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Knock Knock…Anyone There?

I’m delighted (and still a little amazed) to finally announce that my next book, The Knock-Knock Man, will be published on 19th May 2022 through Red Door Press. It has been a long, long road to get it to this stage, and it’s consumed my life far more than it should have done. But it’s here, it’s done, and I can breathe again. And then start writing something new, and go through it all again. I will forever be grateful to Clare Christian at Red Door for having enough faith in my ghoulish creation to give it life.

The book deals with faith too. Faith and family, redemption and revenge. And ghosts. Maybe. Part crime thriller, a little bit of a detective mystery, with a healthy slash of folk horror, The Knock-Knock Man asks whether you should be more afraid of ghosts or humans.

Here’s the blurb for the book –

Who is The Knock-Knock Man? A ghost, a killer, or the figment of a frightened boy’s imagination?

It is a question that continues to haunt disgraced New Salstone police officer, Ali Davenport, fifteen months after the devastating case that changed the course of her life. Now, after the death of her former colleague, Ernie, Ali has returned home to face a past that won’t stay buried. 

Found in the disused office building where he worked as night security, Ernie’s death has been ruled as a suicide. But not everyone is convinced. Wild stories are circulating about a supernatural presence in the building, an entity that might have attacked Ernie that fateful night. With the sale of the building about to go through, Ali is hired by its owner to work Ernie’s remaining night shifts and debunk the potentially damaging story. An easy enough job, if you don’t believe in ghosts. But then Ali meets Will, a teenage ghost hunter who claims to have evidence on film…

Forming an unlikely partnership, Ali and Will soon fall headlong into a mystery that takes them through New Salstone’s macabre history and into Ali’s own dark past. As the pieces of the puzzle come together, Ali is forced to face the question of The Knock-Knock Man one last time. But what Ali doesn’t know is The Knock-Knock Man has already been watching her for a very long time…

And if you like that, you can read the (very short) prologue too, right here

And if you’re still here, then this is the cover (designed by Patrick Knowles)

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I’ve been lucky to secure three jacket endorsements from three of my favourite writers too – Lucie McKnight Hardy (author of the short story collection Dead Relatives, and the sublime novel Water Shall Refuse Them) the legend that is Stephen Volk (Ghostwatch) and queen of noir, Cathi Unsworth (Weirdo, Bad Penny Blues) It still feels vaguely surreal that they even agreed to read it, let alone offer quotes and I’m hugely grateful (and relieved) that they liked it.

A sharp, chilling mystery with tremendously engaging characters, written in taut prose with occasional stabs of acerbic wit, this thriller with a dark heart is a real treat. I loved it and genuinely couldn’t put it down – Stephen Volk

A beguiling blend of the supernatural and crime fiction that kept me on my toes until the very end – Lucie McKnight Hardy

Russell Mardell has fashioned a hugely original and totally terrifying folk horror noir from the rich ingredients of the Wiltshire countryside – a landscape steeped in ancient mystery, ancestral sin, class exploitation and superstition – that has both contemporary resonance and the echo of the timeless. A land where both Dennis and Ben Wheatley meet and fear of the supernatural is only matched by the evil that men do – Cathi Unsworth

More to come on the novel soon. If you want to pre-order The Knock-Knock Man you can do so right now from all the usual places. If you want to grab a copy, please consider supporting your local indie (this is good advice in all things) and if you want a special signed edition of the book, you can pre-order one right now from the mighty Rocketship Bookshop – here.


Book 6 on the horizon of a creative wasteland

Well, after four (FOUR!) years, I can finally say that book 6 is ready for people’s eyes. Though anyone expecting a doorstop novel will be disappointed, it is a mere 91k and change. Nor does the ridiculously long writing period mean it is some intricately plotted, multi-layered and painstakingly researched story, either. I mean, it has a plot, some layers and I did do some research, but nothing that warranted four years worth of work. What is it then? Well, there’s still a little debate on that too. It’s both a folk horror and a crime novel, it has elements of a detective novel, a mystery and a supernatural noir too. I like a mash up.

I was lucky enough to study with Curtis Brown Creative on their 6 month online novel writing course back in 2017, taught by the wonderful Suzannah Dunn, and it was here where the book began. Work-shopping with my fellow students helped me find the right path for the story and the best way to structure it. In terms of coming out the other side with a better novel, it was an invaluable experience. It also proved to be quite a successful group too – at time of writing, Lori Kaufmann, Sarah Daniels, and Hiron Ennes all have books either out or imminent. Fairly confident there will be others to follow. Not bad for a group of 15. More recently I returned to Curtis Brown Creative and joined their mentorship programme, working with Queen of London Noir, Cathi Unsworth. Cathi was brilliant to work with, and for a novel that blends crime and the supernatural, it was hard to think of anyone better to help guide it into shape. With some tough love, and a lot of laughs, Cathi helped me take a scalpel to it and kill my darlings. Though I’m not sure ‘darlings’ is the right word in this instance. I don’t miss any of the little bastards yet.

