When I was young, I had two heroes: Sherlock Holmes and the Buddha. My dad took me to the Sherlock Homes pub in London, where you could gaze through plate glass at a replica of Holmes’ study:
Years later I was running a travel company in Trafalgar Square, a street away from the pub. I used to take airline executives there for lunch. One day the manager of, I think it was Hungarian airlines, leant forward to me and began asking about Holmes in reverent tones. He thought he had been a real person.
The Buddha, and the spiritual quest, soon preoccupied me more than Holmes, though, and it was only recently that I saw the connection: hunting, solving the riddle.
When I read Penny Billington’s The Badger & the Bag last week I realized that Penny had managed to fuse these two figures – and what’s more – in a Druid context. Her main character is Gwion Dubh, a Druid detective, and after writing two full-length stories based on his exploits, Penny has crafted a tightly-woven, fast-paced tale of 28 pages, that succeeds in being utterly original while conforming to the grand tradition of occult fiction: weaving magical teachings into the story for ‘those who have ears to hear’.
While the story makes you smile as it draws you into an enchanted world in which the detective helps remaining members of the Stone Age recover bones and their burrow-home, it also conveys key teachings of Druidry. And just as Dion Fortune cranks up the tension until the mysterious rite of the final pages, so we only discover how Gwion Dubh has succeeded in his mission in the last chapter: ‘The Morning After the Night Before’.
I want to tell you more – about the Night of the Unhewn Dolmen for example – but I won’t spoil the story for you! Penny and Arthur have started a cottage industry from their home in Wells – Ashwell Springs Press – and the book is only £2.99 – available from the OBOD store.