The Black Tattoo
The Black Tattoo - a book about demonic possession, flying kung fu, vomiting bats, the end of the universe and other fun stuff like that, by Sam Enthoven.

Friday 29th June 2007

Douglas Hill

I've just read on Achuka that Douglas Hill has died.

Mr Hill, more than anyone else, was the author who inspired me to write the way that I do.

I've talked about him elsewhere on this site and there's a terrific obituary in UK newspaper The Independent here, so rather than say much more to you now myself, I'm going to show you a wonderful email I received from him back in December 2003. As you'll see, he's splendidly stern about pulling me up on referring to SF as 'sci-fi'! But imagine, if you can, how his kind words affected me when I was still striving for my first book deal, with nothing but a hundred and thirty-odd rejection slips (and a leaky roof I couldn't afford to fix!) to show for it.

Dear Sam -- Wow! That was quite a letter. I blush, I shuffle, I cringe. If my books really had that effect on you, perhaps I should also apologise. But the reality may be simply that we both, along with many other slightly crazed SF fans, are vibrating to the same resonances.

You hardly need to ask me what it's like being a writer. You are one. Okay, so at the moment you're collecting rejection slips (I had a big cardboard box full), but that's not the point. There are those who achieve writing success easily (through luck, or knowing the right people, or a superabundance of immense talent) and there are the rest of us. Writers are people who'd be "maimingly miserable" (oh, I wish I'd said that -- and I will) if they had to stop; who love the work, despite parsnips and poverty (go easy on the noodles); and who are, especially the poets and SF writers, mad as a fish (the bicycling sort?).

I'm a LOT older than you, I've published more than 70 books (some very short, for little folk), and all the above still applies to me. Even though I seem to have come full circle, so that now -- as a "yesterday's man" whom the teenage publishing editors probably think is dead -- most of my earlier books are out of print and I'm collecting rejection slips again. When I visit schools and the kids ask whether I'm rich and famous, they find out what a hollow laugh sounds like. Yet I still spend hours every day at this unforgiving keyboard -- because it's what I do and what I love best.

Do I have advice for you? Inevitably. Not that you need it...because my standard advice is the precept that a writer needs determination, the refusal to quit, at least as much as s/he needs talent. Or more.

I would suggest that you take some quiet sober time to consider whether you're in the right sub-genre. Are you a true science-fiction addict? (They tend to say "SF", never the media-created term "sci-fi", which is condescending. Do we call historical fiction "hi-fi"? We do not.) And while I'd never advise you to slavishly follow trends, do study what sort of SF the kids are imbibing these days.

Finally, as you seem to have guessed, I lack the time and energy to read your work and perform as some sort of instant guru. But write another letter sometime, if you wish. And I'll read you when your first book's published.

All the best,

There's a line in Black Tat, in the chapter called Home, when Esme is fighting the Sons of the Scorpion Flail. It goes '...and all with a fierce and easy joy, because it was what she was good at, what she did best.' Now you know what I was thinking about when I wrote that line.

Here's to you, Mr Hill.


Thursday 28th June 2007

The Redbridge Children's Book Awards

On to happier things now (I've got to tell you about this!) – today I was lucky enough to attend the Redbridge Children's Book Awards!

Redbridge Children's Book Awards 07

This is a terrific award, because the shortlists and winners are entirely chosen by young people. To my great glee and delight, I was invited to speak at this year's prize ceremony as part of a panel, with Anne Cassidy and [again! YAY!] Sherry Ashworth – that was great fun! Seeing them, and shortlisted writers Anthony McGowan, Tim Bowler, Lee Weatherly and Dean Vincent Carter was brilliant too – everyone was very friendly. But I have to say, the real highlight of the event was the presentations from the various school teams all trying to convince everyone to vote for their favourite books from the shortlists. Picture the scene: a town hall full of about two hundred and fifty young people from five different schools in the area, with everyone passionately campaigning and voting and talking about reading and books. AWESOME. The winners were Morris Gleitzman for his book Once, and Tim Bowler (who as well as being a superb writer is a lovely bloke, by the way!) for Frozen Fire. My thanks to Nina and the event's other organizers for inviting me to this wonderful event.


Monday 25th June 2007

Questions and Answers

Check here for the latest!


