some books never end

Where once there had been flames, there remained only secrecy. Forgotten in the hills of Wales, the coven followed the traditions of the goddess and the ways of its ancestors.

Through a tangle of deception, magic and a mystery long hoped forgotten, one young woman seeks the truth behind the accident of her birth and the terrors that surround her.

Steven William Rimmer’s legendary first novel, long out of print, is now available in a new, unabridged edition.

Coven has an unusually long history, as obscure books go. It was my first novel, and was originally published in 1986 by Ballantine Books. Think back to 1986 — no Internet, computers somewhat less powerful than a contemporary programmable toaster, actual book shops that sold actual books, rather than DVDs and video games. Right... no DVDs or video games, either.

The Ballantine edition of Coven was somewhat shorter than what I’d originally written, with a seriously lurid cover. Being ostensibly about witches, it appeared shortly before Halloween, and vanished shortly thereafter. None the less, first novel, published by the first publisher I’d sent it to... what a rush.

When the copyright reverted back to me after the Ballantine version went out of print, it was picked up by Jam Ink, who published the original manuscript.

Coven is about witches, to be sure — the title sort of gives it away — but they’re not gnarly old ladies who get about on brooms and turn lesser-known members of the royal family into frogs. It’s probably a bit late for the latter activity anyway. The people who would be decried as witches in medieval Europe were actually worshipers of the old fertility gods. Just about everything nasty that came to be believed about them was an invention of the christian church, which resented anything that looked like competition.

The witches in Coven resided in a valley in contemporary Wales — at least, it was contemporary in 1986 — and largely kept out of everyone’s way. They worshiped their goddess, saw to their sheep and slept around a lot.

Coven was an interesting perspective on its odd little fragment of civilization because its heroine, an orphan girl named Elspet, had been given a town education, and had one foot in each world. Her fellow witches regarded the world beyond their valley with grave suspicion, and in time, they came to regard her with growing distrust as well. Someone amongst them was not who he seemed — or she seemed, or perhaps both — and appeared to be leaving a trail of blood everywhere he or she or they went.

In writing a story from an essentially pagan perspective, a christian villain was so obvious a plot element as to be dismissed out of hand. Coven is very much about corruption, but it’s about corruption from within. Everything about the society of witches turned out have taken on its share of rot and dissipation, and everyone started looking warty by the end.

Coven was followed closely by its sequel, Legacy — if you can call a decade “closely.”