The Shadow on the Fens
Hear an extract ‘Black Shuck’ ahead of our Halloween event

Wayne Adrian Drew, the author, theatre producer and playwright, joined us at Writers’ Centre Norwich for a reading from his new collection of ghostly tales, Shadow on the Fens, and to discuss his upcoming 

Tell us about the cast of characters you’ve prepared for the evening.

Actor Richard Holliss, will be in the role of M.R.James, our host. Richard has been the lead in many plays and has recorded extensively for the BBC, Universal Pictures and Warner Brothers too. Infact, he acted the role of M.R.James for me in The Laws of Shadows, my play about a tragic relationship he had when he was at Kings College, in Cambridge at the end of the 19th Century. And it’s a play I would truly like to see staged up here in Norfolk – as it has clear local resonance. So local theatre groups do get in touch!

With Richard, we also have the author Piers Warren – who was shortlisted for the East Anglian Book Awards some years ago – and those great local actors Robin Watson and Susan Seddon. Together they will be reading five stories from the book itself. These range from the latest exploits of Black Shuck, to tales of witchcraft, the undead and those horrific Lantern Men who it’s claimed still roam the Fens – even today.

The evening will have suitable lighting and rather eerie special effects – and it’s decidedly one for adult audiences only. It starts at 7.30pm and the entry price includes a glass of something special. I really look forward to meeting the audience – and signing a book or two, if anyone would like. And they’ll be at a special reduced price for audience members only.

So how did the book come about?

I’ve been a collector of ghost stories for many years and began work on Shadows on the Fens at Halloween in 2013. Our cottage, in the heart of the Norfolk countryside, dates back 600 years. Indeed the cottage’s footprint is over 1000 years old. And it’s on a track that leads to a recently unearthed Saxon burial ground. A coffin road it’s called, where the bodies were carried. So it was an excellent setting to work on the project!

Sounds perfect!

Literally, in front of blazing inglenook, I ploughed through a massive selection of rare ghost stories by the great authors of the past and selected 17 of those – as well as choosing four new stories too, for this limited edition hardback that IndieBooks asked me to create.

How did you choose which stories to include?

I wanted a selection of the finest supernatural literature this region has inspired from the earliest times – right up to the present day. The oldest tale is by Abraham Fleming. It’s from his 1577 pamphlet, A Strange and Terrible Wunder, where he wrote about Black Shuck – the devil dog – on an evil rampage in Bungay church!

Then, after starting in the 16th Century, the stories continue right up to the present day. Indeed the three new tales I’ve chosen, were written just last year.

And, ironically, the one by Piers Warren is about Black Shuck too. So ‘The Hound from Hell’ bookends the collection! Shuck – as I’m sure you know – is one of the sources of Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. And he’s said to have begun writing it when on holiday in Cromer.

Judging from your Armageddon Stones. It’s a science fiction horror story which is set partially in the middle of the fens and partially on Dartmoor. It pays homage to the great science fiction writer Nigel Kneal.

I’ve also got three new plays which are in the middle of being produced.On the 11 November we have the showcase of The Blaze of Noon, my play about Dante and Milton. I’m working with a young actor in Norwich on a new play about Aubrey Beardsley, the artist. And I’ve just finished, literally two days ago, a new – well, it’s a bit of a shocker – it’s called Autumn of Blood and it’s a precursor to Jack the Ripper. I know we’ve had lots of Jack the Ripper stories, but you’ve never had one like this!

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