The Asylum Soul

Lunatic asylums were an inescapable hangover of Victorian Britain and they harnessed a certain stigma borne from an environment of fear and shame as well as the great unknown.

For many families the asylum system helped create their darkest ‘skeletons’, and for Thomas (Tommy) Compton, it was unforgiving. In 1929 he was twenty-three years old when his mother had him sent to The Brookwood Lunatic Asylum in Surrey, his only ailment - a simple speech defect.

Based on Tommy’s own diary notes, The Asylum Soul is a disturbing account of an innocent young life ripped apart by unthinkable institutional failings, false hope and ultimate family betrayal.

* Numerous Five Star ratings on Amazon, Goodreads and elsewhere!

No.1 General Fiction - No.3 Amazon Kindle

ISBN : 978-1326262198 - First published May 2015 by Publish Nation/ 

Available to buy now at: Amazon  Barnes & Noble U.S.

£14.49 Paperback or £3.83 Kindle (330 pages)

What people are saying...

"Loved every minute. The book is written in the form of diary notes, this format totally absorbs you, as if you are really there and it's happening to you. Its very well written and has just about everything. The characters are alive and vivid, almost 'one flew over the cuckoos nest' vivid. Some great 'laugh out loud' humour, mixed with a harrowing tale and an insight into life in those places. A truly great read that would make a great TV serialisation. Couldn't put it down as it took me through almost every emotion I have.” - Paul Scott

“Amazing book and well written. Well done Mal Foster! I grew up near the hospital and was riveted from the first page! A must-read for anyone local and a fantastic read for anyone further afield!” - Fuina Tilbrook

"This is an amazing book, I would recommend it!" - Karen Bailey" 

“I am finding this book an excellent read. The story is believable, and I care about what happens to the characters, always a good sign in a book to my mind. I am very glad I bought it. A real insight into Brookwood mental hospital and all the varying shades of human behaviour one might expect to find there.” David Pennant

"The best book I've read for a very long time. Film to follow?" - Colin Hampton 

“I have just finished the book, I couldn't put it down. I'm lying in bed with tears rolling down my cheek. It was so powerful and moving. One of the best books I have ever read - so sad, funny in parts and with a tragic end. So much credit goes to you for writing such an amazing book.” – Andy Carless

"One of my favourite books, EVER!" - Annie Wheeler

“I have just read The Asylum Soul, and being from Knaphill, where the old asylum was, it really resonated with me - Being I am a psychic clairvoyant who has been very aware of the energies in Knaphill all my life - I used to see nasty faces in trees, pick up on energies around torture, death and imprisonment. -There are some very bad energies in Knaphill and over the years, I have had to remove attachments on the spiritual level to clear my energy field. I was also aware of the hauntings, the ghosts in Knaphill too - a good read and very sad, the end made me cry!” – Penelope Cake 

"An awesome read." - Gladys Hayward

"This book is just brilliant, you can imagine being there, especially knowing of all the local places mentioned. Read in two days, couldn't put it down, and I read 'Fly Back And Purify' straight after, a fabulous sequel... " - Sue Bevan

"It's a great book, very impressive." - Jon Andrews, Radio Woking

"The Asylum Soul is one of my all-time favourite books, so thought-provoking... absolutely love it. A great read that I struggled to put down." - Clare McCord

"Just finished reading "The Asylum Soul" by Mal Foster. Excellent. I totally recommend it!" - Toni Bunnell, Broadcaster and Author.

"I'm absolutely loving this book." - Beverley Jane 

"This book is an amazing read. I couldn’t put it down. I recommend this to anybody and everybody." - Tricia Jackman 

“I’ve read this book, great read!” – Janice Slark 

"Absolutely fantastic read... I am not into reading as I get bored but I found I could not put this book down every chance I had I took to read more. I lived just a stone's throw away from the asylum and grew up playing on their grounds and getting to know the patients when they used to walk around the village. Thank you Mal Foster for this fantastic read I was hooked!" - Jo Weller

“I have just read The Asylum Soul. It was brilliant!” – Annette Walker

“So insightful, it was a great read!” – Pete Steadman

“A fabulous read!” - Sylvie Owen

“I found it quite upsetting in parts to think that’s what life was like for some people. I thought it was well written and I must say I really enjoyed reading it.” - Sarah Overington