Friday 22nd June 2007

The Top of the Tower

This was amazing: I had to imagine it before, but tonight – thanks to my friend Sophie H! – I've had a chance to see for myself what the view from the top of Centre Point Tower looks like. We couldn't actually sit on the roof like Charlie and Jack do in Black Tat, but as you can see, we were pretty close...

Here's a pic of Charing Cross Road from above. As you might know, Charlie, Esme and Jack fly down it – skimming that line of trees – while chasing the Scourge in the Black Tat chapter called Jessica, in Book 1. If you look very closely (opposite that weird brown Aztec ziggurat looking thing!) you can make out the Palace Theatre, and maybe even the roof where Raymond keeps the pigeons. ;)

Charing Cross Road

This is the view westward from Centre Point. You can see the BT Tower, which is going to make a spectacular (dis-!)appearance in my next book TIM, DEFENDER OF THE EARTH. Hee hee hee!

West from Centre Point

Here's another panorama, looking east this time. A wonky angle from your hamfisted author/photographer, or a deliberate effect to simulate turning in mid-air? You decide! ;p The large green lozenge is the British Museum's Great Court, also mentioned in Tim.

...And lastly, here's one of the Thames in the distance. The Black Tat passage I was thinking of when I took the pic comes in Book 3, in the chapter called Friends:

Jack had to admit, there was a pretty good view from the roof. London's streets were spread out all around him like the glittering threads of a spiderweb, the Thames cutting through them like a slash of darkness.

OK: it was early evening when we went up the tower, not the middle of the night when the passage occurs. But I was certainly imagining again what it might be like to fly through the air over the streets of London. I hope these pics do the same for you!


Monday 18th June 2007

Robert Kirkman

I've been reading like a fiend this last couple of weeks, and I seem to have hit a seam of really wonderful books lately. In particular, I currently can't seem to get enough of the stories of comics author Robert Kirkman - especially Invincible. Mr Kirkman's got a way of making it all seem effortless: his characters feel real and his storylines flow smoothly and easily. But of course, it isn't effortless: it only seems that way because he's clearly a masterful writer – and I'm having a lot of fun trying to figure out how he does it! Check my LibraryThing page for details of Mr Kirkman's books, plus loads of other fine reading: his Marvel Zombies, for instance, is the perfect antidote to another summer of lame superhero movies. Hee hee hee!


Wednesday 13th June 2007


Today I had a lovely lunch with two terrific writers, Graham Marks and Sophie McKenzie. The three of us first met because we all used to share the same agent, the late and much-missed Maggie Noach. Writing's a weird and solitary business sometimes, so it's great to hook up and chat with other authors once in a while – especially if they're as nice as Graham and Sophie!

We were celebrating this time, because Sophie has just won the Older Readers category of The Red House Children's Book Award for her debut novel, Girl, Missing. Sophie brought the trophy to show us, and we toasted her success! Meanwhile, if you're looking to read something fast and thrilling then definitely give Girl, Missing a shot: it's excellent.


Friday 8th June 2007


Today was unusual: I took part in a simulated chemical weapons attack, run by my local council, Hackney. I'd seen the ad asking for volunteers in the paper, and signed myself up straight away. Not only did it seem like a good idea to help local authorities and the hospital to test out their emergency procedures, but seeing those procedures first-hand sounded like fine story-fodder for the likes of me!

Being a Friday there were only about a hundred volunteers available, but we got the works: teams of staff in gas masks and biohazard gear, decontamination showers, paper suits, admission to hospital and - crucially I think - free breakfast and lunch. While we survivors were contentedly munching our sandwiches on the way to hospital a member of council staff came up to the top deck of the bus. "Right," he announced: "we don't want any Oscar-winning performances or anything, but for the purposes of the exercise all of you must pretend to be wounded. The particulars are up to you, but as of now, you all have upper body injuries." A young man's hand (not mine!) shot up: "Can I have a sucking chest wound?" he asked.

It was a grand day out. My only complaint was that the decontamination shower was freezing. Everyone had to stand under it for three minutes, and as a result I think I've caught a cold. At least - bearing in mind what we were supposedly 'simulating' - I hope it's a cold... ;)


Tuesday 5th June 2007

We have a WINNER!

