Friday, 17 September 2010

COURT OF FOXES by BRIAN LUX - A Writer's Journey

Author Brian Lux talks about the inspiration behind his book, Court of Foxes.

Court of Foxes was the Wales Regional winner in the 2007 national competition organised by Undiscovered Authors, and was published in July 2008.


In the Welsh village of Morredin, no house is numbered ‘7’ and its children belong to a secret society. Into this brooding atmosphere comes Bryn to live with his grandfather, and nightmares commence which take him deep into a cave.

What is the dark secret surrounding Emrys Morgan, who is buried in a far corner of the churchyard? And why does no one except Bryn see and hear the foxes?

When he stumbles on the cave of his nightmare, Bryn finds the book of seven golden locks which is known to hold evil power. As his connection to Morredin is revealed, Bryn faces a decision that could change the world for ever.


Court of Foxes- The journey

It all began with an article in Saga magazine with the eye-catching title ‘I’m off to see the Wizard.

Written by Byron Rogers as ‘The Traveller,’ it was the fascinating-true- story of Dr John Harries who died in 1839 (remember that date) and a photograph that should not exist, but resides in the National Library of Wales.

As I read the story of this amazing man, and wizard, the wheels of my creative thought began to turn.
The Book of Revelations featured strongly in Byron’s account, and I was to study that frightening epistle as my story evolved.

And I saw in the right hand of him that sat on the throne a book written within…sealed with seven seals.

What has that extract from the Book of Revelations to do with Dr Harries?
The answer is simple: he also had a magical book with seven locks and, ‘once a year, the Wizard, cowled and carrying the locked book would climb the hills. It was said that when this happened the skies would darken over the Vale of Caio, and thunder would roll as he opened it,’ wrote Byron.

After reading that the grave of the doctor was away from others in the small cemetery, and the ‘Harries stone’ in the hills where he used to pray to evil forces, split on the night of his death, I was hooked!
I telephoned Byron Rogers who told me that one man had shown him where the grave was sited then said: ‘I went to see it one Halloween, and haven’t been right since.

A story was forming in my mind, and the protagonist was named Bryn, and there would be a magical book of spells, with seven locks, and….I had to visit Caio.
From Llandudno it is over one hundred miles, and the journey takes you up into the hills from Pumsaint on the A482.

Eventually I reached Caio, to find it a pleasant small village with a stream bubbling through the centre, and the surrounding hills have grazing sheep and there is a wood nearby.

I saw the entrance to a cave, and that was placed in my memory bank, though I also took many photographs to be on the safe side.

As I entered the old church I was immediately struck by a stained glass window with the image of Dr Harries, resplendent in his Victorian finery, but it was the animals cavorting at his feet that drew my attention: they were foxes.

Do you know why there are foxes in that picture?’ I asked the old lady sweeping the church floor.
Oh you mean the dewen (wizard). He was able to change into an animal, and the fox was his favourite,’ she answered, and the hairs on the back of my neck rose

Foxes were going to be important in my story and when I walked through the village and learned the name of the crossroads was ‘The Court of the Fox,’ I knew I was destined to write a story as I now had a title.

The Saga magazine article had featured the photograph of Peter Williams whom Byron Rogers met in Caio, and could have taken the part of Gandalf in ‘Lord of the Rings,’ with his flowing wild white hair falling to his shoulders, and a beard halfway down his chest.

This was bound to be character in my book, and Selwyn, who meets Bryn at the beginning is an important link in the events that take place.

I studied the Book of Revelations which gave me some graphic scenes with fiery red horses, a pale horse carrying ‘death’ on its back, and a nightmare where Bryn is hit by blood falling down as rain.

To be truthful, the story wrote itself, and characters evolved, like Carys, who leads a secret society of children who meet in one the caves near my mythical Welsh village of Mordach.

Not being a Welsh speaker, I was lucky to have the services of staff at my local library, so the fox became cadno, and the scary black fox, cadno du.
At workshops with local schools, I am often asked if I can speak Welsh, and I see the triumph on their faces when I answer in the negative. However, I see a modicum of respect when I ask if they know the meaning of ‘dewen,’ ‘cadno,’ and the other few words I have learned, as most shake their heads!

I would like to end with the opening of my story, and you will see how this evolved if you care to go back to Byron Roger’s account:

‘The man threw back the hood of his black cloak, dark eyes glittering with excitement. Walking towards the star-shaped flat stone on the hillside, he clutched a leather book tightly.
Placing the book carefully on the stone, he took out a key ring from a pocket in his cloak. It held seven gold keys. The time had come.
‘Adentium, mesantium, nostrarium,’ he shouted to the darkening sky, his arms outstretched . An answering rumble of thunder bounced off the hillside as he opened the first lock on the book.
In the villages below, dogs howled and shivered. People hurried indoors and crossed themselves as they looked fearfully towards the distant hills known at the ‘Court of Foxes.’
‘Dyn Hysbys,’ they whispered. ‘The Wise Man prays.’

One final thought. The book of seven locks with its collection of evil spells and power was never found after the death of Dr John Harries.

‘What I liked about the story was the strong sense of PLACE and the character of Bryn. He is a very believable character.’  
Adele Geras.

‘A powerful and dramatic piece of writing that has all the ingredients necessary to appeal to both young and old readers alike, an excellent compelling piece of fiction.’ 
Phil Carradice. Novelist, Historian, BBC Broadcaster.


You can read about Brian's illustrated book, Loppylugs and the Dam as part of a

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