Jack Wolf: Mammoth and Crow
Aurochs Underground Press, ISBN 978-1-7396972-0-4
Genre: Literary Fiction / Folk Horror / Fantasy
“Some faery tales, let me tell you, are true.”
The faceless men are on the move.
Dark forces swell within the Otherworld, while in this one the human world moves inexorably toward war.
Set in the wilds of Cornwall during the last months before the outbreak of WW2, Jack Wolf’s new novel traces the development of an unlikely friendship between of two children – one a Jewish refugee who has travelled from Berlin on the kindertransport, the other the neglected child of well-to-do British Fascists – as they struggle to make sense of an increasingly threatening reality. As the adult world around them descends into chaos, Martin Stone and Leto Murray, the boy who talks to birds and the girl who can see into the Otherworld that lies beneath this one, discover an older and deeper danger even than Hitler: deadly forces accidentally set into motion at the dawn of pre-history that are driving human history towards a catastrophic conclusion. Will Martin be able to pass on the faceless men’s warning, or will their vital message go unheeded?
The air is turning into glass. The seas are rising. Extinction threatens inside Pavor Potentia.
This beautiful and deeply thought provoking novel seamlessly weaves classical myth and modern storytelling together with its 1930s setting to explore the terrible consequences of confusion between extremism and love. Dealing unflinchingly with themes of love, loss, and motherhood, it asks us to consider what happens when the connections between human nature and human civilisation are severed. In a modern world threatened by Climate Change and a newly emboldened fascist ideology that has once again brought Europe to the brink of war, its publication could not be more timely.
“An evocative and atmospheric novel set in an England on the verge of war and the ancient lands of post-Ice Age Bodmin. Enchanting, compelling and terrifying by turn, Mammoth and Crow is a compelling read.”
Liz Williams, Author of Comet Weather and Blackthorn Winter.
Limited Edition Paperback. Author signed copies available on request.
Buy it here: https://aurochspress.co.uk/store
“Mammoth and Crow is an utterly beguiling novel about the battles of the past, and the battles still to be faced. Amid the storm clouds of the late 1930s, terrifying new forces seek to re-make civilisation but there are older powers to reckon with, and a world ‘out of time’ in more ways than one. High on Bodmin Moor, a neglected daughter finds friendship with a Jewish refugee from Germany. She is obsessed with the mammoths which once roamed this landscape while he can talk to crows. Together they must find a way through traps laid by wizards and faceless men, by misguided mothers and the dark pull of myth. Hugely inventive and with a cracking cast to boot – I adored it from the first page to the last.”
Katherine Stansfield, (DK Fields) Author of The Cornish Mysteries Series and Widows Welcome.
“Some faery tales, let me tell you, are true.
Some are not. Some are an imaginative rehashing of things that really happened, though not quite as the Storytellers tell them. Others have never held any basis whatsoever in day-to-day reality, but rise instead out of a different kind of truth: an ancient truth, a bloody, breathy, bony truth, a truth of water and earth and fire, that somehow makes sense to the human heart on dark nights, when the fogs are closing in and the mind is able to forget its day to day priorities. And there are some people, let me tell you, who know and understand this truth in the same way that they know the backs of their right hands, without questioning, all day and every day. Some of these people are human. Some are not.
Take, for example, the inhabitants of Bransquite, a tiny Cornish village that lies in a narrow river valley up against the north west shoulder of Bodmin moor. These enlightened folk do not care one way or the other whether the Otherworld of their fabled ghost stories is a place or a state of mind. To them, each is every bit as good as the other, and not that distant from it. Here, truth and myth are known to coexist in a manner in which the normal rules of time and space, left and right, life and death, and so forth, can never properly be applied. The same principle applies to the curious and sinister beings who people both the moor and their grim tales: the misshapen black monsters, the hairy hands, the devil on his horse, the faceless men. Not one of these entities has ever been definitively numbered among the living or the dead, but all are, in some other way, as undeniably real and natural as the wholly this-world tellers of their stories.