SO excited about this...! [Quickly puts on "announcing voice"] –Ahem:
The WebSphinx and I are delighted to announce the very first winner of the NMWHIT MOTWC – our exclusive No Monsters Were Harmed In The Making Of This Website Competition! For those who are new here and haven't seen the page yet, this is an ongoing project to encourage Black Tat readers to follow in the WebSphinx's 'What the Hell...?' pawprints by sending in their own home-slimed or aptly-spotted disgusting monster-texture backgrounds. Well...

Imaginary drumroll, please... author fumbles with entirely fictitious tension-prolonging golden envelope... and, yes! HUGE congratulations to MISS K. DEEGAN, with her spectacularly vile entry, 'MONSTER BRAINS'!

I was already filled with glee by Miss Deegan's comment in the Guestbook about not being able to eat certain brands of raspberry yoghurt any more now she's read Black Tat (hee hee hee!) With this, however, I think you'll agree she has really surpassed herself. Click on the link to check out her winning pic – and then don't forget to click top-right to find out just what those sweaty-looking lobes are really made of. Mmmmm... delicious! ;p

A large and faintly queasy thank you to Miss Deegan, our current undisputed monster champion: an unabridged, 11-cd audio version of Black Tat is winging its way to her as I write. To anyone else reading this, Round Two has now begun! The SHINY THINGS are waiting, and the WebSphinx and I are standing by twenty-four/seven, raring to be thoroughly nauseated all over again. Do you have what it takes to be the next NWHIT MOTWC winner? Send us your monster pics to the special email address provided, and let's find out!


Saturday 2nd June 2007

Something Sticky This Way Comes...

So, Jagmat, you've found me at last. Spending all this time hanging about in London parks doesn't exactly strike me as an elegant way of tracking me down, but I guess I've got to give you points for persistence. Well: now you've found me, what are you actually going to do about it?

I've got to say mate: if mind games are what you're after, you'll get precious few of your yucks out of me. I've been writing weird stories for about ten years now, and... shadowy figures lurking at the corner of my street at the dead of night? sudden cold shivers trickling down the back of my neck while I'm out down the cornershop? feeling watched? Jagmat old son: those are nothing more than clichιs to the likes of me.

Go ahead, Jagmat: put your psychological parlour tricks to the test. See how far they get you. When you're done playing, I'll still be ready and waiting to finish this. One way or the other.


Tuesday 29th May 2007

Black Tat US Softcover Plans

I've shown you an early glimpse of Black Tat's upcoming UK paperback jacket (scroll down to 14th April if you haven't seen it). Now it's the turn of the US softcover, due out Jan 2008: take a look!

US paperback cover

As you can see, the Razorbill team were so taken with RHCB's excellent design that they basically decided to go the same way - but with a couple of added refinements. First (though you can't really make it out here) the plan is to have what they call a 'stepback': the front of the jacket will not quite reach the edge of the book, leaving a mysterious vertical strip of orange Hell skyline and palace battlements visible down the right hand side of the white background. This will hopefully tempt the curious to pick up the book and lift the cover, to be confronted (you've guessed it!) by Mr Palencar's wonderful painting in all its glory on the first page. And... can you see what it says in that orange balloon on the back? Yep: when this edition hits US shops in January next year, it will include as a taster the opening chapter of my new book, Tim, Defender of the Earth!

I think that's a terrific idea, as (hopefully!) it'll push a few more people in Tim's direction when that comes out in hardcover a month or two later. HOWEVER: if you – reading this! – are keen to get an early glimpse of Tim, and you're either not from the US or you've got Black Tat in hardback, don't worry! As with this page, the plan is to have Tim's opening chapter available for your perusal on the dedicated Tim website, which is due to go live before the end of this year ('07). So I'm not expecting you to buy Black Tat again, or anything. Though of course, if you do, I won't object! ;p


Friday 25th May 2007


Jill, who looks after foreign rights to my stories, has struck again: I've just had an email from her about an offer to translate and publish Black Tat in ESTONIA! With a Spanish language edition already available, and others to come in Russian, German and Portuguese, it seems that Black Tat is gradually spreading its soft wet demon tentacles across the globe. Pause: sitting here at this desk I can still see the faint stain on my ceiling from when I was writing the Akachash and the roof leaked and I couldn't afford to fix it. Sometimes this whole thing just feels like a dream. Hee hee hee! :)


Sunday 20th May 2007


If I hadn't been up to my ears lately in Tim stuff and other things, I'd've known and posted about this earlier: my terrifically talented friend Morgan Omotoye has had two of his splendid stories published in the excellent magazine LITRO!

