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Another Bloody Retreat

Newsletter: February 2018

Dear web friend

Forgive this intrusion – probably hasty and ill-judged – but I want you to be the first to know: there’s a new Abbot Peter out and about.

Over 20 years ago, I wrote three desert novellas set in the sands and rocks of Middle-Egypt; and it was in these that the character of Abbot Peter first appeared.

He has since moved to Stormhaven, of course, and become something of a detective. But his formation was in the hot sands of Sinai, and so – hounded by various readers – I have returned to the most popular of the novellas, Desert Ascent, done a bit of a re-write, (quite a lot, actually) and offer it to you now as Another Bloody Retreat.

It is perhaps my most consciously autobiographical book, drawing on my 20 years as a parish priest, as the abbot tries to lead a community through difficult times, beset by disintegration and hope, savagery and kindness.

Here’s the back cover blurb:

‘Peter, you spent over twenty years of your life in the desert?’ says Rosemary.

‘I did, yes.’

‘So what was it… well, what was it like?’

And, in a way, this book is his answer.

In the first of the acclaimed Abbot Peter mysteries – a prequel to his Stormhaven adventures – Peter takes us back to the monastery of St James-the-Less. It’s a fragile community in the hot sands of Middle Egypt, peopled by those with nowhere else to take their creaking lives. And there in the shadows of Mt Sinai Peter faces a discomforting cocktail of deception, delusion and death.

The monastery is already threatened with closure, due to rationalisation. But when a harsh and unpredictable maniac comes to call, peoples’ very lives are under threat.

Suddenly, ordered religious practice is disordered, leaving no one unaffected. As events come to a traumatic climax, all have to question their beliefs and make decisions about their lives… including Abbot Peter.

‘It was interesting,’ replies the abbot to Rosemary. ‘A slightly bloody retreat.’

Brief reviews

‘I think the book should be banned before it does the image of religion some serious damage.’ – Ian Hislop, Private Eye, Have I Got News for You

‘Genuinely funny, tenderly serious – a delightful small novel.’ – Sara Maitland, author of A Book of Silence

‘If you’re after a surprising, disturbing, profound, witty magical mystery tour, then this book is for you.’ – Simon Mayo, radio presenter, author

So there we are. You may wisely wish to ignore everything you’ve just read, and get back to your hang gliding, fence maintenance, hot yoga… or shopping list. But just in case there’s a tiny spark of interest, some strange love for the abbot, click here… His desert story could be yours.



I sign off with my fingers cold from this heartless yet invigorating Scandinavian wind.

Until soon…

Simon x

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