Hurry Up and Wait

Of all the series being published right now there’s just a few that I enjoy enough to want to catch the latest episode as soon as it appears. One, however, I adore to the extent that the arrival of a new volume is a red letter day, a reason to celebrate – a high point of my whole year.

The-Lies-of-Locke-Lamora-banner

I was lucky enough to get to read The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch in proof form just before it came out, in July 2006. It was already surrounded by hype – a string of translation deals, Hollywood option etc – and at first I was wary, but within the space of about ten pages I was won over and I’ve been a fan ever since.

RedSeasproof

The second book of the Gentleman Bastard sequence, Red Seas Under Red Skies, lived up to the promise of its predecessor (with added sea battles!) but came with a few rough edges – nothing major, just the occasional but unmistakable sign of having been produced at speed and under pressure. Considering it appeared the year after Lies and is more than six hundred pages long that’s hardly surprising: I remain more surprised that the book is as thoroughly wonderful as it is.

Then came a gap. The Republic of Thieves wasn’t published until last month – September 2013 – and I’m glad. Because like Lies, this one has no rough edges. It’s perfect.

TheRepublicofThieves

What makes the Gentleman Bastard sequence the treat it is isn’t its world-building (impeccable, intricate, inviting), its characters (debonair, dangerously charming) or even its plots (heists, scams and cons of teeth-clenching tension and gleeful outrageousness). What makes this series great is its sense of style. Lynch leaps between mirroring timelines with the elegance of an acrobat, etching into each story an apparent ease, a feeling of lightness and joy, that any real writer knows is only ever the result of deep thought, painstaking graft and crushing effort.

The Gentleman Bastard sequence is the best fantasy series being written today. Every one of these books is a delight and however long the next takes, I know it will be worth the wait.

Sam

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I Saw You, Smiling

Up for some Halloween reading? This year my recommendation is Sawbones by Catherine Johnson.

Sawbones

In a pungently-painted eighteenth century London a stage magician and a surgeon’s apprentice must risk everything to uncover the secret behind a series of murders.

True to the facts behind its subject, Sawbones has gore, grave-robbing, autopsies and amputations without anaesthetic: make no mistake, this book will make you shudder. But what’s really sensational about it are its characters: it’s been a while since a story had me worrying about them (‘What? No! How will they get out of that?‘) like Sawbones did.

If you’re looking for suitable reading matter as the nights draw in, the wind howls and the shadows flicker, look no further: Sawbones will cut you to the quick.

Sam

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The Biggest Monster of All

Economics – a human invention more powerful than the nuclear bomb and about as popular, but less understood. Here’s one book to help:

Economix

Economix by Michael Goodwin and Dan E. Burr is a comic about economics. With style, wit, clarity and remarkable concision – taking in every major theory along the way – it gives you a lightning tour through the history of the world’s current economic system.

This book is packed with juicy information. Within its pages, to pick examples, I found the most nuanced view I’ve come across yet of the legacy of Adam Smith, an explanation for why it is that so many US food products contain corn syrup – and even a theory as to why mainstream economic debate is still stuck in the 1970s.

Here’s the page on the causes of the last great financial crash from which we’re all still suffering the aftershocks, namely The Credit Crunch of 2008. What some books take hundreds of pages to explain, Economix does in eight panels:

TheMortgageMess

We’re constantly told by media and politicians that “the economy” influences every aspect of our lives. If that’s true, it seems sensible to try to understand why. This book is a great place to start. Anyone over thirteen could read and enjoy it – and should.

Sam

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A Feast of Beasts

This last couple of weeks I’ve been enjoying the hell out of the Ash Mistry books by Sarwat Chadda.

AshMistryandtheSavageFortress

It’s great to see a series about a young hero of colour – especially one as spiky and complex as Ash – but what most tickles me (as anyone who’s followed this blog for any time at all will doubtless guess) is reading about a fresh set of monsters. And boy, does this series pack one of those.

AshMistryandtheCityofDeath

As well as a respectful yet startlingly modern take on the creatures of Indian Mythology, Chadda summons from the darkest corners of imagination a bestiary of a breadth and variety rarely seen in Middle Grade and YA fiction lately. My personal favourite monster in the series, from Ash Mistry and the World of Darkness? The Carnival of Flesh. Hee hee hee!

