Tag Archives: Philip Caveney

The EIBF 2013 programme

It’s not exactly a bad programme this year. It’s not exactly short on authors, either. I’ve probably missed a few, seeing as I have only browsed the pdf  in a hasty fashion, but even so, were it not for the fact that I actually know I am unable to cover the full two and a half weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d sign up for the complete works. Again.

I’d been thinking a weekend. Maybe a longish weekend, but no more than four days. But which longish weekend? And what about the fantastic midweek offerings?

This is going to be an easy post to write! I could simply list authors, one after the other. But that would be boring.

For the time being I will not cover the adult writers, although I noticed Salman Rushdie is coming. Roddy Doyle. And Patrick Ness is an adult this time.

So, first weekend ‘as usual’ we have Meg Rosoff, as well as her stable (yeah, right…) mates Eoin Colfer and Cathy Cassidy. Anne Fine, Tommy Donbavand, Helena Pielichaty, Linda Strachan, Andy Mulligan. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner. Obvious choice. First weekend it will be.

Meg Rosoff

On the other hand, during the week when it grows a little quieter we have Elizabeth Wein. Hmm. Debi Gliori with Tobermory Cat. Nicola Morgan. Lari Don and Vivian French. Damien M Love. Well, that would be good!

But Elen Caldecott is someone I’ve always missed. She’s there the second weekend. It will have to be the middle weekend. Charlie Fletcher, Teresa Breslin and Eleanor Updale, Jon Mayhew and Darren Shan. Need I say more? OK, Tom Palmer, Chae Strathie. Melvin Burgess. Keith Gray.

Jonathan Stroud has a new book coming, which I like the look of. And he’s there the second week. So are Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry, and Daniel Hahn is talking translation. That is interesting.

Having said that, the last, extra long weekend looks by far the best. Doesn’t it? Judit Kerr. Neil Gaiman. Our new children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman. Our own Liz Kessler, and Tim Bowler. Philip Caveney from ‘home’ and Derek Landy, whom I’ve not seen for a long time… Jo Nadin and Spideyman himself, Steve Cole.

Yes. No competition there. Except maybe all the other days.

What do the rest of you think?

(Sorry. I see I have done a list after all.)

Space Blasters

You have to love Philip Caveney’s cinema books! Here we are again, all ready to pop into the latest ‘Star Wars’ film. Or not.

Philip Caveney, Space Blasters

Kip, whose Dad runs this Stockport cinema with a difference, has decided once and for all that he will not go into any more films, however much Mr Lazarus tries to tempt him. And Mr Lazarus, the 120-year-old projectionist, respects his wishes. Things went wrong last time. And the time before that.

Dad is happy, because his cinema is finally doing well. He has no idea why, though, which could be the reason he is stupid enough to talk to the press. So, Stephanie from the Evening Post works out all is not as it seems. Kip has to try and deflect her interest in Mr Lazarus and his putting-people-into-films machine.

Unfortunately that doesn’t go well. Unfortunately, Mr Lazarus has a younger brother, who at a mere 117 is a little boisterous. Unfortunately, Kip ends up having to sort out what goes wrong between these two old men, leaving his girlfriend Beth holding the fort.

Meanwhile Stephanie’s curiosity leads to an unexpected meeting with Zeke Stardancer, while Emperor Zarkan also has various unexpected things happen to him.

Thank goodness for bratty little sisters! Kip’s, not Zarkan’s. And Dad can work out how his projectionist managed to grow a beard in a few hours. Or maybe not.

It’s a slice of fish, really.

(I believe this is the last cinema book by Philip. That’s good, insofar that it’s often best to leave a party when you’re having the most fun.)

The Talent

I don’t watch talent programmes. Can’t stand them. I’m also becoming wary of too many dystopias, so an ebook that combines the two wasn’t going to be at the top of my shopping list. But since it’s that very busy bee Philip Caveney who wrote The Talent, I decided to give it a go. Published a year ago, you can see how long I’ve taken getting started, but I had my reasons.*

Set in Manchester some time in the not too distant future (a parent character recalls going to the kind of concert we have today), people are hungry and poor and live in crowded conditions, sharing flats with strangers. Tobacco and alcohol are illegal, and corruption is rife. Joining the Army is almost the only guaranteed job, but a very bad one. Police brutality is a daily possibility.

Josh plays the guitar, and caterwauls his own songs on the roof of his block of flats. His grandfather believes in him, and now that Josh is old enough, he will try for The Talent, the television programme the whole population follow avidly. If you win, you have a future.