Click here for printing instructions, and here for the pdf. Romance, zombies and Philip K Dick: everyone needs a little of all three in their life, and now it's your turn... ;)


Friday 18th May 2007

Update: "Boys Into Books"

Right: further to my post a couple of days ago, here's a bit more information on this British-government-sponsored push to get young men reading. To do my bit to make sure Mr Johnson doesn't get all the credit – and correct the whole 'chart ranking' impression, which appears to have been entirely manufactured by the newspapers, ho hum! – here's the real score: while the Education Secretary commissioned the project, the research and the document itself were produced by the UK's School Library Association. The idea is that secondary schools in England can each pick twenty books from the list for their libraries for free – awesome! But it's the document itself that is the real piece of work: you can get it as a pdf from this page here.

I've now had a chance to check it out properly and it's absolutely TERRIFIC. Each title gets a short write-up and a link to a website if available. Better yet (and media coverage so far seems to have been quite misleading in missing this out) the titles are broken down into a series of helpful and creatively thought-out categories to help you see what's what. Finally the whole package is rounded out with excellent extra features including advice for librarians and parents, and a whole stack of fantastic links and contact details for extra resources.

The whole project has already created a lot of public stir and debate, some negative but mostly positive as people chime in with their own recommendations for further fine reading [including, I was pleased to notice, a couple of big shouts for George Macdonald Fraser's wonderfully disreputable Flashman books - Hee hee hee!] I really think this is a brilliant initiative, and I wish it all the best – and not just because Black Tat's in there! ;)

PS: I'm just off out now for a meeting with THE WEBSPHINX to discuss website plans for Tim. Very excited!!


Wednesday 16th May 2007

The British Government recommends Black Tat!

Rather extraordinary, this. The UK's Education Secretary Alan Johnson is currently launching a big government initiative aimed at encouraging boys to read for fun: to this end, he's just published a list of (I quote) "the top 160 books for teenage boys" – and BLACK TAT IS NUMBER 52!

Here's a link to an article about the list in the Times. And here's another link to the list itself. As you'd expect, there's some incredible writing on there. Seeing Black Tat in such exalted company is absolutely gobsmacking. WOO-HAH! :)


Tuesday 15th May 2007

Defeating the Deadline of Doom!

Hello! Yes, Sam here, apologizing - again - for not having posted in a while. Though I hear that Jagmat has been claiming to some of his new friends that he's "on my track" (whatever that means) I want you to know that I have not actually died or anything: I've just been working like crazy on my next book, Tim, Defender of the Earth.

The third draft is now finished and off with my publishers - PHEW. I'm particularly pleased about that, because (due to the fact I was away in Italy from April 21st-30st) I had just nine days to get this draft done and make my deadline of May 9st. I've never turned a draft around that fast before: in fact, if it wasn't for the wonderfully detailed notes I'd been given by my editors Ben at Razorbill and Kelly at RHCB I'm sure it wouldn't have been possible at all. There were some long days involved. I was knackered by the end, and I'm still quite zombified now! But it's done. I now apparently have a whole week at least in which I'm free to do things like go outside my front door, buy food, see people who aren't imaginary (always important, that one!) and continue putting ideas together (OH, yeah!) for the next bit of the sinister masterplan! Work on Tim will continue over the summer: the final version of the book won't actually go off to the printers until this October, ready for its current publication date of Feb/March 2008. But the story of Tim is now in fine shape, exactly as I want it, and any remaining stuff to be done will be minor tweaks I hope.

So: I've nearly finished my new book! And I'm really pleased with it! [Waves arms in the air like a Muppet] YAAAAAY!

-Er, ahem: 'scuse me. Before I embarrass myself any further, perhaps I'd better get on with some more News posts. ;)


Saturday 12th May 2007


This is a little weird I guess, as he obviously doesn't really know me or anything, but I just wanted to take the chance here to see if I can send my best wishes to Alan Moore and his wife Melinda Gebbie. They got married today. Check out Neil Gaiman's blog for some photos.