AshMistryandtheWorldofDarkness

For pace and thrills this series is right up there with Alexander Gordon Smith‘s ferociously fabulous Furnace books. But Sarwat Chadda’s particular triumph with Ash Mistry is the lightly-worn but ever-present erudition he brings to Ash’s saga: these books are steeped in history, opening the scope of this fast, fun trilogy into territories epic and inspiring.

I’ve admired and enjoyed this author’s work since his debut (and he’s a hoot to do events with, too ;D). The Ash Mistry books are the best thing he’s written yet. I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Sam

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GeGeGe UK!

This is GeGeGe no Kitaro.

GeGeGeNoKitaroAnime

That guy in the waistcoat? He’s one of the most famous characters in all Japan. Generations of kids there have grown up knowing all about him: right now I suppose the closest equivalent we have in the UK for universal recognition would be Doctor Who. But the adventures of Kitaro and the manga of his creator, Shigeru Mizuki, have never been translated into English. Until now.

Kitaro

Kitaro is a kind of informal ambassador between the human world and the world of the supernatural. If you have a problem with ghosts or monsters, he’s the one to call. But beware: it also works the other way. If ghosts or monsters have a problem with humans, he’s the one they call, too.

Kitaro looks young but he’s actually hundreds of years old. He’s very powerful but his powers are unusual. Flocks of crows carry him wherever he’s needed. His hair stiffens into needles in the presence of supernatural danger and can also, should the situation demand it, be fired out of his scalp, machine-gun style. His waistcoat can change shape – into a net, say, or a parachute. His sandals act like guided missiles – flying out, striking enemies, then returning to their owner’s feet. His best friends include a living wall who can change shape, a living sheet who can fly, and a wise, loving but very lazy eyeball.

KitaroOriginals

My Japanese is shamefully poor. When I was in Japan I read the manga and watched the anime without understanding the words but I loved the stories anyway: being able to read the text of Kitaro’s adventures now has simply confirmed for me that they are every bit as wonderful as they seemed.

Kitaro is children’s storytelling of a particularly pure and intoxicating form: reading them is just like being told a story by an excited child. ‘Kitaro and his Japanese monster friends had a big fight with a vampire, a werewolf, Frankenstein’s monster and a witch!’  ’Kitaro grew a hundred metres tall and got all hairy and when the humans got scared and sent tanks out to shoot him he breathed on them and the tanks got hairy too! And then this happened! And-!’

OnwardsAndNonnonba

The barest glimpse into the life of artist and author Shigeru Mizuki will tell you that the effect is entirely deliberate. This is a man who fought in World War Two, and wrote and drew harrowingly about his experiences in another book now also translated by Drawn and Quarterly, Onward Towards Our Noble Deaths. If you like Kitaro you might also get a kick out of Nonnonba, Mizuki’s charming, alarming memoir of growing up in a small village and hearing about the supernatural from a formidable granny. But Kitaro is the place to start, I think. It’s Kitaro that made Mizuki a national figure in Japan, because with it he reintroduced a whole new generation there (and several generations since) to Japanese traditional folklore, especially concerning yokai: if (like me) you’ve an interest in such things it’s essential reading. But what makes Kitaro particularly special is the passion and delight Mizuki brought to it – the sheer wild youthful craziness of the storytelling. And those are qualities that can – and should – touch anyone.

MeetingKitaro

Here’s a pic of me meeting Kitaro in a shop in Yokohama. If you’d like to be introduced to him yourself, you can read a whole preview story here.

Sam

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Oxfordshire Read-a-thon!

On Saturday 14th September 11-4pm there is a Children’s Read-a-thon at Milton Manor, Abingdon, Oxfordshire.  Entry is Free.
A fun day to inspire and fire the literary imagination of even the youngest child is taking place in the beautiful grounds of an Oxfordshire Manor house . The first ever Oxfordshire Children’s Read-a-Thon will be staged at Milton Manor in Milton near Abingdon on Saturday 14th September.
Every part of the delightful grounds will play host to a children’s story or character, with Peter Pan hiding out under the shade of a fir tree, Beatrix Potter characters by the lily
pond, and the Manor’s beautiful resident shire Rocket taking the role of the equine hero of Michael Morpurgo’s War Horse in the Victorian stables.In addition, well-known children’s authors David Melling (Hugless Douglas), Alan Gibbons (Shadow of the Minotaur) and up-an-coming illustrator/author Charlie Sutcliffe
will be giving readings from their books and offering book signings. They will also be joined by children’s poet John Foster who will be passing on his enthusiasm for poetry
with readings and talks.The event is the brainchild of Oxfordshire teacher and Milton resident Anne Wattam. “I really wanted to do something to encourage children to read and develop a life-long passion for reading.”

