The Curse Of Nineveh
An author whose research has been published as horror fiction.
Iain is 24 years old, with dark hair and a very “tanned” smooth skin. He has deep brown eyes, and is quite slight in his build.
Without the funds for “smart” clothing, he dresses practically as a working man, with one oddity being his strange “peaked cap” that isn’t quite military in nature, which he has a tendency to wear whenever he is out and about.
He tends to be quiet, and not socialise until he is comfortable with you. He can also be quite outspoken when pushed.
No one that has known Iain for any length of time can miss either his contempt for organised religion, or his clear love (some might say addiction) to coffee
In the latter years of the 19th century, Patrick Swan, a newly ordained catholic priest was sent off on mission into the far reaches of the Pacific rim to try and steal a march on the world wide encroachment of the Church of England spreading through the world on the back of the British Empire.
Despite being British himself, Patrick had Irish roots, and his wider family were from Burr in central Ireland, and thus the catholic faith was seen as the right and true vocation for a third son. However Patrick’s missionary work didn’t quite turn out the way he has expected.
After many months of travel and preaching, Patrick found himself standing on a golden beach, surrounded by palm trees on one of the smaller Hawaiian Islands. This was to be his place of mission, to establish an outpost of the Catholic Church.
Whilst he was well received into the native community, no one was willing to pay heed to his preaching, his isolation grew, and his sense of failure ate into him. Until one day he was approached by an elder who had a grasp of English, and was told that if he wanted his “stories” to be heard, he needed to become part of the tribe, this meant marrying a local woman.
Now as a Catholic Priest, Patrick had taken an oath or celibacy, but he felt that he would be fine if he took a wife by local custom, but never took it any further. That thought did not last past his wedding night, and just over nine months later, his first daughter Mary was born. Two years later Elizabeth was born, but didn’t live past her first year. Faith, the third daughter was born in 1899.
Then in 1900 Patrick received the call to return to England and report on his mission, with dread of the impending disaster, Patrick arranged all of his travel plans, fully intending to leave and return alone, but that was not the way the tribe were willing to accept, and so the long journey home began with his tribal wife and two daughters.
On the journey home, his wife fell pregnant again, and not long after returning home, on the 22nd January 1901, two things happened. Queen Victoria died, and Patrick’s only son Iain was born. His tribal wife died in a London sanatorium from complications in the birth two weeks later. Finally the Catholic Church accepted Patrick’s return, but not his family situation, and sent him to the parish of Lewes in Sussex where he resides to this day, living as a Catholic Priest in the most stanch anti-Catholic community in England.
It is into this strange world that Iain Swan grew up, ever the outsider. The strange circumstances of his parentage, and his Catholic upbringing were already guaranteed to mark him out, but his noticeably dusky skin tone just added to his isolation.
Having had no memory of his mother, or her place of birth, the only memento he has is his mother’s shell necklace, which is a treasured possession that he keeps around his neck at all times. It is a link with a place and a life he will never know.
Despite the many things going against him, Iain was a bright child that excelled at school, and eventually is won a scholarship to Cambridge, where he read History and Theology. Whilst at Cambridge he was disturbed to discover through his own research how much of the historical truth and the theological truth could be at odds, and this led him onto a new path.
Whilst Cambridge wasn’t always the kindest place to him, especially with his “outsider” pedigree, it was where he met Hilary.
As a member of the aristocracy, and a renowned socialite, Hilary wasn’t a natural friend for Iain, but it was due to Professor Archer that the two met. As an exceptional research pupil in his second year, Iain was asked if he could aid a fist year in historical research, and Hilary and Iain were thrown together, and they have remained as friends ever since.
In his final year, Iain’s research defined the structure and content of his dissertation, he called is “A factual challenge to the role of the Catholic Church in the Crusades”. It was a clear challenge of historic church doctrine in relation to the rights to the territories called the “Holy Land” on religious grounds.
The work was received well in the History Faculty, and Iain was awarded a First for his work. However, there were serious political arguments between university faculties following the reading of the dissertation, and the publication of the work by the Cambridge University Press was eventually blocked. No reason was provided, but it was clear that there were powers that be in the Theology Faculty that did not want to be seen to challenge the historic rights of the church.
Despite the many ups and downs of the years at university, Cambridge is still a place that he finds calming, and he is well respected by several his tutors for his unflinching desire to fine the truth. For Iain it is still a place that he will return to when researching his books.
