Tag Archives: Chris Priestley

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.

Bookwitch bites #54

So many awards, so many winners. So hard to keep up. But please keep writing and keep winning! It’s what we like.

Keren David has just won the Lancashire Book of the Year for When I Was Joe. Yippee!

Chris Priestley - sort of

Earlier this week the Leeds Book Awards took place. I realised something was up when so many authors appeared to be travelling to Leeds, all on the same day. First I got confused because many of them seemed to be winners, but they do several categories in Leeds. Hence lots of winners. David Gatward won one, Lee Weatherly won another and Jon Mayhew won a third. The runners-up were awarded what looked like huge diamonds, so all did very well. Candy Gourlay was there, and so was Helen Grant, Laura Summers and Teresa Flavin. And Chris Priestley, who is nowhere near as horrible looking as we had been led to believe. Phew.

Another kind of winner, although not of an award this time, is Mal Peet and his marvellous piece about Martin Amis and the brain damage. Thank god for people like Mal. I feel the need for a little quote here: ‘And when, as I do (I can’t help myself) I read the adult books shortlisted for the big prestigious prizes I find myself thinking “Really? This is ‘ground-breaking?” My editor would never let me get away with toss like this.’ That will be why Mal has won one or two things himself.

Football scene, Celtic fans

And because Mal likes football, I’ll leave you with some ‘winning’ football pictures from the world premiere this week of Divided City by Theresa Breslin. Those who were there said it was phenomenal and fantastic and amazing. I’m willing to believe them.

Football scene, Rangers fans

Bookwitch bites #44

Let’s have some bites with a Scandinavian slant. Even if it’s just about me. (Isn’t it always?)

I’ve been working on the Tim Bowler interview (which will be with you very shortly), and it was nice to see I made the news on Tim’s website. He’s either very polite, or has got his priorities all muddled up.

Tim Bowler news

Something – and I don’t know what it was, but it certainly wasn’t the speed of my dial-up this week – had me surf round blogs and websites. Nice to find that some of my favourites make it into translation. Here are Marcus Sedgwick’s ‘Swordhand’ and Chris Priestley’s horror stories, Swedish style.

Marcus Sedgwick, De Som Går Igen

Chris Priestley, Onkel Montagues Spökhistorier

My Danish blogger friend Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen does not only blog in two languages, getting the English version correct, but she writes fiction as well. (I believe there might even be a paid day job somewhere and possibly household chores, too.) She has a small story collection available to buy online for those of you who are equipped with e-readers. That does not include me. I love the title, which is really witty: Candied Crime.

Dorte Hummelshøj Jakobsen

Someone with a different kind of language issue is Rhys Bowen, the British crime writer transplanted to America. In her latest newsletter she told fans about breaking her wrist, which is delaying her next novel. Trying speech recognition software Rhys found it couldn’t quite deal with what she was hoping to write; ‘heir to the throne’ became ‘air to the thrown’ and ‘to let’ changed into what I always see it as when out and about and morphed into ‘toilet’.

Seeing as I mentioned e-readers just now, Rhys says she has a short ‘Molly’ story (The Amersham Rubies) coming out soon, to coincide with her next Molly novel. Free on Kindle. And how does that help me?

Bookwitch bites #39

Who’d have thought there could be so many book awards? I can’t begin to keep track of them, but happened to notice Leeds this week. Partly because it has a shortlist that reads like Who’s Who in children’s literature. Well, it should, really. I’m grateful I’m not a young reader in Leeds. It’ll be nice for them to read their way through these books, but voting is going to be hard. To mention just one author per category we have ‘them all’ from Elen Caldecott to Chris Priestley to LA Weatherly. I had a brief look at last year’s award ceremony and it looks nice and properly posh. On the 24th May this year.

Aurora

Roundabout that time, or slightly later, we should finally come face-to-face with Aurora, Julie Bertagna’s final book in her trilogy. We have waited and waited, but I gather it’s not Julie’s ‘fault’. A pregnancy epidemic broke out among editors, and what can you do? Babies are sweet. I’ll wait, albeit not patiently. I believe they are revamping all three books with new covers to match the one on the right.

Bad things have happened to my blog diary. Someone is not keeping it up-to-date. Could be the same someone who took a tumble outside her back door on Thursday and bumped a little bit of everything on whatever it was. And that bad old knee will never be the same again. I just know it.

Sara Paretsky

Time is a funny thing. That tale of Julie’s trilogy suggests it moves like treacle, but when I saw an ‘ad’ on Sara Paretsky’s blog for the drama she takes part in every year, I thought ‘we surely can’t be there again already?’, so it seems I am as irrational as most of you think.

Post-bump the irritable old thing (me, not Sara) sat down with some comfort reading. It didn’t take more than a few pages of Sara’s Tunnel Vision before VI Warshawski also took a tumble down some stairs.

Is it safe to come out now?

Chris Priestley’s books and I have travelled together more than most. Each time I get sent one of his books I think to myself that it looks wonderful and I must read it. And so far I’ve just not managed it, but I hope Chris is pleased by the large number of trips we have made together.

When The Dead of Winter arrived I was book-free, which is very unusual, so I grabbed it and began reading it right there and then, just to make up for earlier near misses. It doesn’t say when it’s set, but has the feel of Victorian Gothic. It is wonderful. It’s also a little bit scary. Actually.

The recently orphaned Michael has to go and spend Christmas with his new guardian, who lives in a large – and possibly haunted – house near Ely. Possibly haunted? What am I saying? Of course the place is haunted. Very haunted. And Michael is a sensitive boy (not sure what age he is) who feels these things, so he is uncomfortable from the word go.

The plot is superficially quite obvious, and there are few surprises, until… Well, if I told you there would be nothing to worry about.

This is a nice and short book, written in the style of classic authors such as Wilkie Collins and Edgar Allan Poe. In my aspie-ness I have to mention that there are a couple of overlooked inconsistencies, although only one of them matters.

You know exactly where the story is going, and it seems to follow a standard recipe until the day th……….