Raffle tickets are £1 each with over 100 prizes to win on the day!

PRIZES
1st Prize – Acer Iconia B1 7 inch tablet (courtesy of RM Education).
2nd Prize – (exclusive and not available in shops) large Hugless Douglas soft toy (courtesy of Hodder/David Melling).
3rd prize – set of 4 author signed Hugless Douglas books
4th prize – Family Ticket Didcot Railway Centre
Other prizes:
Book vouchers (£10 x 10 courtesy of OUP).
Signed Angelina Ballerina books – courtesy of Katherine Holabird/Puffin (x20)
Signed Winnie the Witch books – courtesy of Korky Paul (x3 hard-backed)
Signed Hugless Douglas books – courtesy of David Melling/Hodder (x12)
Signed Kiss that Missed book courtesy of David Melling/Hodder
Lots of other books courtesy of Hodder, Puffin, OUP, Book point, Hatchette Children’s books etc.

 

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THEY CAME FROM THE FIFTIES

Lately I’ve been getting a big kick out of classic Science Fiction from the 1950s.

TheSpaceMerchants

The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth is a dystopia with a twist: it imagines a future ruled by advertising.

When star ad-man Mitch Courtenay (a sure inspiration for Mad Men‘s Don Draper) lands the job of ensuring his agency is first to get its claws into Venus, he discovers how brutal office politics can be: his identity is stolen from him and he’s hurled to the back of the rat race his world has become.

The recent developments in lab-grown meat make this book’s most famous episode (concerning a monster known as ‘Chicken Little’) more topical than ever. But this snappy, thrilling satire would be a treat anytime.

TheBlackCloud

The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle is everything you’d want British ’50s SF to be. It’s quick. It’s clever. It’s got tweed-clad, pipe-puffing boffins. It’s also got a wicked eye for the self-serving idiocy of politicians.

A gigantic disk of darkness is approaching the Earth: as its first observers are quick to realise, it’s going to block out the sun – dooming all life on our planet. Hoyle takes you through the implications and consequences with eerie feasibility and remorseless relish. And just wait until the discovery that the cloud is intelligent…!

Wasp

Wasp, by Eric Frank Russell is one of the most gleefully subversive books I’ve ever read. Its SF premise barely disguises an A-Z manual on how to destabilise governments.

Earth is losing a war against the Sirian Empire. In a bid to change the odds, one man is disguised as a Sirian and sent to the enemy homeworld. His instructions: to cause as much chaos as he possibly can. He does. And after reading Wasp, you’ll know how to follow his example.

All three of these books are fast, smart and shockingly relevant. I’m starting to understand why some people consider the 1950s to be SF’s Golden Age. See for yourself.

Sam

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Scream Street: Gloves of the Ghoul-Keeper

GLOVES OF THE GHOUL-KEEPER

by Tommy Donbavand

A Scream Street short story in ten chapters

 

CHAPTER ONE

pumpkinsoccerLuke Watson stood on the goal line and watched in terror as the giant with the ball dodged first past his friend Resus, and then Dr Skully.  There were no defenders left.  It was just the charging giant, and Luke in goal.

He glanced up at the scoreboard at the opposite end of the pitch.  They were approaching the fourth minute of added time.  Scream Street was leading Fear Town by two goals to one.  If Luke could somehow stop the giant from scoring, Scream Street would win the GHOUL cup.

There were over 70,000 fans packed into Trembly Stadium – a mixture of vampires, werewolves, ghosts, witches and just about every other supernatural creature on the planet.  Half of the crowd was now urging the giant on as he thundered into the penalty area.  The other half were hiding behind their hands, claws and wings.

The giant looked up as he swung back his leg to shoot, and sneered.  Luke suddenly felt very small against the huge goal behind him.  If he was lucky, the ball would whizz past him and the worst that would happen would be that the match would end in a draw.  But if this shot hit him – he was likely to be blasted back through the net and into the stands beyond.