Then there are the stories that the moor itself knows to be true: the stories that are carved by wind and rain upon its granite rock faces, woven through the substrate of its thin soil, painted on the shadows of its fogs: the traces of events so long ago in time that, when they were taking place, there was no human mind present to remember them. The moor remembers the coming of the great cold, the sheering winds that blew in over interminable winters from the great northern ice sheet, and froze and thawed its granite surface into strange vertical pillars, and stacked piles of giant flat rocks. It remembers the reindeer, whose warm lips once teased its summer flowers, whose broad feet trod on its mosses and its stones, and whose bones were picked clean white on its surface. It remembers bear and wolverine, red fox and wolf. It remembers the first seedlings of the silver birch, the hazel, and the ash, as those brave young forests of the last epoch spread fast across the open grasslands. It recalls the bubbling of the newborn streams as they flowed fast and bright through its grey gullies and along its conduits. More recently, it has concerned itself with the coming of the men, those long legged, upright pastoralists from the lowland valleys and fertile shores with their stone daggers and bronze sickle blades, their roundhouse fire pits, their singing circles of blue stones, their unbending midwinter gods. At this very moment, let me tell you, it is thinking of the stone cairn that those men constructed in the stony lee of a great craggy tor up on the high north moor. It is remembering the dark-eyed girl they sacrificed and wrapped so tenderly in bearskin, whose body they laid carefully beneath it, to guard both this reality and any other against catastrophe and famine, the slow dying of the world. Utilitarian as this scapegoating clearly was, the moor recalls it was not coldly done, and did not represent, to the eyes of those stone men at least, an unacceptable act of societal violence. Their ethical concerns were exercised much more strongly by war.
Earth time is deep time, long and steady: though to the moor it seems but yesterday those long-ago shepherds came and went, replaced in an eye-blink by another group of hardy souls, it was in fact another thousand years before this second settlement appeared, right on top of the first. These people were tin miners: they brought with them a strange religion, and the understanding of metal to replace that of the dead. They built their long, low, rectangular huts, and made sacred offerings to their gods of Earth and Water. One day, some small distance to the north of their small village, on the sheltered side of the great granite tor, they began to cut a low ceilinged, right angled storage passage into the crevice between two larger rocks. And perhaps because they knew and understood so very little of anything, they were thrown into great anguish when their innocent diggings broke into the buried stone cist containing the already ancient skeleton. They did their best to seal the chamber up, and within a matter of days departed the whole area. All surface traces of their settlement disappeared with them, swept away by rains and fierce winds. But the moor remembers. Two thousand years after their frightened flight, the passage they began lies almost exactly as they built it, three quarters now buried in the soil, a small part of its entrance visible above: a slender triangle of darkness, like a rabbit hole. A Victorian gentleman, hiking on the moor, once stumbled in it, and on inspection identified it, to the best of his limited ability, as a fogou: a low, enclosed passage designed for community defence in case of siege. But then he walked away, and never visited again, so the tunnel’s precise location, and that of the grave to which it led, was once again lost.
But the moor remembers. The moor knows. And the moor told the mist, and the mist told the dark night, and the night remembered the fireside stories, and told the faceless men, the sleepers on the far side of the stone; and the faceless men told the Storytellers, weavers of myth and memory.
Let me tell you a story. I’ll be your tale weaver, memory spinner, tell-tale-tit. I’ll be the whisperer in the twilight who guides you to another world. But I have to warn you that the story I’m about to tell you – which I’ve learned from the wind, the stones, the rain – will surprise you and upset you, and make you wonder at it, and at me. And make no mistake (because you will). No matter how much the world I’m about to take you to looks like the world you think you understand, beneath its familiar surface lies a faerie tale, and one of the old sort: an eye-socket, thigh-bone, grit-stone history of a world that goes a long, long way beyond the confines of the merely human.“
Jack Wolf: Mammoth and Crow, Aurochs Underground Press, 2022
Jack Wolf: Dog Walking Weather
Aurochs Underground Press ISBN 978-1-7396972-1-1
First Printing Summer 2022. Paperback. Numbered limited edition on recycled paper. Author signed copies available on request. Available to pre-order April 30th, 2022
The leaves lay where they’d dropped
along the lane, the brambles in the empty gateway
thronged with fieldfares. Day came we ran out of matches,
but at least by then we’d relearned the old ways
of flint and tinder. We set snares in the hedgerows;
wild rabbits found their ways into our gardens
and our cooking pots. We started making plans.