So, while my work with CBC and the inevitable agent dance that followed each occasion, can account for a fraction of those four years, it barely scratches the surface. In truth, the reason it has taken so long was an infestation of creative malaise and a shattering of self-confidence. Where did it come from? No idea. But it was swiftly followed by 2020, and then that was that. No banana bread baking or learning a musical instrument for me. What was left of my creativity went and hid in some dark place. Can’t blame it, I spent most of last year wanting to do the same. Short stories were started and left, desire deleted by doubt. Editing continued on book 6 but only half-heartedly, new stories were roughed out, characters created and then left in their half-formed lives in the pages of a notebook. What I first put down to laziness soon became something else. It was, it was fair to say, almost crippling. And I can’t really explain it. For most of last year, with all the horrors going on in the world, it also seemed monumentally self-indulgent and pathetic to even think about it. It just didn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. I even struggled to read much, and rather strangely, when I did read I tended to find comfort in darker books (favourite recent reads: Water Shall Refuse Them by Lucie McKnight Hardy, Some Will Not Sleep by Adam Nevill and Starve Acre by Andrew Michael Hurley) Not sure what that says. Not sure I should question it.

I stopped watching the news so obsessively a while ago, as the general feeling of helplessness that it generated wasn’t, well, helping. Short of getting jabbed, wearing a mask and not acting like a dick, there was very little it seemed I could offer. So, concentrating on my own pathetic issues of creativity and self-doubt have, in some ways, become a bit of a coping mechanism. And I’m trying not to feel guilty about that. The big picture remains overwhelming, I guess it will for some time, so why not try and fix the small pictures in your life and hope that they, eventually, have the cumulative effect of looking good enough to you, and those in your life, that they are worth hanging on the wall. It’s all most of us have got.

While a lot of my life remains a work in progress, at least the next novel isn’t. It’s done, I love it, and that’s not a bad place to start again. In many ways this post is more an exercise for me to write something again, than it is a need to say anything meaningful. It’s the first thing I’ve written in nearly a year and that in itself feels like a small achievement. So thank you for reading it. Time to revisit those short stories now, I think.

As for book 6, well, more on that soon…

Live Out Loud – A thank you to Augustines

‘Live out loud and do what you gotta do, ain’t no one keeping score, this is your life’

Augustines have always had the right words at the right time. They have been my go-to band for nearly six years now. If in doubt, Augustines will sort you out. It’s a really special thing when you find a band like that. I suppose it’s also quite easy to get complacent and take it for granted. You find a band like Augustines, so vital and honest and full of life, and you see a gig and realise you are in the presence of the greatest live band of their generation, and not just that but everyone else there in that venue are all in on it too, and have the same elated looks on their faces, then why wouldn’t you think that these three guys would carry on forever? I don’t know much about the music industry – though in hindsight I’m seeing some uncomfortable parallels with the publishing world, so maybe I should have known – but when, last month, they announced they were calling it a day and embarking on their last tour, I was totally floored. It wasn’t just a naivety about the industry; it was also, on a personal level, a moment that made me question what the hell I was doing in my own career.

12717896_569476829889866_8121104816261347966_nI wrote a bit in my latest novel, Cold Calling, about the band, mentioning the first tour I saw them on. I’d been thinking a lot about that time. That wonderful feeling you get when you find a band that you know you’re invested in completely. It was no surprise, I suppose, because their music soundtracked the writing of the book, their lyrics even appeared at the start. Yeah, Augustines had been on my mind a lot.


Augustines started around the time of my first novel, and as such I have always associated them with that part of my career. They have just always been there, making everything okay. Indeed it was through that first book that I got to meet Todd Howe – probably the band’s biggest champion – and then subsequently, through Todd’s recommendation, I found Bill, Eric and Rob. I saw them first in London, supporting The Boxer Rebellion, in, I think, March 2011. So in awe of what we saw then, my brother and I accosted Billy in the bar after and just hugged him. He didn’t seem to mind, or at least was polite enough not to say. It was just an instinctive thing. Had to do it. (It should also be noted that Augustines are probably the most huggable band around too.) From that gig on we were in. Totally signed up to planet Augustines.

