Tag Archives: Tommy Donbavand

Tommy Donbavand

Tommy Donbavand died on Tuesday this week.

He had three years of truly awful battles against cancer, and he shared them with us on his blog, while also having the strength to joke a bit and to tell us about his family. And when things got too bad, his very good friend Barry Hutchison took over; writing blog posts for him, and even finishing his books.

But I think we had all worried about this moment, knowing it was likely to come soon and none of us wanting it to happen.

Tony Higginson, David Gatward, Barry Hutchison, Tommy Donbavand, Jon Mayhew, Philip Caveney and Joseph Delaney at Scarefest 3 - photo by Sean Steele

I first met Tommy in a pub in Sefton. He was just like me, short and round. Also, he was kind and funny, and good at writing books that got little boys reading. And to think that he might still be with us had it not been for his GP who felt there was nothing really wrong with Tommy.

My thoughts are with Mrs Donbavand and their two young sons. Tommy was so proud of them.

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Bookwitch bites #138

If I was in Manchester this Saturday, I could celebrate Harry Potter turning twenty. But I’m not, so I can’t. It’s slightly premature, but that’s all right. If all his birthday parties happened at the same time, we couldn’t go to all of them. It’s the lovely people of Manchester Children’s Book Festival (oh, how I miss them) who are Pottering this weekend.

Strangely, I had been thinking of Andy McNab recently, and here he is popping up in the Guardian, no less. Andy has opinions on how children learn to read, or in his own case and that of many others, how they don’t learn. Yesterday saw the 2017 batch of Quick Reads launched, and as always the books look fabulous, and I’d like to pop out and get all of them. I hope many of them will reach a large number of readers who need books like these. We obviously ought to have many, many more Quick Reads, and not only once a year.

In times like these it almost feels as if we need to look for news that isn’t too bad, as opposed to actively good or wonderful. These are also times when far too many people turn out to have misplaced their spines at some point, now that we could do with a few more good strong backbones.

Malorie Blackman is doing the right thing in saying she won’t be visiting the US in the near future. Hopefully this is one of many actions that will be instrumental in changing what must be changed.

Barry Hutchison is someone who acts instead of talking. You will remember Tommy Donbavand who was diagnosed with cancer a year ago, and whose livelihood of writing books and making school visits was threatened by his illness. He was optimistic that he’d be able to write while getting treatment, but found he was far too unwell and exhausted to do much. So not only did his good friend Barry alert the rest of us that help was needed, occasionally writing Tommy’s cancer blog, but he actually stepped in and wrote Tommy’s books for him.

Tony Higginson, David Gatward, Barry Hutchison, Tommy Donbavand, Jon Mayhew, Philip Caveney and Joseph Delaney at Scarefest 3 - photo by Sean Steele

Deadlines have to be met, and while I’m sure Barry might have had the odd deadline of his own (there is a steady stream of books from Barry), he wanted to help Tommy, and knowing quite a lot about what Tommy had planned and what his books are like, he wrote a book and a half for his friend.

That’s friendship! If I ever need a friend to rummage in my sock drawer I suppose I shall have to ask someone else, because Barry is a very busy man.

The Doctor and his companions

I have just begun reading the fanthology A Target for Tommy, written by friends of Tommy Donbavand’s as a way of raising funds for him, edited by Paul Magrs and Stuart Douglas. It is quite interesting, since fan fiction is often written badly – if enthusiastically – by non-writer fans. Here we have professional writers who are also fans, writing their own fan fiction, and that is a completely different kettle of fish.

What I hadn’t done before grabbing the book, though, was to consider how much I don’t know. Barry Hutchison has a fun story early on, featuring Donna and, I presume, David Tennant. So that was fine, and I could picture them in my mind.

A Target for Tommy

And then I moved on to older Doctors and their companions, and whereas many of them have been mentioned over the years, I don’t know them. Sarah Jane, obviously, but not really the others. This will be a long learning process. I am missing something like forty years of Doctor Who and his companions, and Wikipedia wasn’t as immediately forthcoming as I had hoped.

At least this way I get to see what went on inside the minds of companions, and you realise how different one Doctor is from another, despite being mostly the same. Luckily K-9 is pretty much K-9.

Highly recommended for fans of the Doctor. Or should I say for fans of the companions?

I’m guessing a lot of writers have been dying to have a go at this kind of fan fiction writing, and it’s not as if it’s all that strange either, what with there having been so many different writers involved over the years. It was never just one; either Doctor or companion or writer.

A Target for Tommy

A lot of Tommy Donbavand’s friends – who by funny coincidence – are all authors, have got together to write their own Doctor Who-related short stories for the anthology A Target for Tommy.

