The Paths of the Dead

Those of you who follow me on the bird site may know that I have a book out. It’s an 80 page experimental non-fiction prose poem about the magic and spirits of The South Downs Way. I mean! Who wouldn’t want to read that!

It is, however, possible to make it sound more interesting than that. As I discovered when some kind people read it and offered their thoughts on the book.


Callum James has produced an exceptional work that tells of place and our relationship to it without the cliquey distancing art language of psychogeography that chokes so many other books. Refusing to dismiss the spirits of place summoned by walking, his words offer an alternative poetry of emotional punch and connection. This is a walking of the South Downs with mud on its boots, beauty entangling its soul and the shout of the dead in its ears.

   — David Southwell, Creator of Hookland


We stack words as markers along paths; cairns of language that dissolve over time into mere place-names. In Paths of the Dead, Callum James takes one of the ‘old roads’ of southern England and attempts to build these mounds anew by walking a linguistic archaeology. In the tradition of Hamish Fulton, Tim Robinson and Peter Riley a web of cartographies – of birds and trees; fellow travelers both passing by and long dead; suburban detritus – are fashioned into a prose-poem landscape of grief, love and life.

   — Justin Hopper, Author of The Old Weird Albion


Haunting and evocative, this book folds together past, present, small moments of beauty, quiet reflections. Callum James invites us into the experience of the immediate experience of place.

 – Phil Hine, Author of Condensed Chaos and Queerying Occultures


And here is the short introduction which offers some sense of what the book has to offer:

“At the beginning of February 2022, I read a book about the South Downs called The Old Weird Albion by Justin Hopper. As I closed the book, I decided to walk the South Downs Way, one hundred miles from Winchester to the coast at Eastbourne. I made this resolution in the wake of five years which had seen a heart-attack, an operation to remove one third of my lungs, and increasing pain and difficulty walking from the arthritis in both my knees.

Some people complete the walk in not much more than a long weekend. I resolved to walk five miles one day each weekend and set off the next Sunday to do just that. I finally limped down the steep hill into Eastbourne at the beginning of June.

Nearly every book of landscape today is written with a detached interest in the folklore, spirits, and magic of a place. I have written about this walk as one who does this magic, speaks to these spirits, and follows this lore. This book is partly a grimoire of the South Downs, partly a linear topography, partly a treatise on necromancy, partly the notebook of my walk. As a result, this is a book which is neither fiction nor non-fiction, because those categories don’t work when you leave materialism behind. It is story.”

If if sounds like the kind of thing you might enjoy or find interesting, more details and the book itself can be had from Broken Sleep Books.

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