A TORFAEN author has launched his latest thriller set in his home town of Blaenavon.

Mark Bayliss launched his second novel, Rare Earth, at Blaenavon World Heritage Centre last week.

The Pontypool-based author read the opening chapter of the book at the launch event, as well as two short stories from his new anthology book Valley Noir – Valley Blanc, and taking questions from the audience.

Mr Bayliss said his inspiration for writing a story set in his childhood hometown came from growing up in the Blaenavon, and his determination to write a unique story associated with the town. 

When asked about the plot, Mr Bayliss said: “Geologists secretly discover an untapped Rare Earth mineral fortune, scattered amongst disused coal-mine spoils surrounding the area of the UNESCO world heritage town of Blaenavon.

“Murderous fraudsters attempt to purchase the seemingly worthless land from unsuspecting farmers whilst Lauren, an Australian geology student, risks her life in an attempt to expose the gang.”

South Wales Argus: Mark Bayliss reading a chapter from his new book Rare Earth at Blaenavon World Heritage Centre.Mark Bayliss reading a chapter from his new book Rare Earth at Blaenavon World Heritage Centre.

Rare Earth was originally written as a short story, but Mr Bayliss later returned to expand it into a full book.

“I picked it up about 18 months ago and decided that was the one I wanted to take forward and do more with,” he said.

“The short story existed, but I’d parked it. It was alright but there was a lot going on in what needed to be less than 5,000 words for entering short story competitions. It was unwieldy – there was a lot going on.

“I had other ideas for other novels, but I just kept having ideas and coming back to this.”

His debut novel, The Lucidity Programme, is a paranormal mystery published in 2020 and reached number 33 in the Amazon charts for its category.

And his short story, Taste The Darkness, won the Henshaw International Short Story Competition in December 2019. This is included in his collection of short stories, Valley Noir – Valley Blanc, which was released alongside Rare Earth in March.

Despite winning a national award – The Brooke Bond award – for his writing at just eight years old, it was a while before he dipped his toe back into creative writing.

“I left school and didn’t write anything for about 40 years,” he said.

Mr Bayliss explained that he only came back to writing when a friend visited him and his wife, and spoke about a story she had been writing.

“I said I had always meant to write something and had all these ideas. She turned up one week and I had written a short story for her.”

By the end of the TV series they were watching together, he had written around eight short stories for her, and rediscovered his love for writing.

Rare Earth is available now. More information can be found at jmbayliss.com