“This childhood nightmare never went away…” In 1971, four boys walked into a jungle. Only three came back alive. They blamed what happened on a mythical monster, but no-one believed them. Forty years later, the truth is finally coming out…
Journalist, Nate Mason, is one of the survivors. Haunted by memories he doesn’t fully understand, he returns to the Caribbean island of St. Lucia to unravel the tragic events of his childhood. Back then, as the son of a diplomat, Nate was part of an elite social circle. This included the island’s “royal family”, the De Villiers, who owned a decaying mansion deep in the jungle, staffed by the descendants of slaves. It was here, during a weekend of whispered childhood secrets and dares, that Nate’s innocence was torn apart.
But Nate’s not the only one obsessed with the demons in his past. Within hours of arriving back on the island, he becomes convinced he’s being followed. But even though he soon realizes he’s risking his sanity as well as his life, he can’t stop himself from searching for the answers he came here to find. Can childhood nightmares haunt you for the rest of your life? How much do you need to believe in a monster for it to become real?
The Clearing is a dark and atmospheric psychological thriller, full of intrigue, terror and superstition, which examines our deep fear of the unknown.
Guest post on the setting of The Clearing by the author Dan Newman (Thank you Dan!):
The Clearing is a novel set in St. Lucia, but it was the St. Lucia of the 1970s. Back then it was a somewhat different island; sure, the geography is the same today, but back then the place was different. The island had yet to be properly discovered by tourism. There was a clutch of hotels offering Caribbean luxury, but they were wide open and somehow innocent. You could walk right in; no security, no wristbands. The guests were a well healed and exclusive set; there were no package deals, no all-inclusive tours.
And further out of town, down the coast and in the interior, the island was still making its living much way it always had – growing crops for export on expansive plantations that seemed not to have changed for generations. The plantation where much of the novel is set, Ti Fenwe, is a real place, although the name has been changed. In 1976 the estate was busy producing copra, sugar cane, bananas and, importantly for the novel, nutmeg. Today, that same estate still grows crops, but now you can now visit and see the place in action. You can have a wonderful lunch of locally grown produce and enjoy the old house itself. It looks quite lovely now, having been restored to its former glory.
But back in 1976, it was much different.
With no tourists to impress, the main house served only to be functional, and in fact most of it had fallen into disrepair. It was weathered heavily and under constant attack from the encroaching forest. It felt abandoned, and as an eleven or twelve year old kid, it seemed to me to be somehow quietly desperate, mournful, like an old person left at the side of the road to die. And it reached out to you in that same way.
In the novel, the house is significant, and in my own real life experiences, it was a place of both refuge and fear. Only one room had a lock on the door, and during the night something ran through the attic, scattering the drying nutmeg, and terrifying me and my friends. We felt thankful for the locks (there were three, and that bothered me even back then), but while the locks kept whatever was upstairs out, they also kept us in.
The room itself is seared into my memory, as were the multiple locks and the fact that it held a small armoury as well; a few shotguns and a small pistol. The owner was relaxed but attentive – what I’d call situationally aware today. The room was a defendable position, and I remember realizing that - after the last of the three locks were turned and we were sealed in for the night.
And it was quite a night. One day I’ll write down the other things that happened, but for now I hope you enjoy the parts that made it into The Clearing.