Tag Archives: Chris Priestley

Ghostly Tales

Eleanor Hawken, Curtis Jobling and Cathy MacPhail

But I didn’t. Back out, I mean. I entered with some determination, because I was there for ghosts with Cathy MacPhail and Eleanor Hawken and Curtis Jobling, which is no small thing. I had only read Eleanor’s Grey Girl, but am happy to take the word of others as to the ghostliness of Cathy and Curtis. Their books. Not them.

Cathy’s most recent title is Scarred to Death, which is a great play on words. Haunt, Dead Scared by Curtis is about a dead boy whose trainers are either intact or quite ruined, depending on whether you are dead or alive.

Eleanor Hawken

For all three the fondness for ghostly things began at an early age. Eleanor consumed two Point Horror books a day before going to a boarding school with a resident ghost at 13. Cathy liked ghosts ‘ever since she was a wee girl’ and then she came up with the idea of seeing your dead teacher in the queue at Tesco. Curtis has loved ghost stories ‘since he was a little girl as well’ – the remains of hurricane Bertha flapped the tent at this point, if it was Bertha – and has a past which includes flour and string, and a father who liked to scare his children.

Andrew Jamieson, who chaired the event, sensibly let the audience ask questions early on. It was a pretty ghostly minded audience – apart from the lovely baby who chewed on a green guest lanyard to avoid crying – and the answer to whether novels tend always to be autobiographical is yes.

Cathy MacPhail

Eleanor dreamed Grey Girl and Cathy also made a sleep related comment. She started work in the mill at 15, being too poor to stay on at school, and then began writing when her children were small, in the belief that one short story ought to be enough, and then discovering she was addicted. Mills & Boon found her attempts too humorous.

Curtis Jobling

Curtis reckons you should work hard at your hobbies, and you might find your hobby turns to work (yes, but we can’t all draw Bob the Builder!). He drew us a Were-Bob on the strategically placed flipchart next to him.

On what they like to read, Eleanor fell in love with Philip Pullman and His Dark Materials as a teenager. Cathy reads anything from Stephen King to Young Women, but not romance. (I suspect the M&B problem has just been explained.) All seem to be fans of Let the Right One In, which doesn’t reassure me one bit. Bite.

And do they believe in ghosts? Eleanor does. Curtis doesn’t. He said it was just the wind, since we’re in Scotland now. Cathy, well, maybe. She’s not scared, but… Have they seen a ghost? Eleanor has (the advantages of having attended the right school), while Curtis explained that he wakes his wife if he hears a noise in the night. Poor Mrs J.

If anyone is still not scared enough, Andrew mentioned that he quite likes Chris Priestley’s short stories.

Asked if they have plans for what they will do next; yes, they do.

Eleanor Hawken, Curtis Jobling, Cathy MacPhail, next to David Roberts and Alan MacDonald

At this point we’d run over in time, and as we were ‘thrown out’ I glanced at the bookshop’s signing area and decided they’d have their work cut out to fit three more authors in, next to the two who were still there. And that while they did, I’d have time for a super fast comfort stop.

As I re-emerged, I found that Curtis had had the same idea, so we walked back to the bookshop together, where there was just space for him between the ladies. There were queues everywhere, and people wanted all kinds of things signed. Curtis even got to ‘deface’ someone’s notebook.

Wish I’d thought of that!

Bookwitch bites #93

Luckily I didn’t run into either of these two chaps as I haunted Edinburgh this week. Twice. That’s twice I didn’t see them. In fact, I forgot to even think about Philip Caveney and whoever that is behind him. ‘He’s behind you!’ Lucky, seeing as I was running around all alone in the dark.

Philip Caveney with Plague Doctor on The Close

Lucky too, that I had not yet come across Chris Priestley’s A Creepy Christmas, the story he has written for 247 tales. That is another thing you don’t want to have on your mind as you’re out alone, in the dark or otherwise. Good to see that the 247 tales are still going strong.

Pleased to hear that Bali Rai won one of the categories at the Sheffield Book Awards this week; his quick read The Gun. Obviously, other books won too, and even more were commended. Read all about it here.

Have been alerted that Sophie Hannah – who seems to be successful at just about everything these days – has been shortlisted for the Nibbies. The event is on Tuesday next week. Lots of other authors are also on the various shortlists, and pirates would appear to be in as far as children’s book titles are concerned. (It was hard to find the lists, however. Something wrong with google? Can’t be me, can it?)

