Autobiographical Defenders of Guernsey Guernsey Prose

‘Defenders of Guernsey’ now on kindle

I have revised ‘Defenders of Guernsey’. This second edition, for an 8-to-adult age is now available on Kindle.

As a child my grandparents lived in a road in Guernsey called La rue des Grons. When I lived there as a child, and then stayed with my grandparents on every school holiday the few streetlights went off at 10.30. It was very dark and definitely spooky. Just down the road was a spot that my grandfather, David Marquis, used to zoom past at night. This place was known as Le coin de La Biche (the goat’s corner) and was rumoured to be haunted by the apparition of an enormous nanny goat.

Still the most authoritative book on Guernsey folklore, Folklore of Guernsey by Marie DeGaris devotes a few paragraphs to the giant red-eyed beast and its fearsome sightings, one of which scared a 16 year old girl to death.  I was always happy about La Biche, as it’s not everyone lucky enough to have a star of folklore living a hundred yards or so down the road.

I’ve been working on a children’s character called Skelton Yawngrave for some time. I am now on the sixth draft of a novel which features him. However, when I was invited to the first Guernsey literary festival in 2011 to talk to some children, I thought I would write a longish (13,000 word) short story called Defenders of Guernsey featuring Skelton and La Biche which was published then as a limited edition.

My friend Amanda Milne is developing a board game set on the island, and having read this story borrowed the idea of a terrifying goat. Amanda’s game is now in its a prototype form and being tested by games players. You can read more about the SchilMil game in development here.

Defenders of Guernsey Kindle
Defenders of Guernsey now on kindle. My mother Margaret Hamlin painted La Biche for the cover.
Fiction Games Guernsey Literature Marketing

The Devil’s Goat on Guernsey

My friend, Kiwi board game inventor Amanda Milne’s new game is now at prototype stage and is being play tested. Its working title is The Devil’s Goat and is based on Guernsey. Turns out it was sparked off by a children’s short story I had written for the Guernsey Literary Festival. As this story was published as a very limited one-off, I have been contemplating reissuing it as an ebook but if Mandy’s game takes off I might have to pull my finger out.

Mandy writes:

Inspired by a short story called the ‘Defenders of Guernsey‘ written by my friend Peter Kenny, I have been researching The Channel Islands and specifically Guernsey’s rich history of witchcraft and evil goings on…

Witchcraft is said to abound in the island. Both black and white witches are said to practice in Guernsey. The black witches were said to practice ritual witchcraft. They held assemblies and covens to summon demons and devils. The black witches were said to be led by an unknown person, who often disguised himself as an animal. Although the leader changed, it was always known as the Devil. Reports say they usually disguised themselves as cats and goats.

A couple of iterations on from the first rough sketch and I have a working prototype that is about to start formal testing. The working name is The Devil’s Goat.

In the game, players take on one character who lives on the island. Each character has their own secret agenda.  Rumours abound, goat sightings and attacks occur; journalists pay money for stories true or otherwise.  Each player is trying to achieve their own goal before the Devil’s Goat runs amok and tries to kill them. At that point in the game it becomes a team effort to stay alive: the characters versus the Goat!


For more on Mandy’s great idea, visit SchilMil here.

My howler is a Bob moment

Like most right thinking people, David Lynch is one of my heroes. Twin Peaks is one of my favourite TV experiences, an immersive world with its own codes. In it there is a mad killer called Bob, who drives a much of the narrative, and he came about by sheer accident. The actor Eric Silva was working as a set dresser, here’s what Lynch says about it in ‘Catching the big fish’, an excellent book by the way.

“Frank was never destined to be in Twin Peaks, never in a million years. But we were shooting in Laura Palmer’s home and Frank was moving some furniture around in her room. I was in the hall, underneath a fan. And a woman said, “Frank, don’t move that dresser in front of the door like that. Don’t lock yourself in the room.

And this picture came to me of Frank in the room….So I said, “Frank, you’re going to be in this scene.”
We did a pan shot of the room, twice without Frank and then one time with Frank frozen at the base of the bed. But I didn’t know what it was for or what it meant.

That evening, we went downstairs and we were shooting Laura Palmer’s mother on the couch….. So I said “Cut-perfect-beautiful!” And Sean said, “No, no, no. It’s not.”
“What is it?”
“There was someone reflected in the mirror?”
“Who was reflected in the mirror?”
“Frank was reflected in the mirror.”
So things like this make you start dreaming. And one thing leads to another, and if you let it, a whole other thing opens up.