It was Iain’s desire to understand the factual links between his historical and theological research that led to him publishing books about historical possession, witchcraft and general tales of the paranormal. Iain wrote the books as a bringing together of historical fact around the legends of the past, but his publisher saw a greater market for the work, and published the works as a form of horror fiction.
Although Iain was upset when he discovered that the factual accounts which he had researched were sold by his publisher as horror fiction, the money has left him comfortable, and his work is being read. It also allows him to continue to do his research, and allows him to remain away from his father in Sussex.
Iain now lives alone in a rented flat above a coffee shop in Balham which makes a good base for his writing, and for engaging in lively conversation with other drinkers over coffee.
Iain’s Early Books
His first three books were all short pulp publications. In each Iain has an author’s note that puts the story being told into historical context. This is something that he insisted upon, to allow his publisher to produce the books as horror fiction.
The Hut for Witches:
Based in the late medieval period in Northern Europe, this tells the tale of a young man that is apprenticed to a witch-finder. He follows the exploits of his master through various provinces, hunting down, judging and usually despatching those that ply witchcraft.
The story challenges the received wisdom that witches were “old women”, reviling witchcraft being conducted by men and women, young and old. The story reaches a climax when the apprentice becomes the master following the grizzly death of the witch-finder by a particularly ferocious coven.
Of course, as in all good stories, as his first act as the new witch-finder the once apprentice manages to exact his revenge for the demise of his former master, and leaves the tale with a new apprentice in tow.
Based in Spain and North Africa at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, this story revolves around a scribe to the inquisitors whose job it is to document the interrogations, the confessions, and the judgements.
The story follows a succession demonic possessions, with the tales of one, leading to the next in the chain, slowing taking the inquisitors towards the source of the demonic activity.
The closer to the centre of the demonic possession, the more gruesome the approach to “de-possession”. Eventually the inquisitors make it to what they believe are the source of the demonic activity, in a small Moorish village in North Africa. Rather than take the chance of being exposed directly to demons, the story ends with the inquisitors setting a ring of fire around the village, to consume all that lie within.
The Devil in the East:
Set during the second great crusade, this is the tale of a young knight that rides east across Europe to face the enemies of the Catholic Church that are holding Constantinople.
However, as he travels East he becomes plagued with dreams of the Devil riding over him, and crushing all those around him. As a crusader knight of the time, he seeks solace as reassurance from the priests that accompany the crusade, and they assure him that the Devil is testing him for weakness, and that he should remain strong in the faith of God.
On the eve of battle, the dreams come more vivid than ever, and the young knight can no longer contain his fear. In the dead of night, he escapes the camp, leaving behind his horse, armour and weapons, and walks into the nearby hills.
It is on the following morning, having slept rough amongst the leaves of nearby wooded hill, that he is awoken by the sounds of rumbling. He heads to the brow of the hill, and looks across the camp that he left in the night. As he watches, he sees a horde on horseback, blazing red helmets, and carrying brands of fire, descend upon the still waking camp. He turns and runs into the hills with the sounds of death ringing in his ears.
Things have changed with Iain since he became embroiled in the events that started at The Wentworth Club.
Iain now finds himself questioning his own beliefs for the second time in his life. So sure was he that he was right in his assertions around historic fact over superstition and myth, that he finds it difficult not only to rationalise his own recent experience, but even more so, the tales of those around him that he now calls friends.
Worse still, the events have only appeared to drive a bigger wedge between him and his father, leaving Iain more remote from his family than ever.
With his injuries needing to heal, he took the time to complete his latest manuscript for his publisher, however this work was a major shift away from his previous stories.
“Shadow over London” is based in London at the end of the 19th century, it is written entirely in the first person. The protagonist, who never names himself, tells the tale of what he sees, and of what his fellow investigators (two ex-service men from the first Boer War, and two academics from London) tell him of their experiences.
With a story centred on strange goings on in London’s British Museum, and in particular around an exhibition of Assyrian and Mesopotamian antiquities that was recently installed. Although the protagonist is often at the centre of the story, many things are actually told to the reader as second hand accounts. Most frustrating, or perhaps intriguing, for many readers, is that the protagonist isn’t present for the end of the story, and in many ways the tale is left hanging.
Also as a departure from previous books, Iain has offered no author’s note on any historical context. In its place is a simple dedication that reads:
“For Hilary. One day I hope to repay the debt I owe you”
Although the critics thought the story was a little too far-fetched, the book appears to have caught the public imagination, and offered Iain a small dose of fame and notoriety in equal measure. It has also increased the footfall into the British Museum