But I did find it a little tricky to discover the Costa shortlist, as well. (So definitely not me, then.) Sally Gardner, Diana Hendry, Hayley Long and Dave Shelton are this year’s hopefuls. I’ve read two.

Barry Hutchison, The Book of Doom

And speaking of awards, I was very happy to hear that Barry Hutchison got married last week. He had proposed in a fairly public sort of way, by putting it in one of his books. Glad it paid off, and that he has now been made an honest man of. More good Hutchison news is the arrival of the cover for The Book of Doom. Would quite like for the rest of the book to get here, too. Fast.

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, The Bone Trail

Fast is what another book would have managed, had I not been so busy running around a darkened Edinburgh. (See top.) A very early incarnation of The Bone Trail, the last in the Wyrmeweald trilogy by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell has been made available to me. I happened to mention I wasn’t feeling especially patient.

Arrived home to find DHL had missed me. (Miss you too.) I arranged for redelivery on Monday. Except they turned up yesterday. As I squeezed the package (to find out what it might be, the way you do) it felt like a rucksack. Couldn’t see why Random House would send me one of those.

I will now stick a plain sheet of A4 to the back of The Bone Trail to prevent me accidentally looking at what seems to be the last page of the book. A witch likes some element of surprise.

Lobbying for Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Not all of us who would have wanted to, could make it to London on Monday for the mass lobby to save school libraries. Luckily, quite a few people did. Authors, librarians, readers.

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

I didn’t even get the t-shirt.

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Looks like they had fun, too.

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Some people clearly didn’t take it seriously, at all…

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

I’m hoping it doesn’t say ‘The Best Ardagh’ on this sign.

Mass Lobby of Parliament for School Libraries

Thanks to Candy Gourlay for the photos.

Mary Hoffman’s blog.

Mister Creecher

It didn’t end as I expected. Actually, I’m not sure what I expected from Chris Priestley’s most recent book. But it was different. That’s all.

The other thing about Mister Creecher is that because it’s inspired by another author’s well known novel, you sort of lose track of what’s what. I’m one of those people Chris mentions, who have not read Frankenstein, but somehow ‘know’ all they need to know anyway. The first thing that happened was that I forgot whether there was any truth in Mary Shelley’s story.

No, that’s not what I mean. Whether any of her characters were ‘real.’ After Charlie Higson’s talk about that fateful holiday in 1816, and me reading This Dark Endeavour by Kenneth Oppel some months ago, I felt as if many of the characters were real people, put into one – or several – of these stories. It’s what happens when you meet the same people several times.

I’m not making sense, am I?

It’s 1818 and Frankenstein’s monster is in London, looking for Frankenstein. He happens to meet orphaned pickpocket Billy, and after scaring him witless just by looking monster-ous, the two end up together, almost friends.

Frankenstein and his friend Clerval are holidaying in London, before travelling further north. Billy and Creecher follow them, except it’s not easy for a scary and enormous monster to travel unobtrusively. None of them are angels, but neither are they totally bad. In fact, it’s even hard to tell if Frankenstein is bad or not.

I had worried in case Mister Creecher was going to be as scary as Chris’s other books. It’s not. A lot of the time it is simply a nice early 19th century novel, albeit with a little gruesomeness on the side. But when you stop and think about what they do, all of them, it’s suddenly not so nice. And you wonder what the purpose of the story is. The monster can surely not live happily ever after? Can Billy?

Taking a new look at something familiar is nearly always interesting. This story is based not only on Frankenstein, but has bit of Dickens in it as well. You’re at home, but you’re not. And I was very relieved not to be scared witless.

Highly recommended.

Bookwitch bites #75

If I’d known about it I would have wanted to be there. Here is a short video from when some other people spoke up for libraries, with Alan Gibbons at the forefront ‘as usual.’ The others are, in no particular order, Lucy Coats, Candy Gourlay, Philip Ardagh, Gillian Cross, Fiona Dunbar, Chris Priestley, Pat Walsh and the librarian of librarians, Ferelith Hordern. And probably some others I didn’t catch enough of a glimpse of to be able to identify them.

It’s easy for us to take libraries and the whole idea of them for granted. I had no idea that when Candy grew up in the Philippines there weren’t any libraries. And the elderly gentleman in the video who talked so passionately about borrowing books to read… well, it makes me want to cry.