If Josh didn’t get in, there would be no story, so it’s no spoiler to say he ends up taking part. I won’t say too much about what happens, but Philip has added all those things we already worry about, or can see are happening, and this makes his future vision a very realistic one. I can see all this coming, rotten tomatoes and everything.

Not quite totalitarian, but close. Many of the characters are stereotypes, but I believe that’s what makes this effective. We already know these people. We see them on the news and in the talent shows today.

The plot has several interesting angles apart from the competition itself. Is it rigged? Will they fall in love? Is Josh’s MIA father dead? What to do about Holly’s father? Can society even survive?

There are some surprises, and some fun solutions to the problems. Mostly it’s simply an exciting story about musical talent and honest behaviour.

And it’s not only the dystopian future that Philip has portrayed accurately (as we see things today). One of the characters says that he ‘could eat a horse.’ I wonder how he knew?


*Somehow I had mixed in some of the ingredients from the Hunger Games with this book. To put it bluntly, I was under the impression that anyone who didn’t sing well enough was likely to be shot. Or something like that. Not tempting. Sorry to be such an idiot. (And now that I have done all the silliness for you, you can just get on with the reading.)

Crow Boy

Instead of another eraser that you don’t need, wouldn’t it be good to be able to buy something fun and useful, like a book, when you’re next in the gift shop at some tourist attraction? I know, there are guide books. But they, too, get boring after a while. Wouldn’t it be so much more fun finding a work of fiction, set in the place you are visiting?

Philip Caveney, Crow Boy

If you were to visit Mary King’s Close in Edinburgh, you could have your own little personal nightmare of time travel, right back to the plague four hundred years ago. Philip Caveney has written Crow Boy, which is now selling like hot cakes to plague tourists. And after reading it, I am not surprised.

It’s very exciting. You could probably avoid ending up in the the plague ridden 1600s if you don’t wander off into areas not open to the public. Unlike Tom, who did, and who saw more of the plague than he wanted to. He followed a ghost, and suddenly there he was, right in the middle of the olden days when people dropped dead, just like that.

Tom has recently – and very unwillingly – moved to Edinburgh, and he’s on a school trip to Mary King’s Close, until he suddenly appears not to be on a school trip any more. He’s part of the 17th century, plague and all. He meets the doctor he’s just been told about by the tour guide, and before he knows it, he is working for the doctor, making house calls to people with the plague.

Or is he? Maybe he’s just dreaming? He seems to be coming and going.

As I said, very exciting, and very educational. Perhaps the language is rather too modern. The historical characters speak and think as though they were 21st century people. But it’s time travel, and who am I to say they don’t sound more up-to-date under such circumstances? It would be more boring if they spoke all old-fashioned.

And isn’t it odd – not to mention inconvenient – how fictional characters always have a mobile phone with them? One which they have omitted feeding properly. But since it wouldn’t work anyway, it shouldn’t matter.

And, as I said, many more places should consider catching the interest of an author who might write an interesting souvenir for them. This beats most things I have ever bought from the many gift shops I have frequented in my time.

I suspect I’ll need to visit Mary King’s Close now. Or maybe not. What are the odds I’ll end up travelling in time? Getting close to a bubo or two…

The #1 profile – Philip Caveney

He’s got a lot happening. Philip Caveney won the Oldham book award for his first cinema book – Night on Terror Island – set in Stockport. That was a few weeks ago. Shortly before this Philip had launched his latest book – Crow Boy – set in Edinburgh.

Philip Caveney

And now that he finds himself on the Bookwitch best of 2012 list with Spy Another Day, there can be no better start for the new feature on this blog than to find out some odd bits and pieces about local boy Philip. Faster and quirkier than a regular interview, this is where I let authors loose on their own.

Over to Philip Caveney:

How many books did you write before the one that was your first published book?

My first published book, The Sins of Rachel Ellis (1977), was my third serious attempt at a novel. But before that, from my teens onwards, I had written scores of short stories, most of which will never see the light of day.

Best place for inspiration?

Train journeys can be good for ideas. There’s something about staring out of the window across empty fields that gets my mind ticking. But ideas can come to you just about anywhere…

Would you ever consider writing under a pseudonym? Perhaps you already do?

I have already published three teen romance novels under a female pseudonym… unfortunately, I signed a contract that prevents me from revealing the name. But the ‘lady’ even got fan letters from young female readers!

What would you never write about?

Umm… I’d write about anything if I genuinely believed I wasn’t being gratuitous.

Through your writing: the most unexpected person you’ve met, or the most unexpected place you’ve ended up in?

