#BlogTour #Extract ~ The Coven by @GrahamMasterton @HoZ_Books

I’m so excited to welcome THE Graham Masterton to the blog today. I was a huge fan in my younger years and The Manitou quite possibly began my love of horror!

They say the girls were witches. But Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary’s daughter, is sure they were innocent victims…

London, 1758:

Beatrice Scarlet, the apothecary’s daughter, has found a position at St Mary Magdalene’s Refuge for fallen women. She enjoys the work and soon forms a close bond with her charges.

The refuge is supported by a wealthy tobacco merchant, who regularly offers the girls steady work to aid their rehabilitation. But when seven girls sent to his factory disappear, Beatrice is uneasy.

Their would-be benefactor claims they were a coven of witches, beholden only to Satan and his demonic misdeeds. But Beatrice is convinced something much darker than witchcraft is at play…

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About the Author

Graham Masterton (born 16 January 1946 in Edinburgh) is a British horror author. Originally editor of Mayfair and the British edition of Penthouse, Graham Masterton’s first novel The Manitou was released in 1976. This novel was adapted in 1978 for the film The Manitou. Further works garnered critical acclaim, including a Special Edgar Award by the Mystery Writers of America for Charnel House and a Silver Medal by the West Coast Review of Books for Mirror. He is also the only non-French winner of the prestigious Prix Julia Verlanger for his novel Family Portrait, an imaginative reworking of the Oscar Wilde novel The Picture of Dorian Gray. Masterton was also the editor of Scare Care, a horror anthology published for the benefit of abused children in Europe and the USA.

Masterton’s novels often contain visceral sex and horror. In addition to his novels Masterton has written a number of sex instruction books, including How To Drive Your Man Wild In Bed and Wild Sex for New Lovers.

Masterton currently lives in Surrey, England. His wife and agent Wiescka died on 27 April 2011, aged 65.

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Extract

When Beatrice carried the basket of wet laundry out to the yard to hang it up, she saw that Noah’s hobby horse was lying on its side close to the pigpen, but there was no sign of Noah. She had seen him riding around not ten minutes earlier, waving his pudding cap and shouting to his imaginary militia to follow him into battle. Now he was gone.

She laid down her basket and went over to pick up his hobby horse. It had been made for him for his fifth birthday by William Tandridge the carpenter and painted shiny white, with huge staring eyes and its teeth bared as if it were snickering. William Tandridge had asked for no money for it, and Beatrice suspected that he had been trying to win her favour. She was a widow, after all, and he was a widower. His wife had died of typhoid fever three winters ago, along with three other wives in the village, and five children.

‘Noah!’ Beatrice called out. ‘Noah, where are you? It will time for your supper soon!’

She lifted the hem of her dark brown dress a little so that she could walk out across the grassy slope that led down towards the river. The afternoon was bright and windy, with white clouds tumbling overhead. She called out Noah’s name again, but all she could hear was the rustling of quaking aspen trees and the whistling and chipping of vireos.

‘Noah!’ she called again, and this time her voice was shrill with anxiety. How could he have disappeared completely in such a short time? Perhaps he was playing hide-and-seek to tease her, but she doubted it, because he had become very serious and protective since Francis had died, even though he had been so young. He teased his sister Florence, of course, but with Beatrice he behaved almost like a miniature husband.

She hurried further down the slope, stumbling two or three times. The river was narrow and weedy and shallow – so shallow that it barely reached up to Noah’s knees when he paddled in it – but she had forbidden him to play in it unless she was there to watch him. She prayed that he hadn’t disobeyed her, and been floating his toy boat or trying to catch pickerel.

Twenty yards from the river’s edge she saw his horsehair-stuffed pudding cap lying on the ground, and her chest tightened in panic. He loved that hat, and would never go off anywhere without it. He had even wanted to wear it to bed. She went over and picked it up, looking around desperately to see if he was anywhere in sight.

‘Noah, where are you? Noah! I hope you’re not playing games with me, young man, because this is not at all amusing! Noah!’

There was still no answer. Beatrice went right down to the river’s edge, and walked along its margent until she reached the grove of aspen trees, peering down into the rippling water to make sure that Noah wasn’t lying underneath the surface, drowned. She saw a few silvery pickerel swimming between the weeds, but that was all.

Eventually she stopped, calling out his name again and again.

Please, dear Lord, don’t let anything terrible have happened to him. I couldn’t bear to lose Noah. He looks and speaks so much like his father, and he may be all I have left of my dearest Francis.

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