Local author Michael Hutchinson’s debut novel, Tiddy Mun, is a story of murder, water
spirits, ancient curses and witchcraft set in Lincolnshire’s Isle of Axholme.
But the inspiration for the book started right here in Sheffield.
Hutchinson was born and brought up near Doncaster, but has lived in the steel city for the
past 35 years.
He has been writing since finishing the MA in creative writing at Sheffield Hallam University in 2007.
“I lived next to the river Don at Wharncliffe Side for a few years, and the same river plays a significant role in Tiddy Mun. There are tales of a water spirit
haunting the Don at Neepsend.”
Hutchinson held the launch for the book at Walkley Carnegie Library.
The story centres on an ecologist who rents a cottage alongside the old course of the Don in order to concentrate on a book he’s writing.
But something is stirring in the old river, and he is immediately thrown off course as tragedy strikes.
“A central theme of Tiddy Mun is how people have changed the course of rivers in an
attempt to control and use them,” Hutchinson says.
“As a child, I was fortunate enough to be able to roam for hours alongside the River Idle and was aware that the course of that river had been altered in the past.
And in Sheffield there’s evidence of how people have used the rivers differently over centuries.”
Like many before him, Hutchinson finds the steel city a supportive place to write.
“Sheffield has been a very congenial place for me, both to live in and as somewhere to draw inspiration from.
When I first moved to the city in the early 1980s, I joined the Yorkshire Artspace Society and had a studio on Matilda Street.
My first creative encounter with the Don was a
joint visual art and poetry project called Dark River.”
The ‘Tiddy Mun’ of the title is a mythical spirit or pixie associated with the bogs of
Lincolnshire, who can be mischievous, benevolent or evil, and was believed to have the power to control the mists and the waters of the fens.
It is fertile ground for a ghost story.
The academic of Hutchinson’s novel gets drawn too closely into the old tales, and a seventeenth century murder comes back to haunt him as he loses his grasp on what is real and what may be only lurking in his imagination.
“I think the Sheffield’s rivers have influenced me for a long time,” says Hutchinson.
“The Don isn’t known as the Dark River for nothing.”