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Chris hunts down his dark side in Highlands

By Margaret Chrystall

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Chris Coppel's extended stay in the UK has inspired his latest dark novel.
Chris Coppel's extended stay in the UK has inspired his latest dark novel.

AMERICAN Chris Coppel blames the grey of the UK for the recent spurt of writing that has created six books, the latest The Lodge set at a hunting lodge near Kingussie.

And if Chris doesn’t entirely blame the weather for the ‘light horror’ which tells the story of a young constable facing a revolt by animals turning on humans, then why not point the finger at Donald Trump, the man who inspired Chris’s previous book Loch, published earlier this month.

Chris, who has been based in the UK with his wife for almost a year, had been toying with the idea of writing some sort of a gothic horror story set somewhere that could be bleak and beautiful at the same time – and he chose the Highlands.

“I’d made notes for a ghost story/ gothic horror for years, but had never quite sat down to do it.

“Then one day last September I was watching CNN as I do in the morning and was watching our embarrassing president pontificating in front of some poor innocent people, brainwashing them at one of his rallies and my blood started to boil and I got so angry that I started writing a completely different book and in two months had written Luck which was published one earlier last month, just before Lodge.

“Luck is not about Trump but it’s inspired by him. It’s about a child who has the horrible power of being able to see people as either blue or red through an aura and finds as he gets older that he can manipulate the auraand he ends up in politics and can control people to believe whatever he says. It’s very dark and, for me, writing it was disturbing,

“But when I finished it I was in such a writing mode – and I needed to be cleansed from the experience – I had basically channelled too much of the man! – I just started writing what I thought I would like the opening of the book that would become The Lodge to be.”

An entertaining read brings constable Andrew Whiting to the fictional lodge turned hotel near Kingussie when a murder rocks the small group of privileged guests preparing for a luxurious Christmas break.

From there an intricate plot and a growing sense of unease powers the reader through the pages to the chilling conclusion.

Now retired, Chris’s career saw him work as a technical operations director for both the World Bank and finally the IMF (International Monetary Fund) in Washington DC after spells working in Los Angeles and a varied career including screenwriting and teaching it at UCLA (). But his final career path began as an asisistant stage manager at the Chichester Theatre in England before he worked his way up to being a stage manager in the West End and shifting over onto the technical side and moving to America.

But writing is in his blood, as his father – who died when Chris was 16 – was a playwright who once held the record for having the most plays on at the same time in the West End – and wrote the screenplay for the Hitchcock movie Vertigo.

The reason Chris is in the UK is down to the Coppels pet, cat Pumpkin. The original plan had been to return to Americaat what eventually became the start of lockdown and Pumpkin’s air transport was cancelled, so the couple stayed.

Book set near Kingussie.
Book set near Kingussie.

Chris wonders if his flood of writing would end if they return to the US.

“There is something about being over here and cloudy days and not being able to do much else, where writing is the perfect thing to be doing!

“My wife is a bit horrified because in the past year I have completed six books. Lodge and one called Liner are probably the two lightest ones, but they both have a darkness, they are both definitely horrors, She is a bit worried about where this stuff comes from!”

The Lodge (Troubador, £9.99) is out now.

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