Carved from the land above Mytholmroyd in West Yorkshire, Scout Rock is a steep crag overlooking wooded slopes and weed-tangled plateaus. To many it is unremarkable; to others it is a doomed place where 18th-century thieves hid out, where the town tip once sat, and where suicides leapt to their deaths. Its brooding form presided over the early years of Ted Hughes, who called Scout Rock 'my spiritual midwife . . . both the curtain and backdrop to existence'.
Into this beautiful, dark and complex landscape steps Benjamin Myers, asking: are unremarkable places made remarkable by the minds that map them? Seeking a new life and finding solace in nature's power of renewal, Myers excavates stories both human and elemental. The result is a lyrical and unflinching investigation into nature, literature, history, memory and the meaning of place in modern Britain.
Under the Rock is about badgers, balsam, history, nettles, mythology, moorlands, mosses, poetry, bats, wild swimming, slugs, recession, floods, logging, peacocks, community, apples, asbestos, quarries, geology, industrial music, owls, stone walls, farming, anxiety, relocation, the North, woodpiles, folklore, landslides, ruins, terriers, woodlands, ravens, dales, valleys, walking, animal skulls, trespassing, crows, factories, maps, rain – lots of rain – and a great big rock.
Benjamin Myers is an author, journalist and poet. His novels include The Gallows Pole (2017), which received the Roger Deakin Award and is shortlisted for the Walter Scott Prize 2018; Turning Blue (2016); Beastings (2014) which won the Portico Prize For Literature and the Northern Writers' Award, was longlisted for a Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Award 2015 and chosen by Robert Macfarlane as one of his books of 2014; Pig Iron (2012), which won the inaugural Gordon Burn Prize and was runner-up in The Guardian's Not The Booker Prize; and Richard (2010), a Sunday Times book of the year. His journalism regularly appears in The Guardian, New Statesman, Mojo, Caught By The River, New Scientist and others. In 2017 he was selected as writer for the International Literature Showcase. He lives in the Upper Calder Valley, West Yorkshire.
"A bone-tingling book"
– Richard Benson
"The writing is perfectly poised and seductive, luminous, an earthy immersion into the granular dark of place. The prose has an intense, porous quality, inhabiting the reader right from the stunning start with the voices of rock, earth, wood and water. This is a truly elemental read from which I emerged subtly changed. The writing has a shamanic quality; Benjamin Myers is a writer of exceptional talent and originality [...] it has all the makings of a classic"
– Miriam Darlington, author of Otter Country and Owl Sense
"One of the many joys of Under the Rock – this absorbing, compelling, moving book – is its language; it trickles like a rivulet, thunders like a cataract, and sticks to you like mud. It is full of crannies and dips and peaks wherein wonders hide; explore it for a lifetime and you will not exhaust its mysteries. Unafraid of blood-drenched history and the darkest of despair, this is nonetheless a defiantly life-praising book; it accompanied me to bed and bar, train and plane, and each situation was enriched and brightened by its presence [...] . It is utterly vital"
– Niall Griffiths, author of Grits, Sheepshagger and Stump
"Richly layered, densely and elegantly structured, discursive, elegiac and beautiful. Under the Rock is a stunning exploration of place, mind and myth"
– Jenn Ashworth, author of Fell and The Friday Gospels
"Place-writing at its most supple: both deeply considered, and deeply felt"
– Melissa Harrison, author of Rain: Four Walks in English Weather
"What distinguishes Under the Rock is Myers' unshakeable commitment. He writes at all times with rock-solid conviction, fashioning a book which is less a work of simple description than a new contribution to the mythology of Elmet"
– Will Ashon, author of Strange Labyrinth, Clear Water and The Heritage
"I have become a Benjamin Myers junkie in the last 12 months [...] Myers' place-writing is as good as anything being scrawled in Britain today'"
– Horatio Clare, author of Down to the Sea in Ships and Orison for a Curlew