Then, something unusual happened.  The ground beneath the ball began to rumble and a hand burst up out of the turf, followed by a face which was covered in scabs and sores.

The giant took his shot, but the unsettled ground had put him off his stride.  There was no power behind the strike and Luke found that he was able to catch the ball with ease.  Yes!  He’d saved the match!

“Dude!” said the ball in his hands.  “That was bogus, man!”

Luke glanced down.  He wasn’t clutching the football.  It was the head of his friend, Doug the zombie!

CHAPTER TWO

The referee – a tattooed ogre called Spider – blew his whistle and ran towards the goal, pointing at the penalty spot.  The crowd went wild, cheering, booing, shrieking and – in the case of one small gargoyle – crumbling into a pile of gravel.  Fear Town had a penalty.

“Sorry, dude!” moaned Doug as Luke returned the head to the neck still sticking up out of the pristine turf.  “I was looking for the after-match party.”

“There can’t be an after-match party until the match is over!” said Luke.  “And, thanks to you, it can only end one way now!”  Doug’s hands reached up to take the head, then sank back down into the soil.

The Fear Town players were huddled together, trying to decide which of them should take the penalty.  Two of Luke’s team mates took the opportunity to hurry over and wish him luck.

“I know you can do this!” said Cleo Farr, a red number 7 wobbling on the bandages of her back.  “You’re the best goalkeeper in Scream Street.”

“He may well be,” said Resus Negative.  “But he doesn’t stand a hope if their giant takes this penalty.  In fact, chances are he’ll be joining Doug in the head-in-your-hands club.”

“Thanks for the support,” muttered Luke.

“Any time!” beamed Resus, then he ran away, cloak flapping in the breeze.

“It looks like they’ve decided,” said Cleo.  She and Luke watched as one of the Fear Town players stepped out of the huddle and collected the ball from Spider.  Luke gulped – it was the giant!

CHAPTER THREE

Once again, Luke stood on the goal line, the giant from Fear Town opposite him.  The ball sat on the penalty spot – hastily repaired following Doug the zombie’s unexpected appearance.  The crowd fell silent as the giant, took two, three, four steps back – and began to run.

Luke swallowed hard.  “I wish I was a better goalkeeper!” he muttered to himself as the light was blocked out by the giant’s rapidly approaching shadow.

Suddenly, everything stopped.  The giant stopped mid-stride, the referee stopped as he ran to watch the shot, and the crowd stopped mid cheer.  The only person still able to move was Luke.

“What’s going on?” he asked.

Then the ground began to rumble beneath his feet.  At first, Luke thought that Doug was back again in his search for the party – but the grass remained undamaged.

The figure that rose out of the ground this time was a ghost.  It was wearing a ragged football shirt and an old pair of gloves.  Tendrils of slime hung from the creature’s hair, and its skin was rotting away.  The ghost turned slowly in a circle, studying the crowded stadium and everyone in it.  Then, eventually, it spotted Luke and began to stride over to him, shimmering football boots not quite making contact with the turf.

“Wh- who are you?” Luke asked.  “And why has everything stopped moving!”

The creature smiled, revealing broken, black teeth.  “I am the ghoul-keeper,” it gurgled.  “And I have stopped time.”

CHAPTER FOUR

“Stopped time?” gasped Luke.  “Why?”

“You made a wish,” said the ghoul-keeper.  “I have come to provide it for you.”

Luke glanced over at the charging giant, still frozen like a statue, then back at the ghost.  “You can help me to save this penalty?”

“I can make certain you save it,” said the ghoul-keeper, “with these…”  He removed his gloves and held them out towards Luke.  They were made of human skin, and still had aged, yellowing fingernails attached.

“There is no striker in the world that can score past a keeper wearing these gloves,” said the ghost.

“And you’ll let me use them?” asked Luke, reaching out to take them.

The ghoul-keeper pulled them out of his grasp.  “I will,” he said wetly.  “If you do something for me, first.”

“OK,” said Luke, starting to feel a little nervous.  “What is it?”

