houses, providing neck and ankle irons to the world. As well as the history of the observatory, Blackheath was the playground of royalty, The Princess Sophia Matilda who resided in the Ranger’s house, and appears as herself in two versions in the book was probably the most dull princess there has ever been. There came a point where I had to draw the line for fear of losing the novel to Blackheath’s history.
About the book
In 1842, two drunken sisters debate their future. Business at the family chocolate shop has ground to a halt, and change is needed. For once, domineering elder sister Maggie doesn’t get her way, and a month later, Judy, Maggie, and Netta Walters—a medium with big hair and a bigger secret—open their séance parlour. The locals are shocked, but soon the shop is crammed with people wanting to contact the dead. Despite their change in fortune, a rift grows between the sisters as Judy gets her gothic novel published, finds a man, and proves to be more capable of contacting spirits than Maggie. Spurred on by jealousy, Maggie tries harder, and chaos and terror descend on London.
About the Author
Alan Williams worked as a script editor for the BBC, working on Absolutely Fabulous, Birds of a Feather and Keeping up Appearances, amongst others. He went on to edit Writers’ Monthly and now publishes two influential films and television magazines. He lives in Blackheath, London, has won awards for his short stories, and includes dieting and chocolate éclairs as his hobbies.