“Brilliant book!" – Anjie Sutherland   

“Excellent book!” – Michelle Burton-Wiltshire 

"I just finished reading 'The Asylum Soul' and feel very sad. I chose to read this book as it was written by an author local to me, and when I read the preface, I was immediately drawn to the subject. I loved the references to local places and enjoyed looking them up. Clearly, the author had done a lot of groundwork to make the story plausible. The book itself is written in the form of a diary and is easy to read. A lot is going on within the pages, and we’re introduced to various characters along the way. Told from the viewpoint of Tommy Compton, a young man admitted to Brookwood Hospital in his early twenties, we follow him as he endures wrongdoings, enjoys outings, learns to work as a pig farmer, learns the truth about his family and falls in love. ‘His ‘diary’ is full of insights and musings about his situation and that of others in the hospital. It makes for spellbound reading. This is an accomplished piece and I’ll be looking out for more books by this author." - F Neets

“Fantastic book” – Caroline Hart

“It’s not light... but it is good... a very moving read ... and the Baptists come out quite well in it... read it, folks!” – Jim Binney, Baptist Minister

"Smashing! I can't put it down, I can relate to so much of it, it's excellent!" - Ivy West

"I bought this book at the weekend and have just finished reading it. I couldn't put it down, it was so good!" - Lindsay Palmer

"A fascinating read!" - M Begley

"This book is fascinating before you even read the first page. The whole back story of how the author came about the information which would later become "The Asylum Soul" is incredible. He paints the characters and the locations so vividly, that having lived in Knaphill all my life, (with some work experience at the hospital myself as a student, shortly before its closure) I could literally visualise each scene unfolding before me. I would like to add that despite being a local girl, I have no connection to the author, and purchased this book purely because of my interest in mental illness. What I got was so much more than a medical narrative or historical reference book. It is, an epic love story, almost Shakespearean in nature, shrouded in secrets and betrayal, and tragedy. All I keep thinking since reading it, is that less than a century has separated my own comfortable, successful, middle-class life story, from those who were locked away and shunned by society a few decades ago, simply for suffering similar misfortunes and setbacks to those of myself and many of my peers. There but for the Grace of God go I. As some people have already said, I would love to see this adapted for television." - Teressa Meyers

"I really enjoyed it, absolutely brilliant, I could not put it down." - Sandra Smart  

“I can't put the bloody book down! I'm so intrigued by things like this! I want to know more! This is beyond a fantastic book!” - Rhiannon Bystram

"This was truly a gob smackingly brilliant read." - Sue Mackender (Author)

"It's a really good read, my favourite." - Rosalind Hill-Watts

"This book is fantastic, wish I knew what happened to the lad. Heartbreaking in parts, couldn’t put it down." - Lesley Hockley-Wright

"Well worth a read... EXCELLENT!" - Martin Durrad

“I’ve just finished reading the brilliant The Asylum Soul a great piece of writing from Mal Foster..."  - Paul Clark

“Just reading The Asylum Soul, it’s very good!” – Lynda Stacey 

"I've just read The Asylum Soul and absolutely loved it. Thank you for an amazing read." - Lesley Cain

"Mal Foster's 'The Asylum Soul', is a fascinating read, so insightful!" - Sue Mackender - Author

“Just read ‘The Asylum Soul’ set at Brookwood Asylum, it’s well worth the read!” – Margaret Crate

"An enthralling read!" - Anne Willis 

“Reading, The Asylum Soul, very well written and a very good read!” – Wanda Sullivan 

“I’ve just read ‘The Asylum Soul’, a fascinating read.” -   Sharon Osborn

"I've just finished reading Mal Foster's first novel, 'The Asylum Soul' (2015). A very good read that kept me hooked from the start. It's the story of a young man who was sent to Brookwood Hospital, Knaphill in 1929. I wasn't sure if it was the sort of thing I wanted to read about, as I had visited the place in the mid-eighties (as a visitor, not a patient) and am well aware of its darker side. Mal's novel brings the place back to life with different characters that show off the good and the bad in people and questions the practices that took place there. I recommend it and am looking forward to reading more novels by Mal Foster." - John Hudson 

“I’m reading The Asylum Soul. It’s very good!” – Gill Hounsham

“You made me cry!  Absolutely loved the book, you should be so proud!” - Sarah Nubeebuckus-Jones 