Once more, the ghoul-keeper turned to look at the stadium.  “I played here once – over a hundred years ago now.  In the very first GHOUL cup final.  We won, and we all received a gold winner’s medal.”  He spun back to face Luke, globs of slime spraying everywhere.  “But my medal was stolen!”

“Who took it?’ asked Luke.

“One of my team mates,” spat the ghoul-keeper.  “A defender.  He hoarded gold, took everything he could that shined like it.  He took my medal.”

“I’m sorry to hear that,” said Luke.

“You shouldn’t be,” grinned the ghoul-keeper wickedly.  “Because you are going to get it back for me!”

CHAPTER FIVE

“What?!” cried Luke.  “How can I find a gold cup winner’s medal that was stolen over a hundred years ago?”

“You don’t have to find it,” said the ghoul-keeper.  “I know exactly where it is.  You just have to fetch it for me.  Do that, and I shall let you wear my gloves to save this penalty.”

“Where is it?” asked Luke.  “Where’s your medal?”

The ghoul-keeper smiled.  “In the Underlands!”

Luke was afraid that was what the creepy keeper was going to say.  The Underlands was a separate world where the most nasty and evil supernatural creatures were sent for all eternity.  He’d already been there twice, and didn’t fancy a third trip.  But – the outcome of the match relied on him trying.

“OK,” he said eventually.  “I’ll go, on one condition.”

“You dare to make conditions!” hissed the ghoul-keeper.  The gloves in his hand began to twitch as though they were alive and itching to wrap themselves around Luke’s throat.

“I just want two friends to help me,” said Luke.  “That’s all.  It will increase your chances of getting your medal back.”

“Very well!” barked the ghoul-keeper.  “Picture your friends in your mind…”

Luke did as he was told.  Slowly, he found himself surrounded by a dense, purple mist.  It rose up from his boots, past his shorts and over his shirt.  Before long, he was smothered in the stuff, and then -

FLASH!

Trembly Stadium, the players and the entire crowd had gone.  Luke was standing on the blackened soil of the Underlands, Resus and Cleo beside him.

CHAPTER SIX

“You did what?” shouted Resus.

Luke had spent the last ten minutes explaining to his friends about the deal he had made as they trudged across the dark plains of the Underlands.  Dark, violet clouds rumbled above, and it was beginning to rain.

“I had no choice,” said Luke.  “I either use the gloves and save the penalty – or it ends up a draw and we have to play a rematch.”

“But I don’t understand how we’re supposed to find one tiny medal in the whole of the Underlands,” said Cleo.  “The thief could be anywhere.”

“Not anywhere,” said Luke.  “I think I know who it is and, if I’m right, he lives there.”  He pointed ahead to a ramshackle village built out of rotting wood and pieces of corrugated metal.

“Dead End!” said Resus with a sigh.  “Home to the nastiest creatures ever banished down here.  You sure know how to arrange a day out!”

“So,” said Cleo.  “Who’s this mystery thief?”

Luke pulled a battered and torn match programme from his pocket and opened it to the team photographs.  “The ghoul-keeper gave me this,” he said.  “There he is on the back row.  He was quite good-looking back then – before all the ghostly slime and stuff.”

“That still doesn’t tell us who stole his medal,” Resus pointed out.

“Look closer,” said Luke.  “There’s someone there you’ll recognise.”

Resus and Cleo peered at the picture.  “Oh no,” said the mummy.  “You don’t mean…?”

“It’s him, isn’t it?’ said Resus, jabbing a finger at a short figure crouching on the front row.  He had masses of hair sticking out from beneath a top hat.

“Yep,” said Luke.  “Rooney the leprechaun!”

CHAPTER SEVEN

Resus produced a pair of wire cutters from inside his cape and used them to snip a hole in the chain-link fence surrounding Dead End.  “I never thought we’d be back here again,” he said as the trio snuck through the gap.

“Let’s just hope we can get out again afterwards,” said Cleo.

They crept through the village, peeking into each ramshackle hut they passed for signs of gold.  “Keep a sharp look out,” warned Luke.  “We don’t want to run into Rooney himself.”

“And why would that be?” enquired a tiny voice.  The trio turned to find a small figure standing behind them.  He was dressed in a green suit and matching shoes, and wore a green top hat, balanced on his mass of ginger hair.

“Rooney!” said Resus.  “How nice to see you again!”