Anyway it came to me in a flash that my recent ‘howler’ could be a blessing in disguise. There is some talk about refraction and things not seeming to be where they should be in Defenders of Guernsey. And my ‘mistake’ described a mirror image channel islands, where things that should have been east were actually west and so on. A perfect explanation for this has opened up in my mind for the second story. Suddenly that howler looks more like a stroke of luck.


If I have learned anything from Defenders of Guernsey it is not to rush out a publication. Just before I went to bed last night I noticed a complete howler in the printed text. It is a scene where Archibald is explaining to Skelton about the geography of the channel islands. Now I could draw you the geography of the channel islands blindfolded. A brain glitch made me type west instead of east, so I had Herm and Sark to the west of Guernsey and Jersey to the south-west. Where of course Herm and Sark are to the east, and Jersey to the south-east.

A completely inexplicable mistake. Given that one of the whole reasons for the book was to make it authentic this makes me feel a complete chump. Luckily as the first print run is almost gone, I think I will reprint with corrections.

Hugely embarrassing though.

Launching ‘Defenders of Guernsey’

Defenders of Guernsey is a short story of about 12 thousand words I launched at the Guernsey Literary Festival. I had been invited there to talk about Skelton Yawngrave, a character I have created and am finalising a novel about. So that I didn’t turn up empty handed, I decided to write a shorter story with this character, but based on Guernsey. Luckily for me, this format worked really well for the character, and I was able to cram in a good deal of action in a very short space of time. It is too early to say how this has been received, but the kids seemed to like it.

I have two short story sequels plotted. Invaders of Guernsey, and Liberators of Guernsey. And I am basing the story on Guernsey legend, as well as a ghostly goat called La Biche who lived in La Rue des Grons where I used to live. This is slightly in reaction to The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which, although a runaway success, had little of the real Guernsey in it and annoyed me. I feel churlish having briefly met Annie Barrows who is lovely person, as are Mary Anne Shafer’s daughter and son-in-law.

My strategy is that I have given three schools these little books, and it seems I may be invited back. It seems to me self-evident that you have to start forging relationships with schools if you are launching fiction for children.

I had a blast doing it too, although I felt quite nervous about it. And as we were doing the work in the hub in the Market Square in Guernsey I had to incorporate the chiming of the town clock into the story, and got the schoolchildren to participate by making ghostly goat noises, which was enormous fun for everyone. The children from Vauvert and Le Muriel schools were absolutely delightful too.

Another thing I’ve learned is that if you have a girlfriend who can fix up the laptop and deal with technical things while you mince about wringing your hands nervously this is also a boon too.

Guernsey Literary Festival

The first Guernsey Literary Festival seemed to me to be a success. I think the benefits of this festival will be immense in the long term. If Guernsey is an island that, with its many other blessings, is seen as a place where writing and culture happen, this can only enrich the lives of its people and greatly encourage a new generation of visitors.

For my part seeing the faces of the children from Vauvert and Le Murier schools light up with delight when I began telling them an adventure set where they live, made the whole trip worthwhile. I donated books to these schools and to St Martin’s primary too.

It was excellent to secure the backing of Barclays Wealth. It was a win-win too. Good for the sponsors because from a PR perspective, they have an image problem they need to fix. Projects of this sort that reach benignly into the island should be exactly what they should be looking for.

For my own part any time when Richard and I manage a BBC radio appearance and three poetry readings to promote the A Guernsey Double is a success in itself. I was also able to launch Defenders of Guernsey in two sessions with schoolchildren, attend a poetry cafe reading with some fine poets, and meet people like Annie Barrows, Edward Chaney, Sebastian Peake, Caroline Carver and Tim Binding, do some protracted networking on the island, and know that the best part of 160 Skelton Yawngrave stories are now in the island’s schools.

Thanks to the Guernsey Literary Festival I returned home full of a revived interest in writing and performing, in Mervyn Peake, in the poetry of Caroline Carver, the singing of Olivia Chaney and with new friends made and old friendships strengthened.

Well done Guernsey. And well done folks like Catriona Stares, Richard Fleming, Jane Mosse and the many others who dedicated enormous time and effort to the whole thing.