UNDER THE ROCK
The Poetry of a Place
Publication date: 17 May 2018
Price: £14.99 hardback
Benjamin Myers’ dark, atmospheric novels are deservedly cult classics, widely celebrated by critics and other writers. This work of non-fiction, Under the Rock, is a bold and original exploration of nature and literature that establishes him firmly among the first ranks of Britain’s most exciting writers of landscape and place.
Carved from the valley side above Mytholmroyd in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and flat weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable, to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves would hide out; where the town tip once sat, suicides leapt to their death and the asbestos that claimed so many lives was buried in the soil. Scout Rock is also the subject of Ted Hughes’s 1963 essay ‘The Rock’, in which the poet describes growing up across the valley from “my spiritual midwife…both the curtain and backdrop to existence.”
Into this beautiful, dark and complex landscape steps Benjamin Myers, asking: are unremarkable places made remarkable by the minds that map them? The result is a lyrical and unflinching investigation into nature, literature, history, memory and the very meaning of place in modern Britain.
Benjamin Myers was born in Durham in 1976. He is a prize-winning author, journalist and poet. His recent novels form a series of works, each of which is set in a different county of northern England, and are heavily inspired by rural landscapes, mythology, marginalised characters, morality, class, nature, dialect and post-industrialisation. They include The Gallows Pole (2017), which received the Roger Deakin Award; Turning Blue (2016); Beastings (2014) which won the Portico Prize For Literature and the Northern Writers’ Award and was longlisted for a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award 2015; Pig Iron (2012), which won the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize and was runner-up in The Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize; and Richard (2010), a Sunday Times book of the year.
As a journalist, he has written about music, arts and nature for publications including The Guardian, New Statesman, Mojo, Caught By The River and New Scientist. In 2017 he was selected as writer for the International Literature Showcase. He lives in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire and is available for interview.
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PRAISE FOR BENJAMIN MYERS:
“[The Gallows Pole is] one of my books of the year” – Robert MacFarlane, The Big Issue
“Riveting, raw … alarming and unforgettable” – Rob Cowen
“I have become a Benjamin Myers junkie … Myers’ place-writing is as good as anything being scrawled in Britain today” – Horatio Clare
“The Gallows Pole may well turn out to be 2017’s His Bloody Project. It’s a windswept, brutal tale of eighteenth-century Yorkshire told in starkly beautiful prose” – Alex Preston, The Guardian
“Terrific: illuminating, gripping and deeply rooted in its setting. The description of a popular uprising against the rich establishment has many links with our current political climate that makes it thought-provoking and vital” – Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun
“Myers is the master of English rural noir” – Paul Kingsnorth, author of The Wake and Beast
“Myers’ captivating tale of the Cragg Vale Coiners is as wild and full of life – in all its beauty and brutality – as stags on the Yorkshire moors” – Wyl Menmuir, author of the The Many
“You can smell the rot, feel the wet weight of mud on your skin, hear the birdsong, muttered threats and prayers to old gods…reel at the dizzying depths of history Myers finds in a scrap of land; the intoxicating, exhilarating mines of buried epics he discovers” – Niall Griffiths
“His prose is beautifully controlled and so graphic it’s impossible not to picture the scenes he conjures up in striking detail. There is no hiding place from the darkness because the writing is so damned good” – Val McDermid
“A glass of whisky, fireplace, rain-lashing-the-window sort of book. Make the whisky cask strength” – Cynan Jones, author of The Dig and Cove