While I go through the usual mix of frustration and bad mood that hits me when I have a new story (or a series of stories, really) growing, I am spending my nights reading The Chalice, a supernatural thriller by British author Phil Rickman.
I first discovered Rickman in the ’90s with the novel The Man in the Moss, and I had acquired his whole back catalog of standalone horrors a few months back. Rickman can be classified, probably, as folk horror, and he’s very good – tight, twisting plots, interesting characters, and a strong sense of place.
The Chalice is set in Glastonbury, the alternative spirituality capital of the UK, and hinges on a number of local legends and historical characters. It is a fun read, and it also struck a strange chord.
I was born and grew up in Turin, Italy’s most haunted city (sorry Rome, we got there first), a city that always boasted… well, maybe boasted is the wrong word, but always had its fair share of crackpots, mediums, cult leaders, conspiracy theorists, reincarnated Egyptian princesses, and people that talked to the angels, or to the aliens. And while the alternative population of Turin was never so open and visible, compared to the one in Glastonbury as described by Rickman, indeed in the ’70s and ’80s the impression of living in a weird place was very strong. And right now with the ensuing crisis, I’ve seen a return of this sort of pre-New Age magic thinking. It’s weird.