I started this story with a frisson of concern, as it featured a couple visiting England from the USA, and was clearly focussing on some very English settings and characters, and getting that right (or ‘spot on’) can be a very difficult thing for non-Brits.
Fortunately my concerns were unfounded, as Smale (as I found after reading the story) is British by birth, and was quite the chap to handle the story. He takes a peek at the old English ‘green man’ of folk lore and legend, the ‘foliate face’ that adorns many churches and old buildings. Smale postulates a leonine background to the legend, and the drama revolves around it being very much more than just a legend.
The story progresses well through the relationship between the protagonist Richard (also British by birth) and his young American girlfriend, Corinne. Their relationship isn’t going well, and as her research into the green man legend trips over into the obsessive, the outlook for their relationship looks bleak.
The English setting and characters are portrayed well, and I can vouchsafe (I feel that it’s appropriate to be vouchsafing in this context) that the tourist guide is an exact match for a number of the tourist guides I know (but not the one I’m married to) in the pleasant spot in England in which I live, which is England’s oldest recorded town, once Roman capital of England. I mention that as Smale has a series of Alternate History novels set against a backdrop of the Roman Empire not collapsing as it did. It’s worth noting that for many people the Roman Empire may seem a dusty thing from history texts, but when you’re walking along Roman roads, and alongside Roman walls, the shadows and the ghosts of the Roman Empire are very much amongst you.
More from this issue here.