Kerry Hadley-Pryce on Trevor Mark Thomas’s The Bothy

Kerry Hadley-Pryce on Trevor Mark Thomas’s The Bothy

I remember I was at a writers’ retreat in Inverness, and Nicholas Royle was enthusing about a writer from Manchester, Trevor Mark Thomas, who’d written their first novel, The Bothy. I’ve got to tell you that when Mr. Royle enthuses about a writer, that’s a Very Good Sign, and he said it was brilliant, also it was to be published by Salt Publishing, so... This must have been 2018, and I had to wait almost a year to get my hands on a copy. I didn’t read it quickly – I’m not a quick reader, particularly, but that’s not the reason – because I wanted to savour it, this strange and actually quite poignant story. The novel is set in the North of England, and protagonist Tom is in the midst of grief because his girlfriend has died. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her powerful, gangster family believe him to be responsible for her death and put a bounty on his head. Of course, he has to run, hide, and he does in a pub on the Yorkshire moors, called The Bothy. What follows is Tom’s introduction into a completely different universe and way of life.

What Trevor Mark Thomas does so well, I believe, is to evoke a beautiful atmosphere of threat, or foreboding, I supposed you’d call it, but it’s always just bubbling beneath the surface. The simplest of observations are turned into something highly unsettling, so, the pickled eggs in a jar on the bar, for instance ‘bob up and down like sightless eyeballs’, and when character, Frank, bites into one ‘He spat into the ashtray’. Men spit into the fireplace too, and there is sleet, and wind lashing against windows, snow falls and cuts the place off, and ‘it fell like ash’ and when an apple is chopped up one of the segments is black. I was going to say these are delicious examples of ‘writing the unnerving’ but perhaps ‘delicious’ isn’t the word here. With even a seemingly ordinary occurrence like a character, a workman, walking down the lane wearing overalls and ear defenders, for instance, Thomas primes his readers to be on guard about what might possibly happen next. And yes, okay, there is violence, but it’s understated. When you read this novel, you can feel synapses in your brain snapping to fill in the gaps. This is not simply just cleverly observed stuff, this is the work of a writer who I believe has created their own sub-genre of crime writing. What is fascinating about this novel, to me, is the richness of the emphasis on themes of isolation, loneliness, grief, as well as the implicit expressions of group dynamics, and as a result, we, as readers, enter into the situation alongside Tom. It’s Trevor Mark Thomas’ candid and often surprisingly tender writing style that gives The Bothy it’s edge, and that’s a really tricky narrative technique to pull off. And I’ve thought about that, and how, really, this is a novel that epitomises the kind of writing we’ve come to expect from Salt Publishing. Pithy, but true, as Nicholas Royle said, it’s brilliant.

I stalked Trevor Mark Thomas on the socials. Of course I did. I say ‘stalked’. I mean, ‘messaged’. Come on, it’s allowed. So I can tell you that as well as being a great writer, he’s also a top bloke. It’s true. And, you should read The Bothy, most definitely.


Kerry Hadley-Pryce was born in the Black Country. She worked nights in a Wolverhampton petrol station before becoming a secondary school teacher. She wrote her first novel, The Black Country, whilst studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing School at Manchester Metropolitan University, for which she gained a distinction and was awarded the Michael Schmidt Prize for Outstanding Achievement 2013–14. She is currently a PhD student at Manchester Metropolitan University, researching Psychogeography and Black Country Writing. God’s Country is her third novel.

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