“Brilliant book, I'm currently about halfway through. Used to live in the area, so very nostalgic read” – Lydia Lungley

"It's a cracking read!" - Mark Phipps 

“I have read The Asylum Soul, it was very hard to put down. Fantastic!” – Jan Wheeler 

"I am not a literary critic by any stretch of the imagination but your book for my money is extremely well written and one I felt if I put the book down I would have missed something." - Brian Thomas

“It's a great book, well worth reading.” – Dany Dee Walker 

"I fully recommend it!" - Gwen Bailey

“Oh, my God, it's excellent, I love this book!” – Angela Jane Clarke 

“… An interesting read.” – Kirsty Raynes 

“Fabulous reading I just couldn't put it down when I started... waiting for a follow-up!” – Fred Inwards

“Fantastic book could not put it down my first ever kindle book... a must for anyone.” – Hilary Gales

"Brilliant!" - Barbara Langford

"This book is an awesome read, very sad and tragic in parts, interesting reading about the area of Knaphill and some of the places and buildings that are still there." - Gladys Hayward

“Just finished The Asylum Soul, such a brilliant book written by a very talented author, Mal Foster. Cried like a baby at the end!”  - Emma Gray

“Just finished reading The Asylum Soul. Oh my....... Awesome book...... Gutted there is no more!!! Wanted to seriously sob at so many parts!” - Carla Parry

“I downloaded it about half hour ago and cannot put my Kindle down! Such a good read! Well done Mal Foster” – Lisa Nolan

"I got the book on Kindle and I am finding it fascinating. Well worth a read."  Joan Calder

"Great Book!" - Hilary Andrews

"I've got the paperback, it's a great read!" - Sinead Jefferies

I have just finished reading your book, The Asylum Soul. I enjoyed it very much. - Tony Polak

“I just finished reading the book. I just couldn't put it down. A MUST READ! Great book. Well done Mal Foster “ - Magda Skorupinska

"Just finished reading the book, a fascinating read, and very interesting. Well done and thanks for sharing!" - Shelley Creighton-Kelly

"I've read it, it's a great book!" - Rosemary Collyer

“Just finished reading The Asylum Soul - bloody brilliant!” -  Trudi Fletcher 

“I’m partway through ‘The Asylum Soul’ and am enjoying it so much, I’m sure I’d say the same if I hadn’t grown up in Knaphill too. It had brought back so many memories, particularly of the hospital, I used to go to the pantomime there, collect conkers in the grounds and of course go to the Summer Fete. I lived one road back from it and remember locking our doors and windows when the siren went off. I moved away nearly 30 years ago and when I tell people that my school trips from infant school were to the “Mental” hospital to see the pigs and be served lemonade by the patients they think I’m making it up. I know there was a darker side to it too as my Grandmother worked as a Nurse there and my Dad has a job painting in there soon after he left school. Thank you for a great read, fantastic book!”  - Lisa Baigent-Urbanek 

"Great book." - Stuart Linnell

"I finished reading The Asylum Soul in the early hours. It’s very, very thought-provoking. So sad how people were put in asylums as an easy option simply because society did not know how to help them back in the day. A sad but very good read. I love this book!”  – Jane Johnson

"The book is amazing..." - Lisa Harrington

"It’s a very good book! I’ve read it and really found it interesting..." - Lisa Smith  

“I read this in two days... didn't want it to end... sensitively written... an enlightening view into life before political correctness...  absolutely a fantastic read - bring on the next one!”  -  Kerry Proctor

"Excellent book, a must-read." - Karin Mordan Cisson Campbell

“Read your first book, The Asylum Soul. Outstanding, can’t wait to read more.”  - Denise Gauntlett

"It's a Great Book, you won't want to put it down! - Buy it!" - Paul Jackman

"Finally got round to reading The Asylum Soul. It’s a great book, can’t put it down. - Simon Brown

“Just finished reading... I couldn't put it down. Quite an emotional read.” - Carolyn Whitfield

"Re read this book for the fourth time. I find Tommy Compton's entries a great, but bittersweet escape from the current lockdown. Growing up near the old hospital site makes it rather more of an interesting read. And, as with his subsequent novels, the descriptive writing of the era and area really capture the imagination and set the scene. Such a good read." - Emma (Amazon)

