Tag Archives: David Fickling Books

A Mason move

Not being rich enough to subscribe to the Bookseller – well, maybe I am, but then I’m too economical – I am now on some sort of mailing list, which means I see all their daily news, but can only click through to them once in a blue moon. (I know, I should remove my cookies.)

But last week I was lucky enough to be able to read what they said about Simon Mason, who is leaving David Fickling Books where he has been m.d., moving to Pushkin Children’s Books to do something new and exciting. It didn’t say what.

They did mention he’s been DFB’s m.d. for six years, which I’m sure is right. But I still recall coming across him in David’s basement almost nine years ago, when Daughter and I were given the guided tour. But I suppose there’s no reason why Simon couldn’t have a subterranean existence before running the company.

Which – more Bookseller news reveals – will now be done by Tom Fickling. I’m guessing he’s DFB Junior, so to speak.

So it’s all change. And I gather Simon has a third Garvie Smith book coming this year!

Mr Godley’s Phantom

I so loved this book, and the fact that although Mal Peet is no longer with us, he left behind writing to be turned into new books for us, who loved him and his writing. Described as a ‘haunting novella’ by David Fickling, I’d say that this [adult] retro story is a full length novel, if you apply the measurements for books as they were then, shortly after WWII.

Martin Heath returns from the war, and doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. His nerves aren’t good, and he drinks too much. Eventually he is interviewed by the mysterious Mr Godley and given a job at his home on Dartmoor. The job description is a little vague, and we’re not quite sure what Martin’s employer really wants or why he chose Martin.

Mal Peet, Mr Godley's Phantom

It’s hard to describe the story without spoilers, but Mr Godley’s house hides secrets, and the local women who work for him also have their own unusual histories. And then there is Martin, shaking, looking for drugs.

Mal has hit the head on the nail perfectly, both as regards the period – or so it seems from here – and in creating a strange little plot that doesn’t really take you where you expected to go.

It’s a wonderful book.

Witch in search of a litfest

I had no idea that you require portals – into other worlds – in this day and age. But your witch has travelled to Oxford, with three intentions; to attend the Oxford Literary Festival for the first time, to meet up with friends and family rarely, if ever, seen, and to be embarrassing to Daughter’s planetary colleagues.

Worcester College

Staying in a real Oxford college, because it is Easter, or very nearly, and rooms are empty. Or would be, were it not for a lot of Chinese and American visitors. A witch still needs connectivity, even when surrounded by romantic, if murderous, daffodils, but found she had been followed by her usual travelling curse. The one where internets and wifis disappear into thin air. But it seems that a part solution can be achieved by finding an untainted website, which will act as a portal. (So far it seems the Guardian works…)

Daughter is here too, with her exoplanet chums. They had a ceilidh the other evening, at the church in Jericho (this feels so His Dark Materials!). I invited myself in, and watched this planetary bunch jump around to the music. You know how girls often have to dance with each other, because there are not enough men? Hah. Here the boys had to dance with boys, because there were too few women. Truly back-to-front, this.

Worcester College

I can’t tell you much about the litfest. Yet. For my part it is resting, midweek. Children’s book events happen at the weekends. So I’ve been relaxing and walking among the college daffodils, watching the gardeners hard at work, making this the best college garden in Oxford, according to my old friend Botany whom I met for afternoon tea one afternoon. Well, I suppose it had to be. Afternoon, that is.

Went back for more afternoon tea the following afternoon, to finally properly meet Linda Sargent, over ten years after I’d been too scared to interrupt her conversation with Linda Newbery, here in Oxford. She’s lovely, and the kind of person who will ransack the shelves of David Fickling, to give away books. And we talked for so long that she practically had to be carried out… 😇

On the advice of another author, Daughter and I had tapas for dinner one night, in the company of a planet person who thinks I’m funny. (You all do, don’t you?) And it’s a small world, because on our very short walk there, we ran into the one relative we have in Oxford, Professor G.

Now all I need is for this not to be an episode of Morse.

Worcester College

The Murdstone Trilogy

I am very grateful to Mal Peet. He may have written a novel bearing the title The Murdstone Trilogy, but it isn’t. A trilogy, I mean. And he has the sense to point this out in a message from the author, so the reader can relax and settle down with his bleddy fantastick nobble. (What’s more, this nobble from David Fickling Books is an adult nobble, which is interesting for someone you connect with children’s books. But DFB can do what they like, and they clearly like this book, and so do I.)

Mal seems to have set out to write a non-fantasy story. But for an anti-fantasy writer (if that’s what he is) Mal knows a lot about fantasy. (Btw, he claims it’s not autobiographical, but I was unable to read it without visualising Mal as his hero Philip Murdstone.)

Mal Peet, The Murdstone Trilogy

More than one recent novel claims to deal with the publishing world, but I haven’t seen anything that does it quite like this. What do I know? But it seems so very true. Why should the author Philip Murdstone keep writing worthy books about brave children, when his agent needs him to write a bestselling fantasy?

This non-trilogy trilogy (I mean it is a trilogy, in that it’s divided into three parts. But it’s all there, which is more than one can say for Mr Murdstone) is like nothing else. My online social circle of literary people kept going on about Mal’s book as though it’s the best thing since sliced bread, so I had to ask to be allowed to have a taste, and it is. People were falling over each other to quote the best quote from the book. This is really very rare, even for people who will – rightly – praise each other’s work.

You can’t describe it, and if you could it would serve to ruin the experience for anyone else. Let’s just say that Devon is over-run by weird stuff happening . Maybe that’s normal there. What do I know? But Philip Murdstone ends up living his fantasy, which is the book, the trilogy, he must write. It’s enough to drive anyone over the edge.

(I was there when Mal won the Guardian prize. I sincerely hope he hasn’t been Murdstoning about the countryside with gremlins and people with interesting accents since then. He deserves better. Let him not write fantasy. If that’s what he wants not to write.)