True Detective, The Outsider and Southern Gothic

The release of THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS, the first Atticus Priest novel, looms large. I’m excited about the book and can’t wait for you to read it, and, of course, let me know what you think of it. It’s something a little different from me in terms of tone, and whilst it has many inspirations, I want to talk about one of them – the Southern Gothic tradition, and how the feeling of atmosphere and dread that the genre conjures applies to a new setting, a little closer to (my) home.


TRUE DETECTIVE is a current touchstone. The first season is absolutely one of the finest things I’ve ever seen, a prestige drama that leans firmly into Southern Gothic, delivering a world underneath “our” world, full of dangerously exaggerated religion, broken-down buildings unable to resist reclamation by nature, and noir-ish protagonists struggling to make sense of this new world that is revealed to them. The second season is a well-documented mess – though not without some merit – and, thankfully, the third season was something of a return to form.


More overtly supernatural, THE OUTSIDER has also been fun, very much in the same tradition. That feeling of there being more to the world than us mere mortals can comprehend is not a new concept, but when added to the hopelessness and alienation of Southern Gothic, it becomes a powerful storytelling device.


I’ve tried to draw on this kind of thing for THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS (although no supernatural influences), though the Southern Gothic here is the south of England, set near to my home. Whilst England may not have the tradition of wild-eyed preachers in ramshackle churches by the Bayou, it can create a similar oppressive atmosphere – the country is old, and the woods have long memories.


I hope you enjoy THE HOUSE IN THE WOODS. You can preorder it here: