Read an extract from Where There Is Darkness

Chapter 1

BIRMINGHAM, WEST MIDLANDS
5 NOVEMBER 1981

The match flared alight with a sulphurous puff, casting a vivid pool of light on the wet grass and plunging everything beyond to a blackness that ran even deeper than before. The foggy air was so still that the match flame was unwavering, steady, needing no cupped hand to shield it as it hovered beneath the neat twist of blue touchpaper.

The firework hissed into life, its fuse glowing red with a wisp of smoke that was abruptly snatched away as an arctic breeze moaned down the hillside. There was an explosive whooshing noise and a spray of flame split the darkness. Pete’s head jerked towards me, and his hands flew up in horror.

Instead of shooting upwards as it was meant to, the rocket shot out horizontally from the hillside. It flew in a perfect smooth flattened curve, like a fiery arrow. For what can have only been a few seconds but seemed more like a minute, it kept on flying, surprisingly slowly. For a surreal moment I almost believed that our rocket might keep cruising forever, maintaining its perfect low orbit above the earth. But gradually the angle of its golden comet tail tilted upwards as its nose dropped and it dipped towards the ground.

The saliva dried from my mouth instantly as I realised what was about to happen. I bobbed up and down, urging it to explode.

But it hurtled on, much farther away from us now, heading towards the centre of the park. With only seconds of its life remaining, it flew faster but steeper, spearing down through the smoky air as its nose dropped towards the vertical and it fell from its orbit, pulled back to earth like a dying star.

I tried to close my eyes, but I couldn’t. Someone was saying ‘oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.’ It might have been me.

Perhaps the rocket wouldn’t explode when it hit the ground? Yes! Surely it would just stick in the wet mud and fizzle out. I exhaled, realising I’d been holding my breath.

It was only a glowing pinpoint, like the angry eye of some mythical creature, when it plunged into the sea of bobbing heads between the fairground and the food stalls, just where everyone was surging to go home. Among the family groups and the pushchairs. For a millisecond, nothing happened except some agitation of the crowd around the point of impact: a breaking of the surface tension, an outward ripple of energy as if a pebble had been tossed into a black lake.

There was an upward mushrooming silver flash, silhouettes and shadows and what might have been stark white faces, frozen in time. A thought struck me: why hadn’t it made any noise? Had it not exploded properly?

The crack and rumble of the explosion echoed up the hillside and rolled over us like a breaking wave on a dark, frozen beach.

Someone shook my arm, nearly jerking me off my feet.
‘Dave! Dave! Come on! Move!’
‘Oh god, what happened? What do we do?’
‘Let’s go. Now. Come on.’
Pete dragged me away, heading along the crest of the slope in a wide arc, away from the crowds and the fairground. The slope ran down until the ground flattened out by the reservoir, in the far corner of the park.

My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow, my throat squeezed so it felt like my Adam’s apple would jam it closed. The residue of the Southern Comfort we’d drunk earlier was a sugary slime in my mouth.
‘What are we doing? Let’s go home!’ I said.
‘Not yet. We can’t get out of the park here. There’s no gates in the bloody fence. Anyway, we have to get back into the crowd, else we’re stuffed.’
‘Let’s just climb the fence. I want to go home!’
To our right, the high spiked fence ran down the slope to meet the brick wall bordering the reservoir.
‘No. Even if we climbed over and legged it someone might remember two kids running away. It’s too risky. We need to get down there,’ he pointed back towards the chaos, ‘and get lost in the crowd again. That’s our only hope. Fuck. Let’s go. Now.’ He yanked on my arm.

The flat ground by the reservoir was a morass of frosty grass and frozen puddles. We squelched along, trying to hop between the spiky clumps of grass. It was so dark we mostly misjudged and went up to our ankles in water. Up ahead, the fairground rides cranked to a standstill, their cheery music became grotesquely distorted as it slowed and finally died. Now there was screaming: shrill and piercing and laced with the howling of a dog in agony. This hideous din was joined then mercifully consumed by the swelling wail of sirens before the flashing lights of several emergency vehicles emerged, bumping towards us through the murky drift of smoke and freezing fog.

I was suddenly desperate for a piss.
‘Pete, I’ve got to go to the bog.’ The words were clumsy in my dry mouth.
‘Not now! Fuck’s sake!’
‘I’ve got to go, right now! Pete, can I stop?’
My bladder was already relaxing. But my frozen hands were too clumsy on my zip. As I was pulling myself free I burst and sprayed hot piss on my left hand and down my thigh. I leaned forward with one hand on the fence’s flaky ironwork, eyes drooping, pissing into the long grass along the fence line, not caring about the steamy smell or the cooling wetness on my leg. I looked to my left, at the reservoir. The string of lights along the dam, far away on the opposite shore, cast a wavy yellow glow on the black water. It looked beautiful through the liquid blur of my half-closed eyelids. It was like something I’d done in art last term that Mr Scott had put up on the school’s art room wall, to the derision of my classmates. I smiled. Maybe I’d do another similar one. Perhaps I’d try oil paints this time though…
The creaking leather of Pete’s coat startled me. He grabbed my collar.
‘Come on Dave! Wake up! Jesus Christ!’

My trouser leg clung to my thigh, wet and cold. I could no longer feel my feet. But the discomfort was easing as increasingly I felt drugged, poisoned, my senses going into shutdown. Even with Pete dragging me along, I couldn’t stop my eyes closing. A sharp image of the explosion was imprinted on my retina. I kept blinking, but the silvery flash wouldn’t go away.

I tried to think, to grasp the implications of what had happened. I glared at Pete’s back, cursing my best friend, hating him for his wild ideas and schemes, and for the catastrophe we were now running from.

But we weren’t running from the catastrophe. We were running towards it. Because I knew, even though we hadn’t yet seen exactly what had happened, that we had done something terrible.

Chapter 1

BIRMINGHAM, WEST MIDLANDS
5 NOVEMBER 1981

The match flared alight with a sulphurous puff, casting a vivid pool of light on the wet grass and plunging everything beyond to a blackness that ran even deeper than before. The foggy air was so still that the match flame was unwavering, steady, needing no cupped hand to shield it as it hovered beneath the neat twist of blue touchpaper.

The firework hissed into life, its fuse glowing red with a wisp of smoke that was abruptly snatched away as an arctic breeze moaned down the hillside. There was an explosive whooshing noise and a spray of flame split the darkness. Pete’s head jerked towards me, and his hands flew up in horror.

Instead of shooting upwards as it was meant to, the rocket shot out horizontally from the hillside. It flew in a perfect smooth flattened curve, like a fiery arrow. For what can have only been a few seconds but seemed more like a minute, it kept on flying, surprisingly slowly. For a surreal moment I almost believed that our rocket might keep cruising forever, maintaining its perfect low orbit above the earth. But gradually the angle of its golden comet tail tilted upwards as its nose dropped and it dipped towards the ground.

The saliva dried from my mouth instantly as I realised what was about to happen. I bobbed up and down, urging it to explode.

But it hurtled on, much farther away from us now, heading towards the centre of the park. With only seconds of its life remaining, it flew faster but steeper, spearing down through the smoky air as its nose dropped towards the vertical and it fell from its orbit, pulled back to earth like a dying star.

I tried to close my eyes, but I couldn’t. Someone was saying ‘oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck.’ It might have been me.

Perhaps the rocket wouldn’t explode when it hit the ground? Yes! Surely it would just stick in the wet mud and fizzle out. I exhaled, realising I’d been holding my breath.

It was only a glowing pinpoint, like the angry eye of some mythical creature, when it plunged into the sea of bobbing heads between the fairground and the food stalls, just where everyone was surging to go home. Among the family groups and the pushchairs. For a millisecond, nothing happened except some agitation of the crowd around the point of impact: a breaking of the surface tension, an outward ripple of energy as if a pebble had been tossed into a black lake.

There was an upward mushrooming silver flash, silhouettes and shadows and what might have been stark white faces, frozen in time. A thought struck me: why hadn’t it made any noise? Had it not exploded properly?

The crack and rumble of the explosion echoed up the hillside and rolled over us like a breaking wave on a dark, frozen beach.

Someone shook my arm, nearly jerking me off my feet.
‘Dave! Dave! Come on! Move!’
‘Oh god, what happened? What do we do?’
‘Let’s go. Now. Come on.’
Pete dragged me away, heading along the crest of the slope in a wide arc, away from the crowds and the fairground. The slope ran down until the ground flattened out by the reservoir, in the far corner of the park.

My mouth was so dry I could hardly swallow, my throat squeezed so it felt like my Adam’s apple would jam it closed. The residue of the Southern Comfort we’d drunk earlier was a sugary slime in my mouth.
‘What are we doing? Let’s go home!’ I said.
‘Not yet. We can’t get out of the park here. There’s no gates in the bloody fence. Anyway, we have to get back into the crowd, else we’re stuffed.’
‘Let’s just climb the fence. I want to go home!’
To our right, the high spiked fence ran down the slope to meet the brick wall bordering the reservoir.
‘No. Even if we climbed over and legged it someone might remember two kids running away. It’s too risky. We need to get down there,’ he pointed back towards the chaos, ‘and get lost in the crowd again. That’s our only hope. Fuck. Let’s go. Now.’ He yanked on my arm.

The flat ground by the reservoir was a morass of frosty grass and frozen puddles. We squelched along, trying to hop between the spiky clumps of grass. It was so dark we mostly misjudged and went up to our ankles in water. Up ahead, the fairground rides cranked to a standstill, their cheery music became grotesquely distorted as it slowed and finally died. Now there was screaming: shrill and piercing and laced with the howling of a dog in agony. This hideous din was joined then mercifully consumed by the swelling wail of sirens before the flashing lights of several emergency vehicles emerged, bumping towards us through the murky drift of smoke and freezing fog.

I was suddenly desperate for a piss.
‘Pete, I’ve got to go to the bog.’ The words were clumsy in my dry mouth.
‘Not now! Fuck’s sake!’
‘I’ve got to go, right now! Pete, can I stop?’
My bladder was already relaxing. But my frozen hands were too clumsy on my zip. As I was pulling myself free I burst and sprayed hot piss on my left hand and down my thigh. I leaned forward with one hand on the fence’s flaky ironwork, eyes drooping, pissing into the long grass along the fence line, not caring about the steamy smell or the cooling wetness on my leg. I looked to my left, at the reservoir. The string of lights along the dam, far away on the opposite shore, cast a wavy yellow glow on the black water. It looked beautiful through the liquid blur of my half-closed eyelids. It was like something I’d done in art last term that Mr Scott had put up on the school’s art room wall, to the derision of my classmates. I smiled. Maybe I’d do another similar one. Perhaps I’d try oil paints this time though…
The creaking leather of Pete’s coat startled me. He grabbed my collar.
‘Come on Dave! Wake up! Jesus Christ!’

My trouser leg clung to my thigh, wet and cold. I could no longer feel my feet. But the discomfort was easing as increasingly I felt drugged, poisoned, my senses going into shutdown. Even with Pete dragging me along, I couldn’t stop my eyes closing. A sharp image of the explosion was imprinted on my retina. I kept blinking, but the silvery flash wouldn’t go away.

I tried to think, to grasp the implications of what had happened. I glared at Pete’s back, cursing my best friend, hating him for his wild ideas and schemes, and for the catastrophe we were now running from.

But we weren’t running from the catastrophe. We were running towards it. Because I knew, even though we hadn’t yet seen exactly what had happened, that we had done something terrible.

Chapter 5

SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES
JANUARY 2013

As if our home being burgled wasn’t enough, after lunch I have to spend some time in our studio, as our department’s two-person graphic design team calls itself. The senior of them is a Scot called Declan. He’s in his fifties and hanging out for an early retirement package, which I happen to know he isn’t going to get. He’s completely devoid of wit, charm or style and totally unsuited to a creative profession. The only times I’ve ever seen him laugh are at the news of someone’s misfortune. But we get on okay. This isn’t because I like him but because Declan’s cooperation, or the lack of it, can make or break your project. Whether he’ll push himself to meet your deadline depends on his mood and whether he likes you. All he cares about is Scottish football. I always check the weekend’s results to see how Hibernian did against Motherwell or Arbroath or Hamilton Academicals or whoever, so we can have a blokey chat before I beg him to do an urgent job or chase up a printer. But today I’m the dour one, moaning about our break-in. I have stumbled on a second topic of interest because he nods his big square head knowingly, as if burglary is something familiar to him. An inevitable part of life even, like traffic or rain.

‘How much stuff was lifted?’ he asks.
‘A fair bit. The usual suspects: TV, stereo, Lydia’s jewellery. My bloody computer.’
Declan’s white iMac is identical to mine. I see my study desk, its surface bare, the dangling leads and power cords and dust balls all that remain.
‘Was there much on your computer?’ asks Declan.
‘Email addresses. Our photos. Luckily I’ve got them backed up, and some of them saved on a disc in the car.’
Declan nods his approval to my disaster management plan.
‘No, the worst thing is just the bloody hassle of getting a new computer and setting it up,’ I say. ‘And the mess.’
Again I see my study, the bare desk, and my mind’s eye pans back, revealing the chaos on the floor, the emptied drawers, the overturned bookcase, papers and pens and folders scattered everywhere.
‘Bit of clearing up to do, eh?’ Declan asks with relish.
‘You could say that. We’re lucky that my brother Tony and his wife are staying. They’re tidying up for us.’

Declan grunts and swivels his chair back towards his computer. He’s shown enough interest in my problems. So I tell him about how I’m helping pull part of the annual report together, and how important a project it is, what ‘milestones’ we have to meet. As he grunts and nods and shoots questions through clenched teeth, a tiny ripple of unease sweeps through me like leaves fluttering in an icy breeze. I try to concentrate on paper stock thickness and matt versus gloss finishes and types of booklet bindings. But something is lodged in my brain, an irritant, a little germ of worry. As I half listen to Declan, my mind prods at this germ, probing it, revolving it on its axis. The vision of my desecrated study returns. Now I hardly hear Declan, sensing that I’m close to discovering what this thing is, but knowing there’s still a piece missing, that I’m not there yet. The image of my study slides away and for an instant there’s nothing, just a blankness, a black funnelling hole that runs through me and beyond, spanning time and place and looping back on itself from long ago and far away. And then an image drops back into place in my head like a slide into a projector, and it’s the same one as before, of my study with the mess on the floor. But there’s something different this time. Tony crouches on the floor, his hideous bare feet slipping on the piles of papers. He picks through the mess, putting books in one pile, files and folders in another, and meticulously sorts the miscellaneous contents of drawers into a couple of cardboard boxes. Occasionally he unfolds a piece of paper or holds something up to the light.
The ripple of unease becomes a crashing wave of horror.
‘Holy shit. Oh, shit.’ I leap from my chair and rush from the room.
I jump straight in a taxi outside the office and garble our address.
‘Which way you wanna go mate?’ says the driver. ‘Take the tunnel?’
‘Jesus, whichever’s quickest!’ I hate it when they ask this. Whatever I choose always feels like the wrong answer.
The driver shrugs and pulls out from the kerb. I dial our home number, jabbing hard at the keys. It rings four times, then the answer phone comes on. What does this mean? Am I safe? Have they gone out? Or does it just mean that they’re still there but didn’t get to the phone in time? Lydia’s irritatingly calm voice tells me to leave a message after the tone. I try to steady my voice.
‘Hi both, it’s Dave. Are you there? Anyone there?’ My heart rate slows. They must be out. Thank Christ. ‘Hope you’re having fun at the beach. See you later. Bye.’
A fresh panic sweeps through me. What if they’re in the garden and didn’t hear the phone? Or maybe they’ve popped out to the florist and will be back in five minutes.

I rest my head in my hand and try to control my breathing. I’m in the only taxi in Sydney with a law-abiding driver. He doesn’t even run amber lights much less the just-turned-red ones. And then we get to within a mile of our house and hit school pick-up time. There mustn’t be one kid in our suburb that walks to school. The four-wheel drives jostle for position, doing clumsy u-turns, mums double parking, flicking hazard lights on while they unload huge prams. The cab driver shakes his head.
‘Always like this, mate. Worse than bloody peak hour.’
‘I know.’ I look at my watch and moan.

We grind along a couple more streets until I can take no more. We’re half a mile from our house and it’s uphill, but I abandon the cab. I force myself to walk. It’s as if by running uphill on a hot summer day I would be visibly demonstrating to the world the state of my panic. Making it real. Again I see that clear image of Tony crouching on the floor of the study, holding an object up to the light, turning it over in his hands, reading something on a piece of paper. That gets me running, pushing hard up the hill, my pounding blood almost obscuring my vision, heat bursting in my ears. I swing into the front yard and fumble for my key, head throbbing so I can’t hear anything. I almost fall through the door, letting it crash back against the wall of the passageway.

But it doesn’t matter that I can’t hear anything. There’s nothing to hear. I’m too late. They’ve gone. And in that instant, my breath rasping in our hallway, I know that Tony and I will never speak again.

Something still compels me to check the house. A bunch of pale yellow tulips wrapped in blue cellophane lies on the hall table. The bottom ones are crushed, as if hurriedly dropped. I climb the stairs, trailing my sweaty hand along the banister, recreating the scene in my mind. Gail returns from the florist and lets herself in. Tony comes out of the kitchen in a rush, shouting instructions and grabbing her hand, dragging her upstairs. There is almost a faint echo of Tony’s cries still in the air. And there’s a lingering residual human warmth in the house, something different from the mid-afternoon heat. I must have only just missed them. We must have nearly collided in the street, me pounding up the hill and them scurrying down it, dragging their suitcases, Tony yanking Gail along, ignoring her bewildered questioning. Or, more chillingly, was it the other way around? Was it a sobbing Gail who had to get Tony out of the house, persuade him to come away and cool down, not do anything stupid? In the lounge room there’s evidence that the latter is more likely. The elephant sculpture lies on the floor, its trunk and tusks snapped off, a dent in the timber flooring. A framed photo from the sideboard of me skiing in New Zealand lies nearby. The glass is smashed and the photo crumpled, as if stamped on by an angry heel.

The guest bedroom is as I expect to find it: evidence of their morning clean up in the piles of books returned to the shelf, clothes no longer strewn over the floor from their rifled cases. Their suitcases are gone, along with any evidence that my brother and his wife were ever here. There’s a rectangular indentation on the duvet, where a suitcase would have lain while things were flung into it and the lid jammed shut.
The bathroom is in the same state as last night. Probably Tony was planning to clear it up last, after he’d done the study. My feet crunch on broken glass. I splash some cold water on my face and try to take some deep breaths.

As I near the closed study door, an absurd flush of optimism hits me. Perhaps there’s a simple explanation for why their suitcases and clothes are missing. Tony and Gail could yet be down at Bondi, broiling on the sand or browsing in the shops. Right now they could be looking at their watches, feeling the sun-stiffness in the skin of their shoulders, deciding to head back to the house. This new hope creates a fresh urgency and I fling open the door.

Chapter 20

BIRMINGHAM
JULY 2013

I wake early next morning. My body is tired but my mind is buzzing. I think about yesterday, the park and the playground, my father. I find myself thinking about another day, long ago. A day I’ve never forgotten but have not had the ability to see as clearly as I do now, lying in Tony’s old bedroom in the lilac pre-dawn stillness.

It was a cold day. A Saturday. Dad and Tony watching Grandstand. Tony snuggled up to him on the sofa until the horse racing came on and we got ready to go to the park. This was our Saturday routine, weather permitting: to the park with Dad and Mr Dawson, then they dropped us home and went for a pint at the Dog and Partridge. Mum fussed over Tony, kissing him as she buttoned his coat, trying to pull his woolly hat over his ears, tickling him so he squealed and wriggled away.
‘Tony! You’ll freeze without your hat!’ she said, grabbing him from behind.
‘You ready, Big Davey? said Dad, ruffling my hair.
I hugged his leg. I loved him calling me Big Davey or Big Man. Mum crumbled some bread into a bag which Dad stuffed into the pocket of his donkey jacket. The doorbell rang and Tony and I ran squealing to greet Mr Dawson. We were always excited to see him. He knew lots of games and jokes. I loved the trick where he pretended to have a mouse in his hands but really it was his thumb poking through his fingers. We called him Uncle Brian, although he wasn’t our uncle. He and Dad were best friends from schooldays. Now they worked together at the car factory. Brian made Mum laugh too. Often Mum and Dad and Mr and Mrs Dawson went out and Nana Truman babysat me and Tony.
‘Alright Bri,’ said Dad. ‘Chuffing cold, isn’t it?’
‘Ar. Brass monkeys today,’ said Brian, rubbing his hands together. ‘Freeze your whatsits off.’
They laughed, and Brian came into the hallway while Mum finished fussing with Tony. Brian’s little daughter, Janice, tried to hide between his legs. She was the same age as me. Women were always stopping Brian in the street or in a shop to say how cute she was. I can only recall huge blue eyes and a mass of dark curly hair. I felt sorry for her because she wore glasses with the left lens covered with pinkish-brown sticking plaster, although she wasn’t wearing them that day. I assumed she’d hurt her eye, and thus couldn’t understand why the sticking plaster was on the glass, not on her actual eye. She was Mum’s goddaughter. Mum would often joke about swapping Tony and me for Janice and sending us to live with Brian and Sheila.
‘Where’s Tony?’ whispered Janice, peeping round Brian’s leg, her eyes wide and hopeful.
Janice adored Tony. Far too young for it to be a proper crush, she had nonetheless developed a real infatuation. She trailed after him and always wanted to sit with him. One of Tony’s classmates teased him about having a girlfriend and Tony got in trouble for fighting with him about it.

