THIS week sees the publication of the third novel by one of Salisbury’s favourite sons, Barney Norris.

Following on from the success of his Salisbury-based debut, Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain, and his follow-up, Turning for Home, which was centred Penton Mewsey near Andover, Barney’s new novel takes the reader further north in Wiltshire again, with its central scene taking place in Devizes.

The Vanishing Hours is one of those difficult novels to describe and write about without revealing much of what the plot is about. To avoid spoiling the reading experience, let’s just say it focused around a meeting between two strangers in a bar, two characters with connections neither of them had realised. At under 200 pages, it slips neatly into that genre of short novels, along the likes of Ian McEwan’s On Chesil Beach. A little like McEwan’s book, The Vanishing Hours is about a single incident that unpacks to stretch out across the characters’ lifetimes. There’s a love story element in Barney’s novel, too, but unlike McEwan’s, his telling is far more playful, elliptical and surprising.

When I spoke to Barney last week, he explained how his latest Wiltshire settings were partly born out of personal experience: his father had lived in the area when he was a young teenager; then Barney had spent time in Devizes himself between 2014 and 2016. But there are other reasons, too, for the locations. One of the influences on the book was the artist David Inshaw, whose paintings of the Wiltshire countryside have a distinctive and at times elusive quality. Another was the music of Radiohead – their album King of Limbs is named after a particular tree in Savernake Forest: another Savernake tree, Big Belly Oak, plays its own role here.

There’s something intriguing in how the work of both Inshaw and Radiohead create a dreamlike sense to their interpretations of the English countryside. Barney described trying to create something similar here in capturing the strangeness of the Plain – that otherworldly mixture of emptiness coupled with the shooting sounds echoing from across the army ranges.

Barney suggested Devizes was one of those Wiltshire towns that remains relatively unspoiled due to its lack of train station. The lack of those connections result in a different relationship to big urban centres – the arrival of chains that swept through many a town centre in the 1990s came later, if at all, creating a particular atmosphere and feel.

I asked Barney if his Wiltshire settings were going to continue north again for book four. I’m afraid those waiting for his Swindon magnum opus might have a while to wait: Cranborne in Dorset is where his writing talents are taking him next.