When I interviewed Billy just after that first gig, he sent me a short tweet and told me he wouldn’t quit if I didn’t. A little thing, and I’m sure he has said the same to many other people struggling to follow their dream – follow your heart, live your life, do your thing your own beautiful way, that has been a message Augustines have sung from the start. But that short tweet was a big thing for me. When you consider the almighty shit that they have had to put up with, the heartache, and the knock-backs that dogged their early years, and the strength they have needed to keep going, that they were doing their own beautiful thing, and not just that, they were doing it with great big smiles on their faces and one huge joyous heart, then it really put my own pathetic little setbacks into perspective. It inspired me no end. It was never just the music, it wasn’t just the poetic, soul grabbing lyrics, it was also those three men on stage. Possibly the nicest band you could meet. A band that truly gave themselves to everything they did. No half measures, they left it all out there on the stage or in the recording studio. Some bands seem to copy and paste what they do, drift along with not much to say, but saying it anyway. There is an artifice to a lot of people. A fragility. People are scared to say anything, looking for a role to fit – rinse, recycle and repeat, never getting out of second gear. Never Augustines. They landed in fifth gear, fully formed, and never settled for anything less. That level of commitment does gain a lot of love, and I hope, I think, their fans have given it back to them too. Family is a big thing in the Augustines world, and that is how it feels following them, and meeting other fans – it feels like we are all a part of the Augustines family. Sometimes you don’t get to see family as much as you’d like, but they’re still there. They will always be there.

It’s always a struggle to create art, and live. People will always appreciate artists, maybe be envious of them, or aspire to be like them, and maybe it’s the struggle that sorts out the committed from the dreamers, maybe it needs to be there. It’s never been easy to create things – music, poetry, books, films – but I think that we live in a world now where the value of such things has been skewed. People equate creating art to fame. It’s easy to be famous; maybe that’s what has devalued the currency of art. Or maybe it’s the currency itself. It’s a hard thing to constantly keep pushing that piano up the hill when all you want to do is be allowed to sit and play it. It’s hard to do that when you’re twenty, let alone when you’re forty. Particularly if, like me, you can’t actually play the piano.

I took some time after Cold Calling, to think about whether I wanted to keep doing it. Was the shit, the disappointment, that continued pushing of the piano, really worth it? Truth is, it probably isn’t, but it’s also true that sometimes you don’t have much choice in the matter. You do these things because you have to, you don’t stop because someone tells you you should, or people litter obstacles in your way. You take a slip road, you go under or over or around, it doesn’t matter, the destination is still the same. I’m sure that is what Bill, Eric and Rob will do. It is the end of a chapter, not the story.

10847650_416026528568231_1549714607997026554_oI’m very lucky to be an associate producer on Todd’s forthcoming documentary about them – Rise, and believe me, it is going to be a wondrous experience, and a beautiful celebration. So I get to play a tiny little part in their legacy and that makes me very proud.

I’m incredibly honored also that Billy let me use some Chapel Song lyrics in Cold Calling. I will never tire of seeing them there, nor of people telling me that either the lyrics or the brief bit in the novel about them, has made them go and check them out. Following the band from pub, to club, to the Roundhouse has also given me a lot of wonderful memories. You can’t really miss something that will always be there, and there are three records, three masterpieces, that will always be cherished. It helps to make you realise that it is more important to be happy you found them, than to be upset that they have gone. That’s a pretty good way to look at most things in life.

That I was in that period of indecision and doubt about my writing when Augustines made their announcement, I found it really hit home. I continue to question what I’m doing, or rather why I’m doing it, but I suspect I always will.

Being at Augustines final London show earlier this month was joyous, it was uplifting, it was heartfelt; everything an Augustines show always was. And then, towards the end, as Ballard of a Patient Man ended, and before Are We Alive began, Billy took to the mic and said ‘‘If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that you’ve got to live out loud and do what you gotta do, ain’t no one keeping score, this is your life’

Damn right. See, Augustines always have the right words.

(Photos & Video via Todd Howe)


Christmas book offer – signed Bleeker Hill paperbacks + extras


Now, Bleeker Hill may not be the obvious choice for a festive read, but it does feature a lot of snow, some men with beards and a lot of miserable adults, so that is a tenuous enough link in my book. So how about a little Christmas extra if you are considering buying literature for your loved ones? I’m offering a paperback edition of Bleeker Hill – signed or personalised if you wish – and to go with it I have a limited number of Bleeker Hill bookmarks and double sided A5 posters. £7.99 with free postage to Europe (outside of Europe please add £5)

If you want a copy you can pay by Paypal with payment to – russellmardell AT hotmail DOT com – please state in the message box what payment is for and if you would like it signed.

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