Will there be another Spook book after ‘The Dark Assassin’ (to be published January 2017)?

The answer is a probable yes. I already have an idea for it. The central character would be Spook Johnson rather than Tom but Spook Ward and Alice would certainly put in an appearance!

 Spook Johnson featured in ‘The Seventh Apprentice’ as a boy. Now he is grown up and somewhat past his prime. Yet he is still a dedicated hunter of witches and has become a specialist with his own method of categorizing them – one that Tom and John Gregory would find strange. He is particularly obsessive about hunting down witches that use familiar magic.

Johnson lives just south of Salford near the southern border of the County and has never taken on and trained an apprentice. But now he needs a scribe and wishes to employ a boy for six months for a purpose close to his heart.

He feels that the locals do not value him. This is probably due to the fact that some of the witches he has dealt with were probably not true witches at all and they have family living in the area.

‘Better safe than sorry!’ is one of Will’s sayings even when he gets it wrong.

Then there are the screams that can be heard from his garden after dark. Rumour has it that he tortures his captive witches.

So that is probably the next Spook’s book. The problem is finding time to write it!

If you haven’t read ‘The Seventh Apprentice’, that’s the place to begin and it is really a prequel to the proposed new book. It’s published by Penguin Random House but is only available (so far) as an e-book. There is a short extract below. Enjoy Halloween!

Joseph Delaney

Extract from ‘The Seventh Apprentice’

The witch was back.

‘It’s time you met my little friend!’ she called out to us.

What I saw by the pale light of the moon was both strange and terrifying.

The witch’s wet snout and tiny piggy eyes were as hideous as ever, but as she closed the gate behind her and strode towards the dead pigs, I saw that she wasn’t alone. There was something following at her heels, clinging tightly to her long dark skirt, which trailed in the mud.

It was black and hairy and about the size of a small dog. Although it had only four limbs – two arms and two legs – it reminded me of a spider. For one thing, it was skinny, with thin limbs and a stick-like body. It certainly wasn’t the grunting boar that had stalked me in the mist – a creature I’d feared – but in a way this beast was even scarier. There was something about the way it twitched; something about its state of readiness. It was waiting for something, waiting to pounce, and soon, at a signal from the witch, I found out what it was.

Very quickly, she clapped her hands three times.

The creature began to climb up her skirt; by the second clap it was perching on her shoulder. No sooner had the echo of the third clap died away than it went into action, leaping from the witch’s shoulder straight onto the belly of the sow – the smallest of the dead pigs – clinging there with its sharp fingers and toenails.

It was ferocious and very fast. Teeth gleaming in the moonlight, it began to eat ravenously. I couldn’t believe the speed with which it guzzled the raw flesh. It gnawed its way right into the belly and disappeared. I could hear it biting and tearing from within, making the carcass slowly spin back and forth on its creaking chains.

I watched in astonishment as the creature emerged, having eaten its fill of the pig’s insides, and clambered up onto the sow’s back, giving me my first clear view of it in the moonlight.

It had a narrow face and teeth, and I saw that its nose was a triangle of sharp bone, which it used to cut and tear at the dead flesh it feasted upon. It had whiskers too, very long and thick; more like bristles than hair. Then I noticed that it had no eyes, just a hard plate of bone that served as a forehead.

As I watched, pink froth started to bubble from its mouth, and within seconds its whole face was obscured. Soon I realized the purpose of this.

It had by now eaten enough flesh to lay bare the white ridged spine of the sow; raw flesh and gristle still clung to it. The froth from the creature’s mouth soon covered the bone, and then the creature began to lick it off. When the spine reappeared, it was absolutely clean.