Eventually Mum finished getting Tony ready, and the five of us stepped out of the house into a biting, gritty wind.
‘Put Dave’s gloves on!’ called Mum.
But Dad was laughing with Brian and didn’t hear, so the gloves just dangled from my sleeves on their elastic cords. I remember walking along our street windmilling them like propellers. They were chunky knit mittens, red and white, a sort of zigzag Aztec design. Tony was wearing his Blues bobble hat, the one Nana Truman knitted. I can still see it. The blue wasn’t the right colour. It was a touch too navy.

I loved going to the park with Dad and Brian. Sometimes I went there just with Tony, but without adults such trips were fraught with danger. There were often bigger kids from the flats there. They wouldn’t let us go on the swings or the seesaw unless we paid a forfeit. This might be sharing sweets or lending them our bikes. We always feared of ever getting them back. Worse, there might be kids from a children’s home a few streets away. These boys and girls knew no fear nor understood the concepts of consequences or adult authority. But there were none of those worries that Saturday with Dad and Brian as we dribbled a football along the pavement. At the park, we headed straight for the playground, we three children running on ahead, yelling and hooting. The men played keepy-uppy, the ball flying everywhere. I can still see my father’s bearded face, split wide with laughter, his breath panting in clouds.

My mittens stayed off all that terrible afternoon. I can still feel the icy metal edge of the slide under my bare hand. I was usually careful to avoid the muddy streaks left on the slide by kids’ feet. But this time I got bird shit on my fingers and had a screaming fit. Dad and Brian were sitting smoking, one on each end of the seesaw, rocking up and down. They told me to go and wash my fingers in the pond. So I ran down the hill to the pond – more a little lake – and dipped my fingers in the water. It was so cold it burned. I wiped my hand on the grass. The ducks and geese were coming, fighting and flapping and churning the water. Even a few seagulls wheeled in and landed nearby. They stood in a group watching me with their keen red eyes, flexing their wings. The Canada Geese were particularly scary. Once Tony threw some sticks at one that was lying on the bank and it jumped up hissing and snapped at him. I was getting scared, but then Brian appeared. He clapped his hands, and the birds backed off.
‘Big buggers up close, aren’t they Dave?’ he said.
He had the bag of bread with him. He squatted next to me and we hurled doughy pellets into the water, laughing at the birds fighting for them, quacking and splashing.

Brian shook the last crumbs out of the bag when something – some noise? Or was it a sudden silence? – made me turn and look back to the playground. What I saw was an image that froze into the vision of icy clarity that would lodge in the recess of my deep consciousness forever.

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About the author

Richard Waters was born and grew up in Birmingham, England, where he worked in various roles in property and financial services before migrating to Australia in 1996.

He then turned to travel and features writing, with several of his stories appearing in Australia's main newspapers. He later became a freelance copywriter and still works in this field today as a content marketing specialist.

He was a founder member in 2005 of a writers' group called (for reasons long forgotten) The Beak, which still meets regularly. In 2012 he completed a masters degree in creative writing at the University of Technology Sydney, during which he wrote Where There Is Darkness, his first novel.

Richard is married and lives in Sydney. When not pretending to be busy writing, he enjoys watching Scooby Doo with his two young daughters, 'sampling' craft beer and failing to learn to play the banjo.

Learn the story behind Where There Is Darkness in this Q&A with Richard

Reader reviews

JOHN STEINER, author of The Last Wilkie's and Other Stories

'This is a gripping story that explores the lifelong ramifications of youthful stupidity, of devastated lives and secrets buried but not forgotten. Spanning four decades, Where There Is Darkness is a complex and layered novel that will keep you up late, unable to put the book down. Richard Waters has a remarkable ability to bring his world to life and he expertly unfurls his tale at just the right pace, in a clear and precise prose that makes it a pleasure to read.’

Associate Professor DEBRA ADELAIDE, creative writing program, University of Technology Sydney, and author of The Women’s Pages and The Household Guide to Dying

‘This gripping story takes us from the bleak world of Birmingham in the early 1980s to contemporary Sydney where teenage secrets, guilt, rivalry and resentment continue to haunt the protagonist. Where There Is Darkness explores the exquisite suffering of a character who is guilty yet also strangely and essentially decent. As Dave's story unfolds we are drawn into this dilemma and also into the whole world of place, community, family and upbringing, which is so powerfully represented. This is a compelling novel, exploring the darkness of human nature as well as its possibilities for redemption.’