In 1995, the picture-perfect village of Ussalthwaite was the site of one of the most heinous crimes imaginable, in a case that shocked the world.
Twelve-year-old Sidney Parsons was savagely murdered by two boys his own age. No reason was ever given for this terrible crime, and the ‘Demonic Duo’ who killed him were imprisoned until their release in 2002, when they were given new identities and lifetime anonymity.
Elusive online journalist Scott King investigates the lead-up and aftermath of the killing, uncovering dark and fanciful stories of demonic possession, and encountering a village torn apart by this unspeakable act.
And, as episodes of his Six Stories podcast begin to air, King himself becomes a target, with dreadful secrets from his own past dredged up and threats escalating to a terrifying level. It becomes clear that whatever drove those two boys to kill is still there, lurking, and the campaign of horror has just begun…
I listen to podcasts, usually audio plays, but last year I listened to a podcast called The Battersea Poltergeist and the format of Demon reminded me of this. A number of people are interviewed including people who were there, but are the supernatural happenings real or is it some kind of mass hysteria? And of course there always those who wish to profit financially for giving their view, as well as those who have an ‘opinion’ (we know the kind of people we are talking about).
In Demon we have a mix of interviewees, though of course we don’t get to hear from Robbie and Danny, the killers of 12-yer-old Sidney Parsons, as they were incarcerated and given new identities on release (rather like the killers of James Bulger). The killers in this case are a tiny bit older (ie about 12 years old, but the victim was their own age and had learning difficulties.
The podcast is the brainchild of Scott King who claims to ‘rake over old graves’ and he is criticised openly by many who believe he is cashing in on the misery of the victim’s family. He sees it differently however, but then he would, wouldn’t he.
The most interesting side to this is the idea that the fictitious village of Ussalthwaite is in some way haunted, possibly by a witch who lived in the 1600s and cursed it. There is ‘evidence’ of dark shadows and demonic possession, but as I said earlier, this is often the result of a kind of mass hysteria. Suddenly everyone has a tale to tell of mysterious goings on, swinging ropes and small black stones appearing again and again.
I love this kind of book. Haunting, creepy and often scary, it’s right up my street. The idea of telling it as a podcast is very original and gave it an unusual twist. It allowed us to hear different ‘voices’ – from Scott King himself and also from people who were there, in their own words. Very clever and often unsettling.
Many thanks to @annecater for inviting me to be part of #RandomThingsTours
About the Author
Matt Wesolowski is an author from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. He is an English tutor for young people in care. Matt started his writing career in horror, and his short horror fiction has been published in numerous UK- an US-based anthologies such as Midnight Movie Creature, Selfies from the End of the World, Cold Iron and many more. His novella, The Black Land, a horror story set on the Northumberland coast, was published in 2013. Matt was a winner of the Pitch Perfect competition at Bloody Scotland Crime Writing Festival in 2015. His debut thriller, Six Stories, was a bestseller in the USA, Canada, the UK and Australia, and a WH Smith Fresh Talent pick, and TV rights were sold to a major Hollywood studio. A prequel, Hydra, was published in 2018 and became an international bestseller, Changeling (2019), Beast (2020) And Deity (2021) soon followed suit.
Orenda Books is a small independent publishing company specialising in literary fiction with a heavy emphasis on crime/thrillers, and approximately half the list in translation. They’ve been twice shortlisted for the Nick Robinson Best Newcomer Award at the IPG awards, and publisher and owner Karen Sullivan was a Bookseller Rising Star in 2016. In 2018, they were awarded a prestigious Creative Europe grant for their translated books programme. Three authors, including Agnes Ravatn, Matt Wesolowski and Amanda Jennings have been WHSmith Fresh Talent picks, and Ravatn’s The Bird Tribunal was shortlisted for the Dublin Literary Award, won an English PEN Translation Award, and adapted for BBC Radio Four ’s Book at Bedtime. Six titles have been short- or long-listed for the CWA Daggers. Launched in 2014 with a mission to bring more international literature to the UK market, Orenda Books publishes a host of debuts, many of which have gone on to sell millions worldwide, and looks for fresh, exciting new voices that push the genre in new directions. Bestselling authors include Ragnar Jonasson, Antti Tuomainen, Gunnar Staalesen, Michael J. Malone, Kjell Ola Dahl, Louise Beech, Johana Gustawsson, Lilja Sigurðardóttir and Sarah Stovell.