God’s Country by Kerry Hadley-Pryce @Kerry2001 @saltpublishing @RichardsonHelen

Source: Review copy
Publication: 15th February 2023 from Salt Publishing
PP: 160
ISBN-13: 978-1784632656

In this delicious tale a funeral provides the impetus for a
claustrophobic narrative packed with threat and paranoia.
Guy Flood returns to the Black Country with his girlfriend, Alison, to attend his
identical twin brother’s funeral. The reasons he left, and the secrets he left
behind, slowly become clear. A chilling dark fiction, dominated by unknown
and all-seeing narrator

I delighted to be joined today by Kerry Hadley Price who has become synonymous with menacing fiction from the Black Country. She writes about her love of the area and why Black Country Noir is at the heart of her books.

Over to you, Kerry!

I love the Black Country. There, I’ve said it. And I’m from the heart of it, so I’m allowed to say what I’m about to say: it’s such a weird place. Unsettling. What’s that all about? It’s a place, for sure, somewhere the other side of Birmingham stretching more or less out towards Worcestershire and Staffordshire and Shropshire. It’s all very vague.

There is some literature that suggests that the Black Country exists in the minds of those who live there. I love that. And importantly, no-one can really agree on where, or what, it is exactly. In some ways, it‘s a concept, rather than a place – I mean there’s no Black Country Metropolitan Borough Council, or Republic of the Black Country, yet there’s a flag and even a special Black Country Day (14th July, by the way).

There’s a fierce pride, and don’t get me started on the dialect (or dialects), and, of course, I live there, I’m from there, so when I’m out walking or running, I look for edgelands of edgelands – hidden places – which are easy to find, if you’re in the know, where there’s a kind of haunting post-apocalyptic feel. The industrial ruins that lead out to the surprising green borderlands, and the urban farms, and the nature reserves next to the pitheads, these are the places I wander through. Of course, I think that writers’ minds are open to feelings about places, similar to those whose minds are open to being hypnotised. I think that’s the nature of the writing beast.

Some people gather inspiration from standing on a beach, or looking out over a mountain top, or walking in a forest, but for me, there’s enormous beauty in the Black Country urban landscape. There’s something profound.

In literature, I think there’s still a London-centric bias, particularly in fiction, and I think that there tends to be a stereotypical approach to the representation of anywhere else – by which I mean, for example, the Black Country, if it’s considered at all, is perceived perhaps as a grim, rundown place, with dirty canals populated by poor working-class folk.

On the one hand, I think that’s a shame, and a bit of a cop-out, but I also quite like the slight ‘underworld’ feel of underrepresentation and the misunderstanding of it all. Fiction that comes out of the Black Country is a bit like anti-literature… which brings me to Black Country Noir. This is my writing territory: it’s more than just writing set in the Black Country, it has a sensation of the place, with the feel of the characters being slightly out of place themselves; there’s a sense of borderlessness that scratches the corners of discomfort.

In a place like the Black Country – in fiction, anyway – maybe characters can get away with doing things they might not elsewhere, living, as they do, in this edgeland aesthetic. Black Country Noir allows for a particular sense of foreboding, a feeling like trespass or that deep breath of expectation, of preparation, you take in that’s like excitement, almost – perhaps it’s a genre yearns for it.

When I wrote God’s Country, I spent a lot of time walking, exploring and experiencing parts of the region I thought I knew as part of my writing process. Guy Flood’s story, of how he’d left his Black Country, of how he’d felt he’d escaped, only to have to return to his identical twin brother’s funeral, came to me slowly.

In Black Country Noir, escape from the region feels almost impossible, so Guy, returning to his childhood home here – a farm, of all places – is hard for him, especially in the circumstances. He returns with his girlfriend, Alison, who has never been to the region and knows only what Guy has told her – or not told her – about the place and his family. There are secrets that unfold, and there are secrets that remain hidden, because some secrets should never be revealed, especially here, in the Black Country. And it’s through Alison’s voice that we experience it all, all the darkness of it.

She’ll tell you as much as she knows, or as much as she can bear to tell you, that is.


KERRY HADLEY-PRYCE was born in the Black Country. She worked
nights in a Wolverhampton petrol station before becoming a secondary
school teacher. She wrote her first novel, The Black Country, whilst
studying for an MA in Creative Writing at the Manchester Writing
School. She is currently a PhD student at Manchester Metropolitan
University, researching Psychogeography and Black Country Writing.
God’s Country is her third novel She lives in Stourbridge and tweets

Published by marypicken

Passionate book reader. Love all kind of books from 19th century novels to crime thrillers. My blog is predominantly crime, psychological thrillers and police procedurals with a good helping of literary fiction thrown in.

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