Last month, I unpublished one of my books. Solstice is no longer available to buy.
I’ve stopped selling books before, but there’s a bit of a tale to this decision. It needs to start with the story’s inspirations, and what happened in it. I’d put a spoilers warning here, but you can’t buy it any more, so let’s dive straight in.
Inspiration is a wonderful thing. Sometimes stories come from a single idea. More often- for me- a bunch of thoughts combine, and I’ve got something to build from.
Solstice came from three directions.
The first was an urge to create something akin to 24- a fast moving, time limited challenge for my characters. It was going to be a Rain & Bullets story, so the crime needed to have an immediate and further threat related to it.
Next, there was the news that the government wanted to outsource management of youth detention centres to private providers. Given the history of this sort of thing, the inevitability of corruption or incompetence harming children was obvious. For a crime story, it’s the corruption and harm that I would be concentrating on, so what form would that take?
As Solstice started to come together, I was becoming aware of the then starting Operations Yewtree and Midland. The threat of a ring of child abusers with powerful connections was compelling, and very “ripped from the headlines”. If those powerful connections had access to children, then there was the danger and harm for the story.
The story came together quickly from there. As the Rain & Bullets regulars investigated a murder with ties to corruption after the invasion of Iraq, a young woman and her activist friend are trying to rescue her nephew from detention. They have a suspicion that something very wrong is going on, and as they find out what it is, they’re heading for collision with Kay and Irwin’s case.
All good ingredients for an action adventure, and I’m very happy with the structure and pace I managed to give it. So why have I deleted it from the back catalogue?
Shortly after publication, it started to become clear that the claims of a VIP paedophile ring all originated from the testimony of one supposed witness. His stories fell apart one by one, until he ended up on trial for the damage they had caused.
Still, Solstice was a solid story. I figured I’d still leave it out there, though. What harm could it do?
Then, along came QAnon, and its bizarre British mirror image – the SRA hunters.
SRA stands for Satanic Ritual Abuse. It isn’t a new fantasy, the Satanic Panic of the eighties and nineties damaged countless lives because of unfounded tales of mass abuse. The professionals who deal with children have learnt a lot from it, thankfully, and now know how not to lead children into creating tales that confirm the interviewer’s beliefs. There are, however, far too many amateurs unwilling to learn anything, who happily fall for fantasies that align with their prejudices.
As an indicator of how far-fetched SRA is, not-friend of Spinneyhead, long-time fantasist, petty bigot, and, now, convicted harasser of the judiciary, Richard Carvath has staked his non-existent reputation on pushing it. It definitely made me uneasy about the premise of Solstice, that it could be getting too close to the beliefs of folks like him.
The final nail in Solstice’s coffin was an event last year, when Carvath’s latest bigot-crush travelled to Wales to kidnap a child at knife point, only being caught several hundred miles away. The child, of course, was allegedly a victim of SRA. A different reason, but so close to the plot of Solstice that it made me uncomfortable.
Luckily, no-one was hurt during the kidnap. But it’s too short a step from rescuing children from Satanists (or lizards, or whatever) to deciding they’re so corrupted that the only way to save their souls is to kill them. As the details came out about the event, I decided I no longer wanted to have a book out there that could, even slightly, feed into the SRA fantasy. I don’t want to have accidentally written a Turner Diaries for kidnappers.
So, Solstice is gone from the Rain & Bullets series, and is no longer available. You can, however, still buy my other books, and those of Garth Owen.