Years ago, I was fortunate enough to acquire Duncton Wood by William Horwood. I had always had a certain fondness for the sleek, velvet coated gentlemen of the earth – moles. Unlike many, I saw the benefits that they bring, by soil improvement and leaving lovely spoil heaps of top soil ready for dispersal. At first, I expected a simple tale of moles, based on the jacket of the book. What I found was a story of wonder, deep faith that had no clear name and a degree of darkness. The darkness, heavy and redolent with the scent of deep earth and mould, was sometimes almost overwhelming, reinforced with swift, bitter violence. But there was a quiet magic underlying it all, an unconquerable gentility and quiet trust in something greater: the Stone, ancient megalith, on whose face was scratched deep a world of beliefs. I was hooked. Somehow, the deep magic, the ancient faith unnamed that came out of distant ages, resonated with me. Never again could I look at the world in quite the same way. More, the many stone circles and solitary menhirs scattered across Britain would never be seen as they had once. The mystic power, underpinned by simpler things, such as herblore, had somehow made some mysteries less mysterious. I wish I could say that I had read all the Duncton books, but I only own copies of Duncton Wood and Duncton Stone. I have longed to obtain the rest of the tales, but there are so many books I desire, and so little money to spare for any of them.
By chance, I did acquire another of Mr Horwood’s novels, from a charity shop. It was totally unlike the Duncton tales. The Stonor Eagles is a powerful work that absorbs the reader entirely. I had difficult breaking from it. A human story, wound about that of sea eagles, the book captivates in a way entirely different to the magic of those tales of the Duncton moles. It is a story that you can never forget. At times deeply moving, it has a power that almost creeps up on you.
Mr Horwood is, I believe, one of the finest storytellers. He has written many other books than those I’ve mentioned, but I haven’t had the pleasure of having read any of those, so far. We can only be glad that his tales achieved success. The thought of such a talent being lost in the multitude of the unpublished makes me shudder.
William Horwood on Goodreads.