I met my German translator at an event in Glasgow once. That was certainly unexpected. And I ended up in Portugal at a medieval festival watching a performance of Sebastian Darke: Prince of Fools. I even had to get up, dressed in period clothing and talk to a huge crowd of people, none of whom could speak any English. Doesn’t come much stranger than that.

Which of your characters would you most like to be?

A lot of people have suggested that I AM Max the buffalope, from the Sebastian Darke books, because of my proclivity for gloominess. But I’d probably most like to be Mr Lazarus, from the Movie Maniac books, a man who seems to live forever and can leave all his infirmities locked up in a reel of film.

Do you think that having a film made of one of your books would be a good or a bad thing?

Good, in that it would raise my profile and bolster my bank balance. Bad, because in all probability, they’d make a dog’s dinner of it. They generally do.

What is the strangest question you’ve been asked at an event?

How long it took me to ‘make all those books on the table.’ Youngsters don’t always have an accurate idea of how publishing works. They think of it as a kind of cottage industry. It’s more of a collaboration.

Do you have any unexpected skills?

Loads! I can sing, play the drums and I qualified as a graphic designer.

The Famous Five or Narnia?

Oh dear. I have to admit to never having read a single Famous Five book. Just wasn’t my kind of thing. As for Narnia, I liked the first two books, but thought they started to get a bit tedious after that. I gave up somewhere in the middle of The Horse and His Boy. Yes, I know. Sacrilege.

Who is your most favourite Swede?

Can I have four? Benny, Bjorn, Agnetha and Frida. It would seem churlish to separate them.

How do you arrange your books at home? In a Billy? By colour, or alphabetically?

There’s a room full of Billys in our apartment, a mixture of my books and Susan’s books, just crammed in to the available space. One of these days, we’re going to put them in some kind of order (or so we keep saying). Then there’s a special red bookcase that has only books that I’ve published. When you add in translations, that’s quite a bit of acreage. Having no more room for physical tomes, we now arrange our latest purchases (very neatly) on her kindle and my iPad. It works.

Which book would you put in the hands of an unwilling eight-year-old boy reader?

Well, one of mine, obviously (we authors are shameless self-publicists) but failing that, I’d go for Ray Bradbury’s classic fantasy novel, Something Wicked This Way Comes. It’s the book that made me want to be a writer and even after all these years, it still delivers.

If you have to choose between reading or writing, which would it be?

Writing, I guess, but it has to be said that all writers should read and that without reading, I doubt that anyone would ever become a writer. I’m always appalled when I meet would-be writers who say they don’t read because they don’t want to be influenced. How arrogant is that? As writers we begin by imitating the best. Eventually we find a voice of our own. Then look out!

I’m surprised he didn’t pick Max von Sydow as his favourite Swede, but what do I know? And Philip has written romances!!! We didn’t know that.

2012′s best twelve

For the 12th day of the 12th month of 2012 (I love this kind of thing!) I give you my list of the very best books. All twelve of them. (I know, there are really 13, but two for the price of one, sort of thing. Yes?)

All the books I have reviewed have been good, and it’s hard to pick the best. Except for the bestest of the best, because that one stood out by several miles, even back in January. And once we’ve got the twelves out of our system, next year I will have to go for a more restrained list. Always assuming people continue writing great books. Please do.

As always, I only include books published during the year. And here, the VERY BEST is:

Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity

Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity

Swiftly followed by some alphabetically listed and very marvellous runners-up:

Philip Caveney, Spy Another Day

Joshua Doder, Grk and the Phoney Macaroni

Daniel Finn, Call Down Thunder

Sally Gardner, Maggot Moon

Nick Green, Cat’s Cradle

Barry Hutchison, The Thirteenth Horseman

Wendy Meddour, A Hen in the Wardrobe, and The Black Cat Detectives

Gillian Philip, Wolfsbane

Terry Pratchett, Dodger

Celia Rees, This Is Not Forgiveness

Teri Terry, Slated

That’s it, dear readers. It was a good year, both generally, but also specifically for producing Code Name Verity, one of the best ever.

Christmas in the Northwest

Melvin Burgess ate some of my bread. Again. But that’s OK. There was lots of it. Although I did admit that if this was my last week, I would spend it eating. Someone at our table said he would run. (Someone has their priorities wrong.)

Nine of us met up for some Armenian food in Manchester last night, and it was a modest start, but I think we’re on to something here. Us northerners can’t always be travelling to London, so will have to look for fun closer to home. Marnie Riches was tired of not having Christmas parties to go to, so got a few people together to remedy this. And then I tagged on, as their very own Rita Skeeter.