“I read The Asylum Soul this summer - absolutely wonderful, so well written, haunting, sad and the characters beautiful!! You star, when's the next one?”  - Jo Clemens

“It has a sombre Channel 4 drama/movie feel to it.” - Richard Chalkley, Spiffing Covers

"Great book, really resonated with me being I am from Knaphill. I was aware of the residual energies & hauntings in the local area, being psychic. It confirmed a lot. A true sad story of wrongdoing." - Penelope Cake

"Awesome book" - Alison Westbrook

"Just finished reading the Asylum Soul. Living and working in Woking Brookwood was well known to me I also knew people who worked in the hospital. The book was one I just had to read, fabulous book." - Malcolm Dewhurst

"Loved this book" - Janet Everest


Letters From Readers...

Hi Mal


It is a week since I finished your excellent book The Asylum Soul and I am still thinking about Tommy and what must have become of him and the rest of his life. And still grieving for dear Maisie of course. For me, the mark of an excellent read is if I care about the characters and they stay in my mind after I have finished reading the book. I just had to write to you to say … this one is a belter! It was an inspired idea to use Tommy's diaries as the back-story and write your novel around them. And now of course I want to know which elements and characters in the story were real!

The fact that it was centred around the oppressive institution of Brookwood hospital which is so much a part of our local history, made it even more enjoyable for me and since reading this, I look around the village with a new eye, trying to imagine the farm land and the different places you referred to. I am so sorry to have missed your book signing at The Crown as I would have loved to talk to you to find out more.

I shall keep an eye on your website and come along to the organised walk of the former Brookwood hospital grounds if I possibly can. And if you are doing any more promotions around the village, do let me know as I would like to buy a couple more copies for friends.

Congratulations Mal. I wish you every success with the book and can honestly see this story made into a film sometime. Watch this space!


With best wishes


Annie Wheeler - 03 07 15



Dear Mr. Foster,


I am just writing to say thank you for publishing your book The Asylum Soul. I took it on holiday to read and couldn't put it down. Such a sad tale and one of the most moving stories I have ever read.

I bought it initially because I have lived in Knaphill all my life and even now live just outside the old asylum site so the locations in the book are all familiar to me. The hospital was important to me socially too with things like the Brookwood Hospital show and when I was at Knaphill school in the 1960s, we often used to have to stand next to the piggery where Tommy worked and watch a football match between a school team and hospital staff. Now I will never be able to cycle through the grounds (as I did today) without thinking of Tommy and Maisie.

It said in the Surrey Advertiser article where I first read about your book that the tin box was passed to the rightful owners in Camberley. This gives me some hope that Tommy was able to move on from his terrible experience and perhaps have a life outside the asylum.

Thank you once again for getting the story out into the open.


Yours Truly,


Dave Williamson - 28 06 15 





I am a local 65 year old lady from Westfield. I am half way through your book (got from Amazon) and have to put it down periodically because of the tears in my eyes – absolutely amazing piece of work. Is Tommy Compton a pseudo name, or the poor young chap’s real name? Is there any possibility of a TV drama on your book, as it is such a heart-wrenching account of a destroyed life. I have a grandson with a Cleft lip and palate (now 17) who struggled with his speech in his early years and he still mumbles when feeling uncomfortable or insecure. Have you been able to research Tommy? I note that the diary was returned to rightful owner in Camberley; so is there a known story for Tommy after 1931? If there is a bigger story to tell, is there any chance his family would let that story be told? Congratulations on getting this diary out there for people to read. Five stars from me. Looking forward on reading any book you may produce in the future.


Best Regards

Julia Hall - 27 06 15



Hi Mal,


I’ve just finished reading your book and I just wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. First of all, I liked the diary format of the book. Tommy's story is very engaging; in fact it resembles a feature film with its lively characters. I can imagine Eddie Redmayne playing the lead role if it was ever made into a movie. At the beginning, the asylum is worse than Midsomer. I almost waited for Mr Poirot to turn up and start to investigate all these deaths.

