Swanson book cover

This week on The Vintage Podcast, Alex Clark meets two very special debut authors — both of whom draw on their knowledge of mystery, history and ledgend when crafting their own stories. 

Imogen Hermes Gowar, author of The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, joins us on the day of her book's publication to discuss her reasearch in to 18th Century brothel life and what has changed for women in the workplace since. They also discuss why belief in the supernatural was so widespread in Georgian England and how to trick an audience in to thinking you really do own a mermad. 

Kerry Andrew - originally in the business of music and composition - discusses her multi-hyphen career, how folklore inspired her writing and why she loves the Scottish highlands. 


The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock, book cover
  • The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock



    ‘A cracking historical novel’ The Times
    ‘Pure storytelling pleasure’ Metro

    One September evening in 1785, the merchant Jonah Hancock hears urgent knocking on his front door. One of his captains is waiting eagerly on the step. He has sold Jonah’s ship for what appears to be a mermaid.

    As gossip spreads through the docks, coffee shops, parlours and brothels, everyone wants to see Mr Hancock’s marvel. Its arrival spins him out of his ordinary existence and through the doors of high society. At an opulent party, he makes the acquaintance of Angelica Neal, the most desirable woman he has ever laid eyes on… and a courtesan of great accomplishment. This meeting will steer both their lives onto a dangerous new course, on which they will learn that priceless things come at the greatest cost.

    Where will their ambitions lead? And will they be able to escape the destructive power mermaids are said to possess?

    In this spell-binding story of curiosity and obsession, Imogen Hermes Gowar has created an unforgettable jewel of a novel, filled to the brim with intelligence, heart and wit.

  • Buy the book
  • Swansong

  • ‘Swansong is the real thing, right from the start: spiky, strange and contemporary, but always with a dark undertow of myth and folklore tugging at its telling…this is a brilliant novel by a writer - and musician - of frankly alarming talent.’ Robert Macfarlane

    In this stunningly assured, immersive and vividly atmospheric first novel from the celebrated musician, a young woman comes face-to-face with the volatile, haunted wilderness of the Scottish Highlands.

    Polly Vaughan is trying to escape the ravaging guilt of a disturbing incident in London by heading north to the Scottish Highlands. As soon as she arrives, this spirited, funny, alert young woman goes looking for drink, drugs and sex – finding them all quickly, and unsatisfactorily, with the barman in the only pub. She also finds a fresh kind of fear, alone in this eerie, myth-drenched landscape. Increasingly prone to visions or visitations – floating white shapes in the waters of the loch or in the woods – she is terrified and fascinated by a man she came across in the forest on her first evening, apparently tearing apart a bird. Who is this strange loner? And what is his sinister secret?

    Kerry Andrew is a fresh new voice in British fiction; one that comes from a deep understanding of the folk songs, mythologies and oral traditions of these islands. Her powerful metaphoric language gives Swansong a charged, hallucinatory quality that is unique, uncanny and deeply disquieting.

  • Buy the book

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