Currently Tommy is out of hospital, and we are hoping for his speedy recovery. Meanwhile, he and his family still need to pay the bills, and that’s where this anthology comes in.

Please consider buying a copy, or two, of the book. Details can be found here. You can buy either an electronic copy, or a proper printed book; it’s up to you.

I’ve ordered mine, and will get back to you when I’ve had a chance to read it.

A Target for Tommy

Scream Street – Uninvited Guests

Can’t quite decide whether it’s worse entering a house that is actually a live organism (and most likely not of the friendliest kind), or to have my body taken over by a crazy, and fairly dead, composer.

Let’s face it, neither is the most ideal thing to have happen to you.

But read Tommy Donbavand’s Scream Street, and this is what you might encounter. And if you are a young man, maybe lady, who likes horror mixed with humour (Scooby Doo with vampires, zombies and werewolves), then this should hit the right spot. Anyone with any sense has probably already found Scream Street on television, whereas I have to admit to having stopped watching children’s television with any regularity.

Tommy Donbavand, Scream Street

Apparently this book is based on the television programme, so I don’t know how much they differ from the original Scream Street books, but I don’t think that matters. It’s entertainment!

Scream Street is where ‘being a freak is totally normal’ and in Haunted House the gang of freaky children find a new house, sprung up overnight and – naturally – they enter it. In Wolf Gang it’s time for the music exam at school, and who better to improve a werewolf’s piano playing than Wolfgang van Mozhoven? Except he’d quite like a body, so he can compose a bit more music…

Give it a go! (Unless you are as easily scared as Mr Watson, father of the werewolf. I don’t think his nerves will last long. If he ever had any.)

Tommy’s fight

Tommy Donbavand has cancer. Normally I wouldn’t mention anything so private on here, but because Tommy has gone public with his illness, I feel I must do so as well.

To share what it’s like, Tommy has started a blog called Tommy v cancer. It makes for painful reading, and it is tempting to skip past the bad bits. But if Tommy can put up with what’s being done to him, the least we can do is read about it. You need to be well to be strong enough to deal with cancer treatment. (Luckily we do still have a free health service.)

Another thing that’s easy to forget is what happens when an author, who of necessity is freelance, can’t do what it is they usually do to earn money. Writing is one thing, which perhaps you can do from a sickbed. But it’s the money brought in by doing school visits and similar, which suddenly stops coming. Apart from wishing to be well again, Tommy obviously wants to provide for his family.

What you can do to help, is donate money. Tommy has a PayPal button on his blog, or you could become a patron of Patreon to support him financially. I’d find it hard to ask for money, and I know Tommy does too. But he has to. Please consider if you could help a little.

He has some great friends, and none better than Barry Hutchison, who even sneaked in on Tommy’s blog one day and wrote his own post, which tells rather nicely of their friendship, and what lovely men they both are. Humour helps when things look grim.

I hope for the very best for this kind and funny man, who has such a knack for wrapping little children in toilet paper.

Tommy Donbavand with dragon and others at Sefton ScareFest

EIBF and me, 2014

It is here. The programme for this year’s Edinburgh International Book festival. And I’m sorry, but all I can think of is that Sara Paretsky will be there. It’s been three years, and she is finally coming in the summer rather than freezing her nether regions off in February/March. Which is so sensible.

OK, there must be a few other authors scheduled for the two and a bit weeks. Think, witch, think!

There are some very interesting looking events where authors one admires talk about authors one admires. I’m going to have to see if I can catch one of those, because they look like tickets might sell out fast (small tent). Then there is Patrick Ness who will give the Siobhan Dowd talk and Val McDermid will pretend to be Jane Austen.

Wendy Meddour is coming and there is a lovely pairing of Francesca Simon and Irving Finkel. Another interesting pair is Caroline Lawrence with Geraldine McCaughrean. Elizabeths Laird and Wein will cooperate, and Gill Lewis is also making an appearance.

Many more excellent authors like Sophie Hannah and Arne Dahl, Tommy Donbavand and Liz Kessler will be at the festival. I have to admit to paying less attention to the ‘grown-up’ authors again, in favour of my ‘little ones.’ Those who are given orange juice instead of wine (although I am sure not at EIBF!) because they write for children.

Have to admit that many of my hoped for events are school events. I am glad that some of the best looking events are for schools, because it means someone thinks school children deserve the best. I want to be a school child on a very temporary basis at the end of August.

Deck chair

I’m hoping for plenty of stamina on my part. I have planned a number of full or nearly full days, for about two thirds of the festival. (I was thinking of having a holiday at some point.) The event I am fairly certain I won’t be able to go to but wish I could, is Eleanor Updale talking about Vera Brittain. That would be really something.

Perhaps I will see you in Charlotte Square? (If my eyes are – temporarily – closed, just give me a gentle nudge.)