Poor Tommy is a lovely lad but seems to be very unfortunate, first to even end up in the asylum as obviously nothing is wrong with him and then he has to face things going horrible wrong for him. His own family abandon him but like so many people in his circumstances he finds good friends who helped him to survive his time there. However, even his falling in love doesn't go to plan. Fortunately, there are nice people like Mrs Skilton, Maisie, Katherine, Mr Luscombe, Donald and his mum or Nurse Primrose who all care for Tommy, look after him and keep him sane. I found it intriguing how you incorporated in family names and birthdays.

Your book is also testament to the horrendous abuse that was and is going on in these institutions and it does not make a pleasant read. On the other hand, you made me laugh out loud when Albert's bus broke down. I loved all these little stories and it made me realise once again how important it is to have a sense of humour in our lives. The book ends somewhat abruptly as Tommy stops writing his diary and either moves on or becomes disenchanted. Tommy is so nice so I really wanted him to be happy, to leave the asylum and lodge with Mrs Skilton, work on the farm with Donald and marry a nice girl from the village, but that would be unrealistic.

I really don't know how you managed to write such a great story in such little time. I’m now looking forward to your next novel.


Ola Napier Satankova - 04 08 15



Hi Mal


I have just finished reading your book ‘The Asylum Soul’ and wanted to say how much I enjoyed reading it.

Even though in parts I found it heart-breaking, it was difficult to put down once I started. I could picture the various places mentioned  and  remember the ‘hospital’ and  grounds very well.

Although I knew it would probably not end with a ‘Happy Ever After’ I wasn’t quite expecting what happened to his beloved Maisie, I now worry as to what has happened to Tommy (words he used quite often) and  hope that he did eventually manage to be set free and that he didn’t take his own life.

Thanks for a great read




Janet Knighton - 16 11 15


Dear Mal Foster,


A few years ago I read your book ‘Knaphill all in one place’. I have recently had the pleasure of reading your novel ‘The Asylum Soul’. The book gave an insight to the sad story of Thomas Compton around whose life the story revolves. I am not a literary critic by any stretch of the imagination but your book for my money is extremely well written and one I felt if I put the book down, I would have missed something.

I grew up in Victoria Road Knaphill and was born there in 1940 I remember our next door neighbour who was a nurse at the hospital. Many parts of your book have renewed memories of my first twenty years in Knaphill and surrounding districts after which I left home to seek my fortune which I never really found but it has been enjoyable never the less. I remember walking home from school around the age of nine or ten when my friends and I would go into the hospital gate at the top end of the Broadway and watch the pig food being prepared and often being offered an apple or pear which was perfectly edible and sometimes unmarked. Also the August bank holiday Flower show as I knew it held every year in the hospital grounds always very well supported. Together with my astonishment when I was told some of the patients of the hospital were allowed out to go shopping in the village.

Another reason for writing to you is a mention on page seven and the date of 27th August 1928 of Albert the busman. He is also mentioned on pages 19 & 27. My only reason for mentioning this is that my great Uncle Arthur George Smith ran a bus service in and around Knaphill, Woking, Weybridge and Guildford and I wondered if Albert was an employee or was he William Albert Smith one of Arthur's sons. The history of Local bus services is very well shown in Laurie James's book ‘Woking Buses’.

Thank you once again for these excellent books and I would like to take this opportunity of wishing you every success in your future ventures.


Yours sincerely


Brian Thomas - 21 02 16



Independent Review... 

This is a novel based on a real patient of a Victorian mental hospital, or as they were known then, a Lunatic Asylum on the outskirts of the Surrey town of Woking.

The book centres on an old mental hospital, bringing to life the discovered diary of one of its inmates. It reveals his life of confinement in an often-grim regime, and that of its lost souls. The author gives the reader access into Tommy's world in Brookwood Hospital during the 1930’s. 

As I have spent many years not far from the old hospital site, I expected that this book would be particularly interesting to me. I moved to the area twenty five years ago and remember Brookwood Hospital still in operation, albeit in its declining period. Seeing the grounds now with its twenty-first century scenario: superstores and housing estate, it has been difficult remembering its previous use. Expectations met, this book has helped recapture those memories. This is credit to the author’s descriptive skills. 

This skill also extends to the character construction. Mr Foster has brought his cast to life, leaving the reader feeling a sense of knowing them, and in turn empowering them with the ability to empathise with their situation. 

