Thursday, 28 August 2008


I had the pleasure today to meet Joseph Delaney, a very gently spoken bright-eyed man, who is the author of the amazing Wardstone Chronicles series of books. They are set in a County modelled on his native Lancashire (he uses actual locations) and follow Thomas Ward, seventh son of a seventh son, who is apprenticed to the local Spook. Spooks are the people who keep the population safe from supernatural aspects - the boggarts and ghosts and various witches that wish to do harm on innocent people. Being the Spook's apprentice is a hard and difficult, often thankless, job, but Tom has a natural aptitude. Not to mention his best friend Alice, who was raised by witches and is looked down upon with a great deal of suspicion by Mr Gregory the Spook.

As the series develops, an evil beyond the memories of the locals, is awakening. Tom's mother, who has a very interesting background, believes he will be of great importance in the coming struggle. So far there are five titles (Spook's Apprentice; Spook's Curse; Spook's Secret; Spook's Battle and Spook's Mistake). Joseph Delaney is in the final draft of the next one (Spook's Sacrifice) which he gave me a quick rundown on, and will also write a book telling Alice's story before she met Tom. It is quite likely there will be another two titles, possibly more.

At present the first book is in pre-production stage for filming, directed by Kevin Lima. Like many writers, Joe is not involved in the process, apart from the occasional call checking on things like - what season is it, we need to get the costumes right, and what century would you place it - on discussion, they've gone for the 17th, as that was the time that 'witches' were hung at Pendle Castle in true life. When I read the books I see a slightly different time, myself, but as they have elements of earlier ages, but then they are set in a world not quite our own - and when did that ever stop a book from working?

Personally, I can't wait! These are top quality books - the writing is excellent in style and content, the feeling of place is wonderfully evoked, the character development is fascinating and the imaginative and interestingly plotted story lines are addictive. Tom is a character of moral depth and although it may be old-fashioned to say so, has strengths inherited from his parents and his upbringing.

These are aimed at children around 12, but you know what? If you think these books are only for children, then you're missing out yourself. Plenty of adult readers have discovered children's books like the Harry Potters and Artemis Fowls, the Dark Materials and the Twilight sagas - so why not give these a go - you may be surprised (and maybe even a little spooked...) Lindy

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