If it’s Halloween it must be time for spooky stories

A.J.Hartley pictured by the Cold Bath Street sign
A.J.Hartley pictured by the Cold Bath Street sign

The Preston Book Group welcomes two famous authors to UCLan tomorrow. Fiona Finch catches up with ‘Cold Bath Street’ author A. J. Hartley and Book Group founder Lucy Sunderland.

It is almost Halloween and your thoughts, especially if you have children, may be turning to spooky stories, trick or treating and pumpkin lanterns.

Lucy Sunderland, founder of Preston Book Group

Lucy Sunderland, founder of Preston Book Group

In the case of Preston Book Club founder Lucy Sunderland her thoughts are turning to local tales and that hinterland between fiction, fact, imagination and location which can make for compulsive reading.

Lucy will be joined by two well known authors with local links at UCLan tomorrow evening (Tuesday, October 29).

She is delighted to be welcoming A.J. Hartley, author of the Preston based novel ‘Cold Bath Street’ as its sequel, ‘Written Stone Lane’, is published by UCLan’s own independent publishing house.

Former Blackpool Sixth former teacher and author of the famous ‘Spooks’ and ‘Aberrations’ series Joseph Delaney is her other guest.

Joseph Delaney, author of the 'Spooks'  and 'Aberrations' series

Joseph Delaney, author of the 'Spooks' and 'Aberrations' series

Lucy, a customer and technical support assistant at UCLan, says she will be quizzing them about their writing and “the myths and legends around Preston”.

The former student at the city’s Newman College, who has a degree in primary education from the University of Chester, explained why she founded her own book club: “I couldn't find anything like it. All the other book groups I found either focused on classics or books I wasn’t that bothered about.”

She wanted a more inclusive club which allowed people to turn up and enjoy an event: “I don’t really like having to commit to something before I’ve gone there. A lot you have to email. I wanted to either turn up or join a Facebook group so I made one exactly like that.”

Lucy, who graduated with a degree in primary education from the University of Chester, reports she was certainly not an avid reader when a pupil at Bishop Rawstorne school in Croston: “I never liked reading at school. The minute I left I couldn’t put a book down.”

Part of the front cover of A.J. Hartley's new novel 'Written Stone Lane'

Part of the front cover of A.J. Hartley's new novel 'Written Stone Lane'

To date the Preston Book Group has welcomed UCLan Publishing authors, local writers and self published authors. Lucy, 25, said: “My main aim is to get authors in Preston because everyone seems to bypass us and they go through Liverpool and Manchester and never Preston.”

Of event she said: “I think I’ll be asking them about the inspirations ... about which myths and legend inspired them as teenagers.”

Preston born A.J.Hartley (Andrew) who was brought up in Ribbleton now lives in America and enjoys the eminence of being listed on the New York Times' bestseller list in addition to being a university academic. He is renowned for his numerous mystery/thriller, fantasy, historical fiction and young adult novels.

He is the Robinson Professor of Shakespeare Studies at the University of North Carolina and specialises in performance history, theory and criticism of Renaissance English drama. He also work as a director and dramaturg.

It was in March 2018 that the best selling young adult thriller 'Cold Bath Street’ was published, drawing its name from a street near UCLan and including references to local landmarks such as the Miley Tunnel. Such is the local fan base for this Honorary Fellow of UCLan that there were queues at Waterstones bookshop on Sunday when he attended a book signing of its ‘Written Stone Lane’ sequel.

For the author it was also something of a homecoming. He explained: “I left Preston to go to university and I went to Japan for a couple of years. Then I came back to Preston. I actually worked at Waterstones briefly. Then I went to the U.S. for graduate school and have been gone since.”

His mother lives in Longridge so family, book signings and academic work in the U.K, bring him back regularly. The new book draws on childhood memories and local ghost stories and also includes such local landmarks as Waterstones' predecessor the Booths cafe/restaurant, Preston Bus Station and the Wellington pub in Glover’s Court.

He recalled: “My mother was born and raised in Longridge so we used to go there quite a bit. Longridge was our gateway to the countryside as kids we used to go out there and as scouts we used to go hiking in that area around Longridge and Chipping. I had grown up knowing about The Written Stone, I remember my grandma telling me stories about it when I was quite young so we used to go periodically and look at it. It’s a big slab of sandstone with an inscription “Ravffe Radcliffe laid this stone to lye forever.”

The stone is dated A.D. 1655.

“There are lots of legends about why it came here and why it’s there in the first place. Most of the stories I grew up with covered what happened when people tried to move it...the stone is still there. The stone itself is not the easiest thing in the world to find - there are a lot of people who know of it, but haven’t actually seen it.”

As for the inclusion of Preston’s Wellington pub he said: “That’s the source of another good ghost story.”

The pub opened in the 1830s and the following year a murder took place there. Andrew was shown round by the landlord as part of his research for the novel. He said: “The book is set in 1978, (the time of) my own adolescence in Preston so I really wanted to get as much of it right as I could.”

He describes his new book as a “true sequel” to ‘Cold Bath Street’ and said: “The last two lines of book one are the first two lines of book two. It begins immediately.”

• The Preston Book Group's Tuesday, October 29 event starts in the Harrington Social Space at 6.15pm and the talk will be in the Harrington Lecture Theatre. To book tickets see Eventbrite and Preston Book Group.

• UCLan Publishing is an independent award-winning publishing house run by students and graduates. It also published ‘Cold Bath Street’. UCLan Publishing has won the Independent Publisher of the Year (Newcomer) and The Times Higher Award for Innovation in the Arts.