Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Publication Day

It's here at last! THE STOLEN SAINT comes out today with a low-key launch on December 5&6 at The Bookshop in Huelgoat, 2.30-4.30pm both days. Covid precautions and masks essential. Thanks to all those lovely readers who have already ordered the book online (reddogbooks.com/stst.htm) - hope it will be an enjoyable experience for everyone. I might even start the second in the series now...

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Early Tourism

In the early 20th century, organised tourism really got underway in Brittany. In Huelgoat, this was when the main hotels (Hotel d'Angleterre and Hotel de France) were built to cater for increasing visitor numbers. The central Hotel de France also made the investment of constructing an annexe of small appartments (above) overlooking the famous rocks in 1904 to provide self-catering accommodation for cyclists and fishermen. This rather unprepossessing building - social housing today - symbolised the shifting balance for the economy between industry and tourism. The granite Chaos which provided the main attraction in its forest setting was gradually being destroyed for building stone, and the Touring Club of France added its voice to a storm of protests that led to the preservation of this natural wonder as a resource for visitors rather than a practical exploitation. Quarrying stopped and holidays in the beautiful outdoors burgeoned. Cook's Travellers Handbook for railway holidays in the 1930 edition refers to its reputation as the 'Fontainebleau of Brittany' and describes the Roche tremblante as 'the finest rocking-stone in Brittany'.
Fishing and painting had long brought foreigners to the area, but there were also new pursuits. The dramatic scenery attracted many practitioners of early photography, which was rapidly gaining in popularity. One hotel included a dark-room in its advertising as a positive plus. The phrase 'English spoken' was another common boast in competitive publicity for rival accommodation providers, reflecting a lucrative market that had started back in the 19th century. English visitors passing through in 1880 said the hilly sylvan town on its lake reminded them of Switzerland, and that a 'taciturn landlord' urged them to stay for the fine fishing opportunities, showing them a well-filled visitors' book. 

After the First World War there was a further boom in travel and tourism in Brittany and a resurgence of cultural festivals. From 1921 Huelgoat celebrated
FĂȘtes bretonnes with traditional music and dancing in local costumes, which raised the profile of the town for outsiders in search of that quinessential Breton heritage. The poster above shows the celebration of a Pardon in Huelgoat used as advertising by the French national railway, encouraging travellers in search of the folkloric and picturesque. Ultimate sign of being 'on the map' - the town's first tourist office opened in 1923 to respond to the growing demands of French and foreign visitors.

Friday, November 06, 2020


THE STOLEN SAINT, my novel set in Brittany, is now available for pre-order (publication date December 1st). Here's the direct link to order:    www.reddogbooks.com/stst.htm    
Thanks for all the interest already shown in this new venture. It's really appreciated in these very hard times.

Friday, October 30, 2020


I made a pre-confinement trip on a dreary day this week to Langast to see the church of Saint Gal or Gall, who was the companion of St Colomban, and later went on to found a famous abbey in Switzerland. If he is not some otherwise unknown local hermit of a similar (or different) name. A lack of certainty likewise hangs over the chronology of the construction of the church, which is mainly 16th century but with surviving Romanesque elements, such as a fine example of herring-bone style wall revealed beneath the plaster of the nave. The main window dates from 1508 and is exceptionally beautiful.

But the church is most famous for the wall-paintings on the underside of arches in the nave, again of disputed date, but probably from style and content 12th century, with some much later additions. Vegetal designs to portray the world and angels like archangel Michael are perhaps the most striking. St Germain of Auxerre, the scourge of Pelagianism, is also portrayed. One of the panels bears tiny details of a fleur-de-lys and hermine, symbols of France and Brittany.

Afterwards, it was really a day fit only for eating pizza with a friend in Loudeac. So I did just that.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Here it is!


The Stolen Saint, my new novel set in a Breton village, will be published on December 1st. Details of pre-order to come shortly.

Monday, October 12, 2020


Today was the first really autumnal day of the year, with a mist stretching over the lake and town early this morning. I went out in search of seasonal colour in the forest this afternoon and found it before the rain set in. My novel is all finished now so I have time to reignite the landscape connection that inspires all my work. 

I can't believe someone asked me this morning 'What's next?' Rest, rest, rest. I will have had three books out this year in December. Surely that's enough by any author's standards. But there is a great void now after the intense work of the last six months. I began The Stolen Saint in March during the confinement and actually managed to work consistently through the summer which is usually a non-productive time for me. Still, it was lovely to walk today without the sense of pressure and need to hurry back to the keyboard. And the forest was magical.