If you watched Harry Price: Ghost Hunter on ITV over the Christmas period, you’ll be familiar with the work of Neil Spring (the TV version is an adaptation of Spring’s 2013 novel, The Ghost Hunters). The Watchers is his second novel and is loosely inspired by the UFO sightings in Wales during the late 1970s. The blurb on the back of the book indicates that the protagonist, Robert Wilding , not only has access to national secrets via the mysterious sounding Ministry of Defence Room 800, but is also troubled by his own traumatic past, which includes the incidents surrounding the death of his parents.
Contrary to the popular cliché, I believe there are times when you absolutely should judge a book by its cover…
There is something glorious sinister about the front cover of the novel, with its black and white pointillistic graphics and shadowy allusions to a otherworldly lights and figures. Having seen Harry Price, I was initially drawn to the novel in the hopes that it was more of the same. However, despite an initial skepticism that the supernatural and UFOs would make for uneasy bedfellows, I was soon completely immersed in a tale of bleak Welsh landscapes and genuinely chilling characters known only as ‘the watchers’.
The novel is written from the perspective of the main character, Robert Wilding, an aide to a member of Parliament. Wilding finds himself drawn back to his childhood home in west Wales when a number of incidents and otherworldly sightings are reported. Loathe to return to a place where he was so unhappy, he is forced to confront the beliefs of the fanatical grandfather who brought him up, in order to solve the mystery.
Interspersed with Robert’s narrative are ‘testimonials’ from other individuals who have witnessed the bizarre events. These offer welcomed alternate viewpoints to that of the clearly troubled and possibly unreliable protagonist. Spring’s writing successfully evokes the taut nature of the events, providing just enough information for the reader to be intrigued by Wilding’s returning memories without revealing too early the real reason why the character has subdued them for so long.
I particularly enjoyed the way in which the final chapter (set two years after the main events of the narrative) aligns the paranormal with contemporaneous Cold War paranoia.
Whether you are a fan of the pararnomal or science fiction genres, this is certainly well worth a read. Both menacing and compelling in equal measure, I absolutely loved it. Just don’t read it before bedtime because the watchers are indeed, the stuff of nightmares…
More information on Neil Spring and his writing can be found over on his website or via his tweets at @NeilSpring.