Someone did mention the words ‘top secret’ but I am afraid I wasn’t paying enough attention to be able to tell you any more. In fact, I was so concerned it would be boring, I had brought a book to read. It wasn’t, so I didn’t.

Almost didn’t find the place, as I had forgotten to factor in that Albert Square would be overflowing with continental gemütlichkeit this time of year. I almost overdid the ‘don’t get there too early’ by being second last to arrive, which jarred my Swedish sensitivities. As previously mentioned, Melvin Burgess was there and so was Lady Melvin. Jon Mayhew arrived after me, and my fellow Stopfordian Philip Caveney was just before me. I didn’t know Steve Hartley before, but he seemed really nice, apart from being unable to read a menu.

Enjoyed meeting someone I’ve previously seen on facebook, and also chatting to Lorrie Porter who was one of the panelists from the talk at MMU in the summer. I knew I recognised her, but it took some minutes to work out from where.

Melvin Burgess

I learned that occasionally a manuscript will return from an editor with more typos than when it left. And we could all be a little autistic, but some are definitely more autistic than others.

At some point everyone got their cameras out, and it was actually quite hard to take any pictures that didn’t feature the person opposite you with a camera in front of their face.

This was more a private than a public gathering, so I won’t tell you who had a go with the toothpicks, or who could have got away with leaving without paying. Most of us had pudding, but only in the name of research. We were wanting to find out the difference between the two almost identical sounding desserts, which could only be done by ordering and sampling. Both were nice, but mine was the best.

It was a relief to be doing this sitting down. In London you nearly always stand the whole time. Admittedly, we didn’t see anything of the velvet trousers belonging to one famous author, the subject of which used up so much of people’s imagination on facebook earlier this week. But then, I’m not convinced they did either.

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.

Wednesday – in two parts

When Ruth Eastham texted me to say she and Ally Kennen had arrived at Manchester Piccadilly, I looked carefully at the people coming up the escalator and found myself staring at Philip Caveney instead. The ladies were not far behind, but I think it was Philip’s job to identify one lone Bookwitch from the milling crowds. He did, and then left for home.

Ruth and I had been plotting for weeks to meet up, and when she told me Ally was coming along it made the deal even better as far as I was concerned. I’ve seen Ally several times without plucking up the courage to say hello, and here she was, actually wanting to meet me.

I had to do that thing I hate; admit to not having read a single book of hers. She, and her books, have scared me somewhat, but Ally assured me nothing bad happens in her books. So maybe..? Certainly, Ally the person is very nice. Believe me. She had gone along to the Oldham Brilliant Books for the fun, and to have a night’s un-interrupted sleep.

Ally Kennen

She was a bit green, however. The taxi they’d come in had not been of the steadiest sort. So Ally drank a glass of water, and watched as I had some pretty good gnocchi while Ruth showed what she’s made of by going straight for the tiramisu, the taxi ride notwithstanding.


Now, I’d obviously planned to talk about Ruth and Ally and their books, but the tables turned quite early on and they found out more about me than makes sense. Although we interrogated each other to a suitable degree, and I reckon both Ally and I want to gatecrash Ruth in Italy, where she lives.

Ally had a train to catch (we all did, but hers was the first), so she left Ruth and me to discuss Ruth’s next book. (Speaking of next books, I think Ally’s next one sounds relatively safe.) I warned Ruth about all the things she doesn’t want to put in her book, and she took notes…

Ruth Eastham with Tiramisu

We enthused about war, which we both like. In books, if not in real life. And because Ruth was going off to spend 24 hours being an ‘exciting and famous aunt’ I dispatched her to a train leaving from the furthest away platform, with a mere five minutes to spare. Hope she made it.

I had more on the agenda, so went for my own train and spent a little time resting at home.

Caryl Hart

After some tea I gathered my camera and current book and walked over to the hotel used by the authors coming to the Stockport Book Award to see if I could catch up with some of them, since Wednesday was awards night at the Plaza. Using the same list of books as Oldham, it meant that some of the winning authors were also the same.

Ed Eaves

Hence I saw Caryl Hart again, looking fabulous in her ‘partydress’ complete with crown and everything. (This year’s theme was crowns and coronets.) She was accompanied by Ed Eaves, the illustrator of How to Grow a Dinosaur, and he wore a fantastic crown that he’d made himself. It’s that artistic vein.

The other winner waiting to catch a taxi to the Plaza was Clare Chambers, author of Burning Secrets. This year there have been many winners in Oldham and Stockport who I don’t know at all. It’s good to meet new people, but above all, it’s great that more than the obvious, well known books get an audience and new readers.