Charlie Brown had access to a library. Probably even Snoopy had a library, unless it was ‘no dogs allowed.’ It can be easy to lose or forget a library book, but as long as you don’t ‘spill coffee’ on a book on purpose, you might be forgiven.

Charlie Brown library cartoon

The coffee spilling was a technique I learned about at work, back in the olden days. Not very honest, and not something I have ever practised.

Finally, here is a link to a radio programme on Monday 26th March, about Scandinavian children’s books, presented by Mariella Frostrup as ‘always.’ Let’s hope it won’t be only the same old stuff, despite the description. I am particularly interested, because I was party to a request for contributions to the programme from the Scandinavian church in Liverpool. Nice that they asked, but not sure who they hoped to find there. (Having said that, I will clearly be faced with all my friends at Gustav Adolf…)

That’s terrible!

Chris Priestley, Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror

Maybe I procrastinated all this time because deep down I felt I really would be scared by Chris Priestley’s stories in his series of terror. The first one, Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is pretty terrible. I’m the type who thinks that because I’m an adult and used to reading both this and that, I will be fine. Small children might be scared, but not me.

As I mentioned earlier, I read this collection of short stories mostly on the train. That’s nice and safe. Surrounded by masses of people and in daylight. Didn’t help. Chris is still a master of terror.

Brrr.

It’s the things he doesn’t hesitate to do to children. Girls, even. And it’s never of the ‘we will feel frightened for a bit but then all will be well’ variety. It gets worse at the end. Children die. They suffer all sorts of unmentionable ends. (To their lives, as well as to their stories.)

Whether I would have been less worried if I was young enough to be one of Chris’s victims, I don’t know. Might I have been carefree or stupid like most of his characters? And I couldn’t quite work out whether the boy Edgar, who visits his uncle Montague for a story-telling session, is safe or if he too will meet some terrible end.

So if you like falling from great heights or if you want to be turned into a tree or to be cursed or just to be scared silly, then look no further. If not, I suggest you find a book about kittens.

Or not. Kittens aren’t necessarily terror-free.

The paperback version has a bonus story at the end. So just when you thought it was safe, Chris plunges Edgar back into the world of tales of terror.

Terror and meteorites

Thursday last week was meteorite day in Edinburgh. First there was ‘our’ interview with Ted Nield, featuring plenty of the stuff coming down.

And then it was Chris Priestley who brought us to the cliff top and scared the h*ll out of us. He likes terror, rather than horror. Terror is when you go over the cliff top. Horror is what it’s like when you reach the bottom.

Chris Priestley

I had almost finished my first short story collection by Chris, and despite reading it in public on the train, I was thoroughly spooked. My sense of unease didn’t go away when Chris talked about his writing, and just thinking back to his event and his stories makes me feel a bit… (Window is open. It’s dark. I’m home alone.)

Anyway, Chris read us his first success, which was a short story that was runner up in a Gibraltar newspaper competition in 1966, when Chris was a mere eight years old. It was quite good, and featured the previously mentioned meteorites as well as comets and the moon. The young Chris’s idea of travelling to the moon wasn’t terribly accurate, but pretty good. Considering.

He ‘burbled away about himself,’ and told us about his early favourites like A Christmas Carol, The Ancient Mariner and the Greek Myths. Chris reckons you write what you’ve read, and he likes the dark, supernatural, strange, weird stuff. He’s a bit squeamish, and his career plans was train driver, astronaut or writer.

From that first trip to the moon in 1966 Chris became an author after first working as an illustrator and cartoonist. He makes notes all the time, and these later become scary stories. He’s very pleased when his wife reads his stories and screams. And his innocent teenage son who had to read while ill in bed told him he’s a ‘sick man.’

That’s why we didn’t tell Chris our fears when he asked the audience what they are scared of. Others were braver about their fears and shared thirst, buttons, burglars and dogs. And he told us about an early fishing memory… I almost thought I’d end up on the floor, again. What is it with these writers?

Chris likes scaring children for a job. Traumatising people for life.

Nice.

What’s normal is the most scary. Don’t know if that’s why Chris has some skull button thing where his tie should be? Scary cufflinks. This isn’t terribly normal, if you ask me.

Chris Priestley

Someone asked if Chris has ever been in a real fight with anyone. He claimed he hasn’t. But then he started fantasising about fighting with Philip Ardagh and pulling his beard off.

Not normal at all.