The Raging Storm: Ann Cleeves’s New Series Continues
By Ann CleevesAugust 1, 2023
Correction: in our August 1st newsletter we incorrectly stated that The Raging Storm was the final book in this series. It is not; it is the third installment in the continuing Matthew Venn series.
It’s hard coming to the end of a series. I knew that the Shetland novels had run their course and I needed something different to spark my imagination. New characters to meet. I’d always dismissed suggestions that I should set books in Devon where I grew up. It lacked the wildness, the authenticity of Shetland and Northumberland. My books are traditional and domestic, but I didn’t think they fitted the tourists’ image of the place: a gentle landscape, thatched cottages, and cream teas.
Then, very suddenly, almost exactly five years ago, my husband died. We’d been together for more than forty years and I wanted to run away from everyone who knew him here in the northeast. An escape from their pity and their memories. I ran back to North Devon to stay with an old school friend.
It was winter and rainy, but we walked along the beaches and the headlands, remembering the intense and happy times of our adolescence, the parties, the music, the wonderful friendships. It came to me that I wanted to write about this place and explore it again in my stories.
My friend had grown up in a tight, evangelical community, and we talked about that too. About the certainty of her parents’ beliefs, their support of older members of the group, but also the lack of sympathy for people who’d lost their faith. They would be ‘unfellowshipped’ and no longer welcome, cast out.
Matthew Venn developed from those conversations. It seemed to me that someone who’d grown up as a beloved son of Brethren, but who had lost his faith as a young man, might feel that his new life was chaotic, unanchored. He could turn to the police service to recover the sense of duty, honor, and community that he’d lost. I wanted to write about that man.
At that point, I had no idea that Matthew was gay. But the people who looked after me when Tim died, who scooped me up when I got home from the hospital and saw me through those strange confusing days were Martin and Paul, a gay couple. Tim and I knew them well. We’d been on holiday with them and we all shared a passion for Shetland.
They’re still looking after me, dropping me a text, inviting me for a beer, or a curry, or to see a film, but then they saw me through some dark times. They were rattling round in my head when I started writing, and got mixed up with Matthew who was in there too. Suddenly, Matthew was gay and happily married. I wrote him as a celebration of my friends’ relationship, and because that was who he was.
The Raging Storm is the third novel in the series, rather different in tone, I think, from anything I’ve written before. When adventurer Jem Rosco blows into the isolated coastal village of Greystone, everyone is excited. He’s a famous explorer and a television celebrity. Speculation spreads. Who is the mysterious visitor for whom he’s waiting? And why does he suddenly disappear in the middle of a furious gale?
I enjoyed writing this tale of power, superstition, and revenge. I hope that you enjoy it too.
*Author Photo Credit: David Hirst