Clare Chambers

As far as I know, the other winners were Patrick Ness and Jim Kay, again, with A Monster Calls, and Clive Goddard and Fintan Fedora the World’s Worst Explorer. I hope neither Clive nor publicist Sarah, representing Patrick and Jim, had got lost. I understand they were coming direct from Oldham. And I believe Philip Caveney – Stockport’s very own author – was also at the Plaza.

The library representative bundled ‘my’ three into a taxi, and I walked home, having narrowly avoided the Market Research event at the hotel.

Brilliant Books

It was Oldham’s first book award last night, and what a brilliant name Brilliant Books is! Queen Elizabeth Hall was teeming with beautifully dressed school children of all ages, and I must say that those authors who usually spend their days in lonely garrets scrub up really well, too.

Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham

As for your shabby looking witch, she was given her very own escort who did some excellent looking after. His name was Snape. Keith Snape. Not Severus. But anyway. (He’s older than he looks. Apparently.) He told me about the wonderful libraries in Oldham, and he is dreadfully enthusiastic about all sorts of things.

Twenty schools have participated in reading this first year, and the children came for a glittery night out at the round tables in the beautiful ballroom. The Mayor of Oldham spoke, and then it was Dave’s turn to look after things on stage. At least I think he’s a Dave. I didn’t catch his surname. He did a great job, ably assisted by young readers.

The names of the shortlisted authors for each category were read out by readers of that age group, followed by some very nicely done recorded readings from each book, along with an opinion on why that particular book was the best. (Like because the character had orange hair.)

Caryl Hart

Caryl Hart and Ed Eaves won the Early Years award for How to Grow a Dinosaur, and Caryl was there to receive the prize. She impressed Dave by reading her acceptance speech on her smartphone…

Oldham Youth Wind Ensemble played The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, before the titles of the five shortlisted books in the Key Stage 1 group were read out, by slightly older children, who in an egalitarian attempt to split the five titles, shared the last one between them.

Caryl Hart

Julia Donaldson and David Roberts won with Jack and the Flumflum tree, and our esteemed Children’s Laureate made up for having gone on holiday instead of coming to Oldham, by sending a video message, which included singing a song with her husband. Pretty good, actually.

Not wanting to be outdone (as if they would be!) the Wind Ensemble gave us the Drunken Sailor, and then it was straight on to Key Stage 2. I am pleased that Philip Caveney won with Night on Terror Island. It’s especially nice, because it’s a local award. Philip thanked his daughter for making him a children’s author, and his soulmate, who then ended up carrying his rather lovely trophy around for him.

Philip Caveney

Clive Goddard

Clive Goddard, who didn’t win, but who was there anyway, stood up to wave, so we know what he looks like. He wrote a book with the tongue-twisting title Fintan Fedora the World’s Worst Explorer. I agree with Dave; I don’t think I can say that too many times.

Stanley's Stick

Ruth Eastham

Before moving on to the Key Stage 3 books, we enjoyed a performance of Stanley’s Stick by young actors from Oldham Coliseum. The winning book in this category was The Memory Cage by Ruth Eastham. She gave a great speech, which partly consisted of reading us her first published poem, written when she was nine. Basically, we should be aware of our inner caterpillar. I think. We will eventually turn into butterflies.

Ally Kennen

By this time poor Dave wasn’t sure if he was even at the right stage, but he was, because it was the turn of the oldest readers (so much taller than the first ones) to announce that Patrick Ness and Jim Kay had won with A Monster Calls. Unfortunately they were running late with their homework, and had been given a detention so couldn’t be there.

Sarah from Walker Books read out a message from Patrick, who regretted that his nice suit wasn’t going to get its annual airing, and he thanked Siobhan Dowd, on whose idea the book was based. Another shortlisted author, Ally Kennen, was in the audience and we got a wave from her.

Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham

Dave said he’s happy so many children can and do read more than 140 characters, and then everyone thanked everybody else. Andrea Ellison, whose brainchild Brilliant Books is, spoke and listed all her helpers. She waved her plastered arm around, and I wasn’t sure how much she had used it to persuade people… She finished by asking the children to parade round the room, to show off their beautiful outfits and perhaps to get some restlessness out of the way by marching round to the upbeat music.

Ruth Eastham

After which there was nothing more to do than buy books and chat to authors and give Lady Caveney advice on the Scandinavian languages and their differences. And seeing as it took me two hours to get there by public transport, I then decided I had to start working on my return journey. (Car would have been 30 minutes. Broom probably even faster.)

I feel honoured to have been present at the birth of a new award, and here’s to many more Brilliant Books!