“Not as nice as it is for us to see you,” beamed the leprechaun.  “After all, it is so long since we’ve enjoyed fresh meat on the menu!”  Then he stuck two fingers into his mouth and whistled.  Within seconds, Luke, Resus and Cleo were surrounded by the residents of Dead End.

“It’th them!” lisped Higgs the lamia.  “Thothe kidth who we nearly conthumed latht time!”

“Exactly!” grinned Rooney, advancing on the trio.  “And this time, they won’t escape!”

“Do you know what I’ve always hated about the Underlands,” said Resus to his friends as they slowly backed away.

“The weather?’ asked Luke.

“No…”

“The unicorns!” suggested Cleo.

“Nope!”

“Then what?” said Luke.

Resus plunged a hand inside his cape and produced a jar of strawberry jam.  “The pixies!” he said.

Then he smashed the jar at Rooney’s feet.

CHAPTER EIGHT

They heard the buzzing of tiny wings before they saw them, but it was only a matter of seconds before a swarm of pixies invaded Dead End, searching for the source of the sweet, sticky smell.

Rooney, Higgs and the other residents found themselves surrounded by a cloud of the tiny, nipping creatures and ran, screaming, away from the puddle of jam, small red bite marks beginning to rise up on their skin.

Luke, Resus and Cleo were already two streets away in the opposite direction, pushing open doors and pulling back curtains in the search for the leprechaun’s stash.

And then they found it.  A shack which, on the outside, looked identical to all the others but inside was filled with piles and piles of gold.  The trio hurried inside.

“Look at this lot!” exclaimed Resus, eyeing the mounds of shimmering gold.

“Keep your hands off it,” said Cleo.  “This isn’t what we’re here for.”

“Awww!”

“Cleo’s right,” said Luke.  “We just want the ghoul-keeper’s cup winner’s medal, then we’re out of here.”

“But how are we going to find it among all this?” asked Resus.

Cleo grinned.  “With a little help from school work!”

“I don’t like the sound of that,” muttered Resus.

“If you ever paid attention in Dr Skully’s classes leading up to the GHOUL cup final,” Cleo said, “you would know that cup winner’s medals weren’t made of pure gold.”

“They weren’t?” said Luke.

Cleo shook her head.  “Dr Skully said it would be too expensive to make them that way,” she said.  “If I remember rightly, you and Resus were busy drawing zombie hedgehogs in your exercise books during that lesson.”

“Oh, yeah!” grinned Resus.  “They were cool!”

“Perhaps,” said Cleo.  “But finding a cup winner’s medal in among all this would be even cooler!”

CHAPTER NINE

Cleo reached around and plucked the number 7 from her back.  “I didn’t want to paint directly onto my bandages,” she explained.  “So, I made it separately and glued a magnet to the back.  Then I pinned another magnet to my bandages and attached it that way.”  She unpinned the magnet and plunged it into the nearest pile of gold.

“This is all very interesting,” said Resus, “by which I mean not interesting at all.  How is it going to help us find the ghoul-keeper’s medal?”

Cleo pulled the magnet free.  It had a couple of gold earrings stuck to it.  “Pure gold is not magnetic,” she said.  “But cheap gold jewellery is often mixed with a metal called nickel to make it less expensive to produce.”  She pushed the magnet into another shimmering pile.

“And I’m guessing nickel is magnetic!” cried Luke.

Cleo nodded.  “Another lesson where neither of you were paying attention.”  She pulled the magnet out, a long gold-looking chain dangling from it.

Resus frowned.  “So, if we use your magnet on all this gold, we’ll find the bits that have nickel in them – like the cup winner’s medal?” he said.

Cleo pushed her hand into a third mountain of gold.  “Finally, you’ve got it!” she grinned.

“No,” said Luke as Cleo pulled the magnet back out.  “You’ve got it!”

The trio stared.  There, attached to the magnet, was a glinting GHOUL cup winner’s medal.

“We’ve done it!” shouted Resus.

Suddenly, the door to the shack was ripped open.  Rooney, Higgs and the other residents – all covered in bite marks – were glaring at them.

“Oh, you’ve done it, alright!” sneered the leprechaun.

CHAPTER TEN

The residents of Dead End crowded into the tiny hut.

“Look at all thith gold!” exclaimed Higgs.

