This week in the Small Press Spotlight, we have not only an exclusive preview of Renegade Arts Entertainment’s upcoming Secrets of Jarrow, but we also have an interview with the trilogy’s creator Bill Slavin. 

Check out the details of the first installment of the epic new tale due out on May 17:

The secrets of the past have been lost. Knowledge is forbidden, the climate has run wild, and civilization has devolved into post-technological anarchy. In the midst of this wasteland, Mordecai Crow, a drifter in search of his long-lost parents, becomes embroiled in a murderous conspiracy when he seeks refuge in a fortress committed to preserving ancient knowledge. What secrets lie at the heart of its ancient walls? And how are they connected to Mordecai’s mysterious past? Find out in Secrets of Jarrow, Book One in the Mordecai Crow trilogy.

In a future where the secrets of the past have been lost, and knowledge is forbidden, technology-hating Luddites have triumphed over a world of scarce resources and devastating, unpredictable weather. Across the ruined landscape of this destroyed civilization, small pockets of Gnostic resistance have preserved the knowledge housed in the scattered remains of pre-Cloud tek’ in refuges called Firewalls.

Mordecai Crow is a drifter, stuck between two worlds and belonging to neither. Born a Gnostic, survivors of a global meltdown that strive to regain lost knowledge, he was raised by Luddites, a war-like faction of fanatical anti-tech fundamentalists with an evangelical agenda. His search for the answers to his past leads him on a perilous quest through a dangerously divided land.

In Secrets of Jarrow, Mordecai, in search of his long-lost parents, must solve a mysterious murder to clear his name after seeking refuge in a fortress committed to preserving ancient knowledge. What secrets lie at the heart of its ancient walls? And how are they connected to Mordecais mysterious past?

Award-winning illustrator Bill Slavin was born in Belleville, Ontario. He studied Cartooning and Graphic Story Illustration at Sheridan College. His illustration work includes Paulette Bourgeois’ book, Too Many Chickens! as well as a number of other children’s books. With his wife, Esperança Melo, he was a member of the Millbrook Gallery, a gallery collective of nineteen local artists in Millbrook, ON. Recently, he has returned to his childhood love of comics and graphic novels, writing and illustrating the graphic novel trilogy for kids, Elephants Never Forget, as well as the Mordecai Crow trilogy. Mordecai Crow is his first book with Renegade Arts Entertainment.

Destito: How did this project come about?

Slavin: As a lover of history I have always been fascinated by stories set in the Early Middle Ages Europe, those centuries following the fall of Rome. I wanted to create a story in a similar epoch, a time when humans moved through the detritus of a civilization that had disappeared and that they no longer really understood. It seemed to me that our uncertain future as a result of climate change provided a ready framework for such a world, and that had me imagining what exactly that world might look like. I really like the idea of how a massive technological fail could lead to a futuristic version of the ancient medieval monasteries, refuges that are trying to salvage and preserve what they can of the lost technology. That put me on the road to imagining Jarrow Firewall, the setting for my first book in the series.

Destito: Why is a story like this important right now?

Slavin: I think stories are always important because they provide a narrative by which we can enter worlds we may not have yet imagined. This story, set in a time when we are failing as a species to come to grips with climate change, while simultaneously surrendering so much of our autonomy to technology, hopefully allows the reader to imagine what it might be like to live in that world of the future, what human survival might look like if we don’t get this right.

Destito: What is your favorite part about creating in this universe?

Slavin: I honestly love it all, but my favorite part is drawing ruins. I have always been fascinated by ruins and abandoned communities, from the hilltop villages people walked away from all over Europe to work in sprawling cities, to lost and forgotten cave dwellings hidden away in inaccessible ravines that were still inhabited until a few short decades ago. Years of travel have provided me with a vast visual treasure chest of places like these, and repurposing them in my stories allows me to time travel back to those places and visit them all over again.

Alexander Finbow, publisher at Renegade Arts Entertainment, added, “Bill pitched a great mystery story set in a possible future, a whodunit that moves us through this world through a captivating page-turner. Bill is currently inking the third book in the Mordecai trilogy, and we’ll be publishing Book 2 in 2024, and Book 3 in 2025.”

Check out an exclusive look at Secrets of Jarrow below!