INSPIRATION FOR "ALL THE DARK SECRETS" by JENNIE FELTON
'In this grave is deposited the remains of the twelve undermentioned sufferers, all of whom were killed ... by the snapping of the rope as they were on the point of descending into the pit. the rope was generally supposed to have been maliciously cut.'
This is the inscription on a gravestone in the churchyard of St John's, Midsomer Norton, just a few miles from the Somerset mining town of Radstock where I was born and grew up, and where I now once again live. In these few words it tells the terrible story of how twelve men and boys, the youngest aged just 13, died on that November day, and it gave me inspiration for ALL THE DARK SECRETS, though I have taken the liberty of setting my story sixty years later, in 1895.
In those days the Somerset coalfield was a thriving industry, producing high quality coal, but the narrow, faulted seams were difficult to work and not high enough for pit ponies to be used, and so-called 'carting boys' were employed to drag the hewed coal from the face to the roadways by means of the infamous 'guss and crook' - a putt attached by a rope round the boy's waist which he then dragged on hands and knees.
My own father, who was middle-aged when I was born, had been one of the carting boys, and when I was young, I loved hearing him relate tales of those days, some funny, some tragic, and they were the inspiration for THE BLACK MOUNTAINS, the first of the Hillsbridge quartet (available now from Macmillan Bello) under my own name, Janet Tanner.
The tragic Wellsway accident that gave me my starting point for a new series of sagas which will follow the families who live in a terrace of mining cottages - The Ten Houses. Several of these lost loved ones that terrible day, and each and every one was affected by it in some way. Maggie, the central character of ALL THE DARK SECRETS is a strong young woman who loses both her father and her fiance in the tragedy - ALL THE DARK SECRETS tells her story. And over all hangs the question - who was responsible for the cutting of the rope?
I've just delivered the second book in the series, most of which takes place 10 years later, and tells the story of two young sisters who lost their father in the 'accident' and whose lives were changed forever.
This one also has a background of the music halls of the time.
I hope I've given you a flavour of my new series of sagas - and that you will want to read them! ALL THE DARK SECRETS is out now in hardback and as an e-book; the paperback is due in January.