In addition to my nostalgic motivations, the story gives a realistic insight into the marginalisation from society of these mental institutions, and how they reflect the attitudes contemporary with the Victorian/Edwardian world. It is also reflective of a time of learning, identity, often resulting in clashes of ideologies. Above all, it is a tale of hope.

Fantastic! More of this please!


Gary Fellows (Author) - 06 11 15


Woking News & Mail - September 2015

Walking in the Land of Ghosts

Published in theWoking News & Mailon 24 September 2015, an article set around the former Brookwood Lunatic Asylum grounds entitled ‘Land of Ghosts’ by columnist Ann Tilbury mentionsThe Asylum Soul. My special thanks to fellow author Phil Whittick for bringing this piece to my attention. The whole article is reproduced below...

'What ancient feet trod Knaphill and Brookwood lands? Certainly in Victorian times and subsequently, the asylum at Knaphill housed in various names which feature in modern literature. Names for example that are hinted at in a book calledThe Suspicions of Mr Whicherby Kate Summerscale. The life story of Julie Andrews also had a relative linked to the venue.

'More recently local writer Mal Foster shed some interesting light on the life of an inmate at Brookwood Asylum in a fictionalised but well researched book entitled The Asylum Soul.

Another book of great interest to researchers is From Asylum to Community Care - A history by those who lived and worked thereby Alison Craze which was published in 2014.

In earlier times the poet John Donne resided with friends near Pyrford, doubtless explored the locality of these parts on horseback perhaps, being inspired by the topography to compile some of his renowned muse.

'Much could be said about the inmates of this establishment prior to its closure in recent times. Inmate’s hardships, worsened by spurious detention in the first place, leave something of a dark shadow still clinging to these parts. But where tragedy once reigned, the ghosts of the old grounds are now being assuaged and former asylum farmlands, transformed into country parks. The first of these was opened on the completion of recent housing development around Redding Way more than 20 years ago.

'But what currently excites nature lovers in the wake of more building on land near Sainsbury’s is the walk through now afforded by a further country park recently completed around the Bagshot Road area, and following in the wake of The Carla Homes' new builds. This new country park affords not only picturesque views but an enjoyable walk through to Brookwood railway station. No longer are pedestrians required to skirt the hard pavements and dodge busy Bagshot Road traffic - And never a ghost they will see!'

(Article by Ann Tilbury – Reproduced Courtesy Woking News & Mail)

Surrey Advertiser - May 2015

Patient's diary notes inspire debut novel

Diary notes written by a patient at a mental hospital in the early part of the 20th century, and secreted in a hollow tree, provide the basis for a Knaphillman’s debut novel.

The Asylum Soul,by resident Mal Foster, tells the harrowing account of Thomas Compton, whose life was ‘ripped apart’ when he was sent to Brookwood Hospital by his mother because he had a speech defect. Mr Foster said: “There is some horror in it, some happier parts and a little bit of spicy stuff as well.

“There is some fact and fiction, because some of the diary notes were missing and you couldn’t read all of it. Essentially, though somewhere between the lines and within the surviving script, there was a unique and harrowing story waiting to be told.”

It was more than two decades ago that a tree surgeon discovered a rusty old tin containing the diary entries of the 23-year-old patient while clearing part of the former Brookwood Hospital grounds during the redevelopment in 1994. Contained in the tin, there was a lock of red hair, a dictionary and most importantly, some leather-bound books filled with diary notes of Mr Compton, who resided at the asylum as far back as 1929.Upon the discovery, the tree surgeon handed it to his foreman, who returned it to its rightful owners in Camberley.

Mr Foster said: “I have been sitting on the story for years and I retired last year, so I thought now is the time to write it. I’ve never written a novel, let alone a 330 page-long novel. I took a writing crash course, which also taught me how to proofread – I’m not saying it’s flawless.” but the Knaphill-based retiree is no stranger to writing. Between 1976 and 2014, he wrote a selection of poems, published in 2012 as Travelling with Strangers and Knaphill (All in One Place), which tell the istory of the village.

Mr Foster began writingThe Asylum Soulin July last year and completed the novel in six months.“I’m excited and nervous for people to read it,” Mr Foster said. “My former wife has read it and she has been a big help. I have actually had quite a lot of interest from people saying they can’t wait to read it.”

“I knew there would be quite a lot of people interested in it because I haven’t stopped talking about it,” he added.