“Never mind that!” screamed Rooney.  “It’s these meddling children we’re after!”

“Not until I’ve filled my pockets!” cried a cyclops, a greedy glint in his one eye.

“No!” roared Rooney.  “Don’t touch my gold!  Get the kids!”

Luke looked up to the corrugated tin roof and shouted: “Ghoul-keeper!  We’ve got your medal!”

FLASH!

Luke was back on the goal line at Trembly Stadium.  The crowd were cheering madly.  The giant was running up to take his shot.  Time had started again.

BOOM!

The ball rocketed towards Luke.  Then he felt an odd twitch in his fingers.  He looked to his left and right to find he was wearing the ghoul-keepers gloves, the human skin reacting of its own accord.

Luke wanted to dive to his left – but the gloves dragged him to the right.  His feet were off the ground.  His hands stretching out.  The gnarled, aged fingertips of the gloves hit the ball, spinning it, sending it just wide of the post.

He’d saved the penalty!

PEEP!  Spider the referee blew his whistle.  The match was over.  Scream Street had won the GHOUL cup!

As the rest of the team hurried to lift him up on their shoulders, Luke realised that the ghoul-keeper’s gloves had disappeared from his hands.  They were back with their owner who, cup winner’s medal pinned to his rotting shirt, was in the six-yard box, happily sinking back beneath the turf.

Luke glanced down to his friends as they carried him from one end of the pitch to the other.  “You did it!” cried Cleo.

“I think you mean we did it!” beamed Resus.

“Yeah!” grinned Luke.  “It was a team effort!”

THE END

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The Greatest Escape?

You know the films of Hayao Miyazaki, of course. My Neighbour Totoro, Spirited Away, Porco Rosso, Laputa: Castle in the Sky and others are renowned the world over as some of the most beautiful and thrilling animation (cinema, even) ever made. But do you know his manga?

Nausicaa1

In a near future humanity struggles for survival after almost destroying the world. Swathes of the Earth have been turned into vast, encroaching fungal jungles, crawling and swarming with giant insects, the air thick with spores lethal to humans. In the last habitable areas between, ordinary people try to get by as best they can but their leaders remain locked in factional feuds – scrabbling for power, squabbling over resources and attempting to salvage and revive the horrifying war technology that caused the catastrophe in the first place.

One young woman, Nausicaa, has found the key to a different future. But as war breaks out once more and humanity’s final self-destruction appears inevitable, can she survive long enough to convince anyone else to believe her dangerous ideas?

Nausicaa4

If there’s one ‘classic manga’ – one pinnacle of the form that’s also a gateway to the rest – then Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind might just be it. To call it manga’s The Lord of the Rings seems apt but actually a disservice: I’ve loved LOTR most of my life but I think that with Nausicaa Miyazaki surpasses Tolkien in charm, thrills, cleverness, passion, characterisation and scope – and Miyazaki does it while drawing all the art as well.

Nausicaa‘s world is impeccably detailed; the battles are huge, the monsters terrifying and beautiful. The message that we all must find a way to coexist with nature or perish could not be stronger – yet is “only” one more aspect of a fresh, warm, human tale of heroism, romance and soaring imagination.

Nausicaa7

I adore Miyazaki’s movies but I think Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind is his masterpiece. These seven astonishing, wonderful volumes belong in every library.

Is it the Greatest Escape? Read it yourself and find out. ;D

Sam

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Jimmy Coates: Blackout – exclusive video

It’s finally here. The best book I’ve written (I’m sure of it) and certainly the one that’s taken longest to get out there into readers’ hands.

I’m incredibly excited (and a little nervous) that the release day has arrived for Jimmy Coates: Blackout.

And I have something special for readers of Trapped By Monsters. Something nobody else has seen yet.

Of course, you may already know about the book trailer. I released it a week ago and if you haven’t caught it yet, it’s right here:

 

Jimmy Coates: Blackout book trailer

Cool, right? But what you might now know about is the ‘Behind-the-scenes Interview’ that I shot with the star of that trailer. I can now reveal it, exclusively, here.

It’s still a private link, so the only people who will see this are YOU and the people that you send it directly to.

I’ll remove this link at some point in the next few days and then wait a while before making this video public. Hope you like it. Check it out:

Jimmy Coates: Blackout secret interview

 

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