We wove a white bowl out of willow stems. We gathered.
Jack Wolf, from ‘Equinoctial Horses’ Dog Walking Weather, Aurochs Press, 2022
Jack Wolf: The Devil and The Rainbow, Aurochs Underground Press
Genre: Literary Fiction / Historical / Fantasy
“You ask me why it is that I am here? I should be asking you the same question, Madame!”
Bristol, 1789. In a world built on injustice, three very different voices explore what it means to be free. Somerset housemaid, Mary-Anne Ashley, realising herself to be really a boy, pulls on breeches and embarks on a wild adventure in search of true selfhood. Cordelia Pitfour, born a slave on the Caribbean Island of Grenada, finds herself thrown into a struggle for personal freedom that will take her across oceans and confront her with a terrifying occult choice. Captain Edmund Pitfour, newly Master of Pitfour Plantation, is shocked by a grim social reality that challenges everything he believed about the benevolence of England and the will of God. Revolutionary fires will burn.
Moving between Bristol and Grenada, this epic tale of queer love, faith, war, economics and gender theory sticks up two fingers at established ideas of British history and gives a voice to those who have been silenced and ignored.
Late Spring 2023
“You ask me why it is that I am here? I should be asking you the same question, Madame!
But, non, non, do not worry; I will answer you, in time. It may take me a little while to do so, though; I have never spoken of these matters to anyone except Paul. You want me to start with my escape? Hoo! The exciting part, n’est-ce-pas! You will have to wait. I gon tell you everything about my life before, and about the men and women who dared call themselves my Masters, and why they thought I should be here – here on this Earth, as if them had some special understanding of the will of Le Bon Je that dictate I should be their slave, and they my Masters. Fut! As if any one of them had any real understanding of even the worldliest of things. You know, when Mrs Arabella Pitfour see for the first time what a man look like without him breeches, she scream and scream like she jus’ find a devil in her bed! And Mr Edmund Pitfour, Esq, him so terrify by her shrieking and howling that him run away and sleep all night long in his dressing room, and never once come near his wife again.
Mr Pitfour have a lucky escape, you know. He the one who almos’ lie ‘longside the Devil.“
I suppose you do want I to start with Fedon’s rebellion, and with how I had to make a run for it out of Mr Pitfour’s office window with a pistol in one hand and a handful of powder and shot in the other, but I idn’. I’m going to start by telling you about Lily Chivers. I can see you’m wondering what a country girl like she could have to do with all of this, but she were at the very start of it – at least for I, and if I’m going to tell this story at all, Missus, I’m going to tell you all of ‘ee, from the beginning to the end.
I’m going to start by telling you about Lily, and this is cause why: she had a hand in making I turn out the way I done. I idn’ saying she were the reason, cause I reckon that be something I were born with, along of ginger curls and blue eyes and a face full of freckles. But she did provoke I into admitting matters I would otherwise of carried on suppressing, and which if I hadn’t acted on I wouldn’t be sat here now telling you anything.
The first time it crossed my mind that I should leave my English home for my family’s Plantation on the Caribbean island of Grenada was in the year seventeen eighty-eight, at my second-cousin’s funeral. It was the twenty ninth year of my life. High summer on the Mendips, sunshine sticky with thunder, mourners wilting in the heat. My poor cousin Elise had passed her final weeks upon a sick bed so horribly hot the nurse had had daily to change the sheets. I had seen her for the last time – and had feared it so, for when one has had the sorrow of watching as many souls depart this Earth as I have done, one attains an instinct for approaching death – on her twenty-first birthday, seven days before.
I had been heading to London, and had made considerable diversion through Somerset to the village of Tibury. Arriving at Seacombe’s at ten, I sat down beside Elise’s bed in the high backed chair that was usually the territory of her nurse, and began to tell her of the decision I had made concerning Arabella Chesterton. I had spoken not three words before Elise, reaching out to me with sudden, violent spirit, seized my gloved hand, and clasped it as tightly as she could between her own, which felt to mine as brittle as the skeletons of leaves.
“Kiss me, Edmund!” she said. “Kiss me!”
Jack Wolf: The Devil and The Rainbow, Aurochs Underground Press 2022