The paperback is available

Surrey Advertiser #2 - October 2016

Pie offers a slice of history...

Literature is being brought to life and put on the menu at a Knaphill pub thanks to a collaboration with an author in the village. A pie recipe featured in a book by Knaphill man Mal Foster and now the words are literally jumping off the page and into punter’s hungry stomachs after staff at The Crown decided to recreate the Knaphill Pie for customers to enjoy.

Mr Foster published his debut novel,The Asylum Soul, in May this year and is thrilled with its five-star reviews on Amazon. Readers have praised the writer for his work and said that they can really identify with the fictitious characters and appreciate the diary format of the novel.

It follows the tale of Thomas Compton, who was a patient at Brookwood Hospital as far back as 1929. The book is loosely based on diary notes, which were discovered in leather-bound books in 1994 during redevelopment works at the hospital site. Thomas, who works on the pig farm at the hospital, is invited to dinner by the head pig farmer’s wife who cooks up the Knaphill Pie.

Mr Foster, 58, who has also had poems published, said: ‘The actual recipe for Knaphill Pie came from a family in Queens Road, Knaphill. They lent me some old books and there were some loose leaf pieces of paper inside and one fell out with the recipe on. All we had was a list of ingredients, bacon, leek, cheese, garlic and mashed potato, so we had to work out how to make the pie.

In the book the bacon comes from pigs slaughtered in the grounds of Brookwood Hospital. I made a couple of my own pies at home and then Sarah at the pub put her own take on it.’As autumn begins the Knaphill Pie has been added to the array of dishes available at The Crown in Knaphill’s High Street. Its ham hock, leek and cider recipe with a cheesy mash topping is the perfect choice for a cosy filling meal.

Pub owner Sarah Nubeebuckus-Jones told theWoking Advertiser‘I have read the book and then there was a conversation in the pub about Knaphill Pie. One evening I just said that I would make a version of it and then it went from there and people asked if it would be on the menu. I thought that it was coming into autumn so we could put it on the menu. Once I made my first batch I asked Mal to try it and he said it was spot on.’

And the pie is definitely a popular choice for diners as the second batch has already sold out and more will be made. Mrs Nubeebuckus-Jones added: ‘It is nice to have a dish with a story. People ask about the Knaphill Pie and we can tell them the story behind it.’

(Article by Beth Woodger, Surrey Advertiser - October 2016)

Writing Magazine -January 2016

A tale of incarceration

“In 1994 I was alerted to the fact that during redevelopment an old tin had been found in a hollow tree in the grounds of what was left of the old Brookwood Lunatic Asylum in Knaphill, near Woking Surrey. The tin contained a number of artefacts belonging to a young male patient who had resided at the asylum as far back as 1929. These included some scribbled diary notes, not enough to simply reproduce, but enough to inspire me to eventually write my debut novel,The Asylum Soulsome twenty years later,” says author Mal Foster.

“I am a keen advocate of self-publishing and have been consistently enlightened and inspired by the many authors whose success stories have appeared inWriting Magazineacross the years. Now was the time to follow suit I thought.

I knew I would need some assistance and I had no hesitation in going to PublishNation whose advertisement I had previously seen in Writing Magazine. They provided a quality and cost-effective service. I was also aware that despite that old saying ‘never judge a book by its cover’ I would need something special to draw people to the story inside the book. I went to a company called Spiffing Covers whose professional design based on an early synopsis of my book was spot on.

The most challenging part of my publishing journey so far however has been in the promotion of the book. I began looking at alternative angles and where I should send my press releases. Quite soon local radio and newspapers were in contact and I also enjoyed a very successful book launch at my local pub. As a result, a bacon and leek pie which is mentioned in the novel is now on their new winter menu!

Next, I feel that I need to expand my marketing approach beyond the local boundaries and this is where social media such as Facebook and Twitter has already helped. I believe the marketing of any book is ongoing and that no title should have a ‘sell-by date’. After all, from my own experience, having written and then self-published my first novel I believe that I owe it to myself to continue peddling the book as best I can.”

