B. Catling


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Hodder & Stoughton
1 June 2021
ISBN: 9781529366433
272 pages

From the publisher


"As with all the best fiction, there is a terrifying inevitability about Hollow. The mesmerised reader can't quite believe what is happening next, but happen it does. Time collapses. Eternity yawns. The leakage between life and art, eschatology and wild-bunch Western, is the work of a master craftsman. Let it devour you."
Iain Sinclair, author of Ghost Milk

"Unsettling and delightful... very clever fun...a sheer, shuddering delight... both frightening and hilarious... almost as if Guillermo del Toro had been asked to film Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose... Catling is a rare kind of writer. His work has consistent themes but boundless imagination. It is a certain gift to write the most absurd, horrible, fearful things in a very limpid prose.'"
Scotland on Sunday

From the author of the Vorrh Trilogy comes an epic odyssey following a group of mercenaries hired to deliver a church's ultimate power-a sacred oracle-as the decadence of carnival gives way to the gravity of lent and the mystic landscape grows ravenous - all set within a Bosch painting.

The history of art contains no more imaginative or mysterious paintings that the landscapes of Hieronymus Bosch. Art historians ask where the weird creatures depicted there came from, and so too do the central characters of Hollow as they fight their way across these landscapes and encounter these creatures. Author B Catling is the first novelist to engage fully with Bosch's vision and climb imaginatively into it.

In this novel it emerges that Bosch gave colour and form to monsters, 'letting them in' to the real world, and that they were still infesting the landscape when it was painted by Bosch's follower Pieter Bruegel.

Now a wild bunch of mercenaries with a mission to deliver an oracle made of cloth, bones and a loud voice take a dangerous journey to the monastery at the base of the Tower of Babel, where the most terrifying secret in the world is kept. As they travel through a country painted first by Bosch and then by Bruegel, they are confronted and seduced by monsters and see scenes painted by them. These include the devil playing dice, a lewd mock wedding with a dirty bride, an unholy being living inside a hollow tree and riding a giant rat, and creatures indulging in inter-species sexual play as depicted in The Garden of Earthly Delights. A local marauding woman called Mad Meg with a small army of looting women from Breugel's Dull Gret is one of this novel's stranger characters.

Perhaps it is because B. Catling is himself an artist that he has been able to create a modern narrative masterpiece which brings the painterly genius of Bosch and Breugel alive on the page.