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Acclaimed livestock artist publishes first novel

Acclaimed artist Mary Griese is well-known for her watercolour paintings of sheep and other livestock, but this week she will publish her first novel, Where Crows Would Die. The novel is a bleak and unsettling psychological thriller which, similar to her artwork, is set in a rural location – the Black Mountain in Wales – during the 1960s and 1970s.

Although this is Mary’s first novel, she has won numerous awards for her short stories and her work has been highly praised, including by the late Beryl Bainbridge, who wrote:

“I get many manuscripts – many – and most are so dreary I hesitate to turn the page. Yours is immediately different... I think it terrific: I really mean that. You use language like paint, with an attention to light and shade... You have a very individual slant on life, and that is what makes a novelist. You’re bloody good.”

“Farming has been such a large part of my life; I would find it difficult to write about anything else. Most aspects of farming appeal to me. Particularly hill farming, when you are battling with the harsh elements and the rewards are personal and emotional achievement. I think to experience a true rapport with an animal is enriching and extraordinary,” says Mary Griese of her inspiration.

“The Black Mountain can be struck by every weather condition over a few short hours. I’m in complete awe of this majestic, unforgiving land: its hidden lakes, the solitude and the remains of abandoned smallholdings high on the hill and the history and images of their long-gone families – who most probably faced great hardship in order to survive in such locations.”

The psychological thriller sees only child Bethan moving with her family to a remote house at the foot of the Black Mountain. She is soon mesmerised by a dysfunctional family farming nearby and befriends the wild daughter, Nia. Nia’s troubled and violent older half-brother both scares and fascinates Bethan, as she grows to adulthood she gets pulled further and further into his world. A black sheep with nobody to love him, does a yearning for human connection lurk behind the invaluable help he offers, or something more sinister?

“For me, short stories pose an urgency and intensity, whereas I can live in a novel for a long time. Whenever I’m walking my dog, I switch lives and inhabit my story,” said Mary.