The Asylum Soul is available in Kindle and paperback formats from and

(Reproduced - Courtesy : Writing Magazine)

Brookwood Magazine - May 2017

Our attention has been drawn toThe Asylum Soul, a debut novel by local author, Mal Foster, which is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Lunatic asylums were an inescapable hangover of Victorian Britain and they harnessed a certain stigma borne from an environment of fear and shame as well as the great unknown. For many families the asylum system helped create their darkest 'skeletons', and for Thomas (Tommy) Compton, it was unforgiving. In 1929 he was 23 years old when his mother had him sent to the Brookwood Lunatic Asylum in Surrey, his only ailment – a simple speech defect. Based on Tommy's own diary notes, The Asylum Soul is a disturbing account of an innocent young life ripped apart by unthinkable institutional failings, false hope and ultimate family betrayal.

Amongst the customer reviews is this one by David Pennant - ‘I bought this e-book because I live near Brookwood Hospital, where the action takes place, and have been interested in it for twenty years. It's also nice to support a local author. I did not have high expectations for the book itself in advance, to be honest. My prejudice has been shattered. I am almost halfway through, and I am finding it compulsive reading.

The story is well told, and the picture that emerges of the institution is fascinating. It is easy now to rant against the former practice of locking up supposedly mentally ill people without the opportunity for appeal. In reality, there must have been good sides as well as bad to life there. I ­ find the treatment of the day-to-day running of the place utterly convincing. I am also intrigued to discover how the story ends. The account is a diary of an inmate, from 1929 onwards. He shares his thoughts and feelings as well as recounting the events of each day. I ­ find I care what happens to him – always the mark of a good read, to my mind.'

'I also enjoy the ambiguity in the title: is this a book about an individual, or is it a book about the soul of the hospital? You don't need to have an interest in mental health to enjoy this book. I would commend it to anybody interested in human relationships of any kind. The language used is straightforward making for easy reading. Enjoy!'

Writing Magazine #2 - October 2016

Who wrote all the pie?

"Many of us see self-publishing as the most obvious route to getting our work in print but what happens after that? How do we market our books?" Asks author Mal Foster.

"In the lead-up to the publication of my debut novelThe Asylum Soul,and given that much of its content could be of local interest, I was more than aware of the need to promote the book on a local platform. A follow-up article in my local newspaper picks up on the Knaphill Pie, an old local recipe which is mentioned in the novel and is a typical example of the marketing avenuesthat I have recently been exploring. The result, a renewed interest in the book and increased sales!"

The Surrey Advertiser reported that... ‘Literature is being brought to life and put on the menu at a Knaphill pub thanks to a collaboration with an author in the village. A pie recipe featured in a book... Mal Foster published his debut novel,The Asylum Soul, in May and is thrilled with its five-star reviews on Amazon and elsewhere. Readers have praised the writer for his work and said that they can really identify with the fictitious characters and appreciate the diary format of the novel.’

The book tells the story of twenty-three year old Tommy Compton who was incarcerated at the Brookwood Lunatic Asylum in 1929. The asylum was closed in 1994.

The actual recipe for the Knaphill Pie came from a family in Queens Road, Knaphill, near Woking in Surrey whilst I was researching material for the novel. They lent me some old books and there were some loose leaf pieces of paper inside and one fell out with the recipe on. There was a list of ingredients, bacon, leek, cheese, garlic and mashed potato, so all I had to do was to work out how to make the pie.’

In the book, the bacon comes from pigs slaughtered in the grounds of the old asylum. I made a couple of my own pies at home and then the landlady at the pub put her own take on it.The landlady at The Crown, Sarah Nubeebuckus-Jones who has read the book had a conversation with regulars in the pub about the pie. She then decided to make a version of it and now it’s top of the list on the pub’s main menu.

My advice to everyone is to interrogate their book’s subject matter, try not to overlook the finer points; there could be something there which might just warrant that extra publicity.

(Reproduced - Courtesy : Writing Magazine)


Mal answered questions by presenter Jon Andrews about the concept of his debut novel, 'The Asylum Soul', and what inspired the story.LISTEN

(Note: Mal had a ten-minute slot in this two-hour show which commenced in 42nd minute)


Mal talking about his debut novel'The Asylum Soul'and what inspired him to write on Radio Wokingwith Zahir Ahmed and Jackie Witney -LISTEN


Mal talking about his debut novel'The Asylum Soul'and what inspired him to write on Radio Weywith Jon Andrews -LISTEN