Phil Rickman calls on us on our first evening in Ross

July 4, 2011 at 6:53 pm (books, Mystery fiction, To Britain and back 2011)

In the depths of the English countryside, a place hard to find in guidebooks and hard to pinpoint on a map, we encountered a rockin’ night out with the local teenagers!

  There we were on our first night at The Chase, a (presumably) staid English country house hotel in the town of Ross on Wye, when a high school prom got underway on the grounds of the establishment. The event went forward with the riotous exuberance that typifies such occasions. In addition, another fairly large and noisy party was making use of  the adjacent bar area. The place was jumping.

It was against this somewhat distracting backdrop that Phil Rickman came to speak to our group. Rickman is the creator of a unique and intriguing protagonist: Merrily Watkins. Merrily is a deliverance consultant for the Church of England. In former times, she would have been called an exorcist. Whatever it is called, it’s a post she’s assumed with some reluctance. It’s bad enough having to fight in the first place for credibility as a female minister. Add to that her dealings with situations that seem to involve the paranormal and the supernatural, and Merrily’s status as a serious professional is questioned even further. It is not, however, the skepticism of others that is her chief difficulty: rather, it’s her  own doubt and uncertainty that are the real problem.

In the course of writing the novels in this series, Phil Rickman has spoken to a number of actual deliverance consultants. He tells some fascinating tales gleaned from these interviews, though he is invariably discreet with regard to their source. He himself is persuasive when it comes to paranormal – or at least, putatively paranormal – phenomena. He is well acquainted with the ghosts haunting the Welsh borders, and with the true crimes that have happened there as well.

From left to right: Valerie, a member of our group; Pam, our superb Blue Badge Guide, Kathy Ackley, who put the excursion together; Nicky, the tour manager (and also a Blue Badge Guide); and Phil Rickman

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