Candy Jar Books’ The Hiraeth Embrace is the third and final book in the Brendon Years trilogy of Lethbridge-Stewart novels.
This is the second novel from James Middleditch, who previously wrote short stories for several HAVOC Files volumes, and had a story in the recent UNIT short story collection. In 2021 he had his first novel published, The Overseers, and The Hiraeth Embrace is a direct sequel to that novel.
Range Editor Andy Frankham-Allen says:
“This is, unusually, one of those commissioned that wasn’t planned. At all. Normally, I have an idea of what kind of stories I’m looking for in any given year, but the first half of 2022 did not go according to plan. Sadly, as a result of real-world events (and I mean world events) we felt we had to postpone one of our novels, which led to us pulling two of our novels. The first one, which had been due out only a few weeks later, led us all to crisis stations. We needed a replacement book pretty much immediately, since the first loss was from the first batch of three. Luckily, necessity is the mother of invention, and I realised the easiest solution was to add to the already commissioned two Brendon Years novels and make it a loose trilogy.”
James Middleditch says:
“I was really thrilled to be asked to write a sequel to The Overseers, and found that the need for a quick turnaround was balanced by a really stimulating brief from Andy. Although I hadn’t foreseen a follow-up to the events of the first novel, once I had my location of Brendon School in 1990, ideas clicked into place.”
“Having enjoyed The Overseers greatly, and the level of skill shown in his first novel, made going to James an easy solution. I asked him to do a follow up, and include certain characters, and James sent me an outline within a day. A few tweaks later, and we both knew what we wanted. It helped that I had first drafts of the previous two Brendon novels by time he’d finished his first draft, so James was easily able to incorporate thematic elements in his revisions.”
“Luckily, the Hiraeth are a threat that mould themselves to the time and place they find themselves in, so I could quickly imagine how they would behave in the final decade of the 20th century, drawing on my own vivid childhood memories of that distinct time, on the cusp of technological revolution. I’ve always loved the way in which the Lethbridge-Stewart series and its spin-offs draw inspiration from the culture of the times, so I hope I’ve managed to bring 1990 back to life in the same way. It was a time in which promise and optimism seemed to mix with pre-millennial fears of what the next century might bring, set to an electronic soundtrack that reflected both sentiments. Unbelievably, all of this is now over thirty years old, so perfect hunting ground for a species that thrives on nostalgia! Of course, any novel is shaped as much by the present as the past in which it might be set, and this is very much true of The Hiraeth Embrace. Thirty years on, some fears and anxieties are still very real. The school setting allowed me to consider the pressures being faced by young people in this technological age, as well as the worries of those who care for them.”
“As I went through James’ book, I was busy thinking about another spin-off series. The next stage of Lethbridge-Stewart’s prose life. I’ve been umming and ahhhing for several months now, about what to do next, what to do after Lethbridge-Stewart finishes, and I’m glad to say that through the Brendon Years trilogy I now know! And with a few tweaks to the final moments of James’ novel, all is set up for a new series coming in 2024 that will be called Brendon Academy. More on that next year!”
The cover is by returning artist Paul Cooke, who has provided several covers for Lethbridge-Stewart so far.
“It’s always fun picking cover artists, to keep the mix fresh so we don’t (ideally) use the same artist on two consecutive novels. Paul was the obvious choice, and when I approached him, expecting his usual ‘Yes!’, I was sadly surprised to find he has been going through a very tough time lately.”
Paul Cooke says:
“It came as a complete surprise to be asked to contribute another cover for the series so quickly after my last one. A pleasant one! Like many, I’ve been struggling mentally recently and was unsure I could focus enough to produce anything, but Andy allowed me have a go and try, and it worked out a perfect tonic – I’m not one who can concentrate on drawing and do other things, I completely zone out. All my problems were forgotten during this process, which was great.”
“I know, for me, whenever life is hard and depression threatens to rear its ugly head, I find burying yourself in the creative process, and ignoring the world, is a wonderful way to buoy yourself back up – a perfect restorative. Of course, not everybody is the same, but I did suggest to Paul that he ought to give it a shot. If it didn’t work, we’d find another solution. Thankfully, for all involved, Paul found being creative a great help to his own mental health.”
“This is the first Lethbridge-Stewart cover I’ve done with the Brigadier himself on, so I hope I’ve done him justice. I chose a camel-coloured jacket, with the colour heightened a little, as a dark blazer would be too much on the black cover, especially next to the Brendon uniform of the lad. The lad is completely made up, although my son thinks he looks like my nephew, so there may have been something subconscious going on there… The Blight was a tough thing to do – there’s a danger that it could look too comical, being made of rubble with bright yellow eyes, so I did my best to render it in a way that looks solid and grounded. I spent a lot of time looking at kerbs and paths while walking the dogs. People must’ve thought I’d dropped something.”
Here’s the blurb:
It’s 1990, and Brigadier Lethbridge-Stewart is struggling to find his place in a new decade and among his newly discovered family. Sinister new students are undermining him every day, while Brendon School seems to be falling apart around him.
Increasingly isolated from his job and his life, the Brigadier must track down the source of the spreading decay. Why are piles of rubble shaped like people appearing everywhere, and can they really be moving of their own accord? What is really happening at the secret raves in the woods, and how are they affecting the youth of the school?
The Hiraeth have returned, desperate for new bodies. They will do anything and promise anything in return for life. And now they’ve found the perfect army to manipulate and a promise that no one can resist.
As the world prepares for the dawn of a new era in mobile communications, another old enemy is waiting in the wings. The Brigadier must seek help from his own past, and battle demons within, to fight for the future of the human race.
The final three novels in the Lethbridge-Stewart series will be released towards the end of 2022; The Cruel Snow by Natasha Gerson, United Nations by John Peel, and Intelligence Taskforce by Jonathan Blum.