The Madness of Summer
At the Buckmayne annual pageant, where he appears as the well-known
and much-liked local archaeologist turned TV personality, Steven
Whittaker stands on the brink of a brilliant career. True, there
was his Jill, his ambitious wife, who is suing for divorce over
some misunderstanding with the Lawley sisters. And the sisters, the alluring
Penny and bewitching Imogen, seem bent on casting spells over
him and the ancient Dorset landscape as midsummer approaches,
no doubt egged on by the Pagan Historical Centre, whose helpers
are turning up ever more unlikely finds at the dig Whittaker supervises.
Nothing he can't sort out, he assures his TV film director, his
Head of Department, who has never hidden his dislike of Whittaker's
teaching methods and his pied piper influence on students, and
even the surly Ned Barnes who wants a new age festival on the
One by one the strands of Whittaker's sensible life come apart
as Dorset folklore intrudes into and reawakens his unfinished
business with Penny Lawley, with that disastrous school trip,
and with his own future that lies buried at the Leyton Rings excavation.
CHAPTER ONE (Excerpt)
After the perfomance I saw my family off and returned to the
Buckmayne Community Centre. Chairs had been stacked away, and
a crowd pressed round the makeshift bar. Martins brandished
'What was that again?' I said when we clinked glasses.
'Whittaker, my dear boy, I was asking about the woman you
were avoiding earlier.'
Martins pulled out a notebook. 'Celia the fairy was played
by . . . '
'Played by Imogen Lawley, who looked ravishing in a lavender-blue
number. Any more charmers you know?'
'Penny Lawley. In white over there, talking to the vicar.
She was the shepherdess.'
'I do know my Iolanthe. In fact I'll go over to have a word
with her now, which will let you get back to the sister.'
'Just wanting an interview.'
'Imogen can ask me any time. But hark, the damsel approaches.'
'Imogen,' I said when she stood in front of us, 'this is Joel
Martins, director of Casebook Films. Imogen Lawley, reporter
on the Dorset Times.'
She surveyed the plump figure with its tangled mop of greying
hair. 'Doesn't look like a film director to me', she decided,
staring up through those extravagant lashes.
'Very true,' conceded Martins, seeing Imogen pose in exasperating
innocence. 'But we have to employ the most unlikely types. Even
Stephen here is going to be a star of the small screen. History
in the Community, Time and Tradition. We haven't decided on
a title yet. Depends on what we find locally. Could be quite
rewarding, wouldn't you think?'
'I don't know what you mean, Mr Martins.'
'I mean you should come for a screen test.' He gave me a flustered
look before turning back to the woman who smiled at him indifferently.
'With your sister. We need local people.'
'Which sister, Mr Martins?'
'Good God, Whittaker. Is the place overrun with talent?'
'Whole tribe of them', I said gloomily, wondering if Martins
knew what he was taking on. But in fact Melissa had married
and moved away, to Ludlow or somewhere, the smart wife of an
accomplished country lawyer. Penny was the left-over, the damaged
goods, and only Imogen could be called shameless, the vamp with
the pale green eyes and snub nose. 'Excuse me, you two', I said.
'Ought to circulate.'
'Who now?' said Martins, reaching for his notebook.
'Ted Ten Percent. Imogen will explain.' The woman gave me
an open stare: Imogen with the tight hold on life, who gives
exactly what she promises.