As well as being a natty dresser (that blue bowler hat, eh? wow!!) Mr Moore is something of a hero of mine. Throughout a long and prolific career he has written not just some of the finest comics in the English language but some of the finest imaginative stories full stop. Here's a Wikipedia entry that gives an overview: I'd earnestly advise you to read anything by him that you can get your hands on. But as if his works – and that hat! – weren't impressive enough, I can confirm that he's an absolute gentleman in person, too: yes, readers, I have met Mr Moore!

It was about ten years ago now, and I was working as a bookseller at the time. Mr Moore doesn't appear in public very often: I'd heard he was going to be signing stock in the area, so I came in on my day off in order to try to speak to him, and after just missing him in shops all over London's Charing Cross Road I finally caught up with him in the street.

Some backstory for you: over the preceeding few months I'd been trying to write my first novel. This was before I'd even started writing for young people. My first ever attempt at a novel-length story was, in fact, (cringe-!) a crime thriller starring a tough-talking British lady cab-driver – and after three months and thirty thousand words of writing myself into ever-decreasing circles I'd finally had to acknowledge that this first attempt was Doomed with a capital 'D'. It was rancid: unplotted, unplanned, riddled with clichιs and – fatally – my heart just wasn't in it. The whole lot had to be thrown out.

I was frantic. My dreams of being a writer seemed to have foundered. I hadn't slept. I was also so nervous about meeting Mr Moore that when I caught up with him ['Mr Moore! Mr Moore!'] I suddenly found then that I couldn't actually speak. I just stood there, my mouth opening and closing but no words coming out, while Mr Moore waited patiently and politely (See? What a gent!)

'When you were starting out...' I blurted, finally. 'Before you wrote Watchmen and Halo Jones and Swamp Thing and all those other wonderful things you've done. Did you worry that your writing would never come to anything? Did you ever get... scared?'

-Hah! Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing? I probably just said, "Aghububble hawibble kerbobble phlibble?" or something equally witty, but some of what I meant must have got across, because Mr Moore grinned hugely and said:

'Scared? When I started out I was bloody terrified...' And for the next five minutes, much to my amazement, we proceeded to have a brief but lovely chat, right there on the pavement, over the course of which he offered me advice, encouragement and gentle hints and tips (he even suggested magazines for me to send my stories to!)

For weeks afterwards I was floating on air. Though a lot of time and work was still to come (including three more failed novels from me!) before Black Tat finally got me into print, I've never forgotten his kindness and patience in taking the time to talk to me like that. I'm still grateful. You're an inspiration, Mr Moore. Here's wishing you and your wife all the best.


Friday 4th May 2007

Thrilling News!

I've just had a rather wonderful email from Jill, the lady who looks after the foreign rights to my stories. She's had an offer from a company who want to translate and publish Black Tat in RUSSIA! As people who've been coming to this site for a while might know I get an enormous kick out of the idea of something of mine appearing in a foreign language, so I said yes straight away. About five years ago I happened to be in a bookshop in Moscow, looking at the Russian editions of Lemony Snicket and dreaming that one day one of my stories might be sold there. Now I am very happy!


Tuesday 1st May 2007

Freedom to Read

While tinkering on t'internet when I was supposed to be working (as usual! agh!) I came across an amazing story that's currently unfolding concerning fellow Razorbill author Maureen Johnson. Her book The Bermudez Triangle has apparently been BANNED from a high school library in Bartlesville, Oklahoma (USA) ...or has it? Following the righteous furore since the news got out onto the internet, the school authorities are currently bending over backwards to deny that the banning actually took place. Check it out: Maureen first blogs the story here and you can follow the updates from then.

The salient facts seem to be these. The Bermudez Triangle apparently contains scenes of (horror!) girls kissing. A Bartlesby parent, concerned that in reading the book her fifteen year old daughter had been exposed to what she called a 'sexual free for all', has written to the daughter's school library, not only to complain – and here's the controversial bit – but also to insist that the book be withdrawn so that nobody else can read it. Worse yet – though the school are now denying this – it seems that the school authorities initially agreed to the ban, without anyone having read the book before making that decision.

OK, time to put my hands up: my copy hasn't got here yet so I haven't read the book, either! So, I suppose I can't legitimately comment on the issues of homophobia surrounding the complaint and the school's actions – though those issues certainly seem to be very disturbing. What I can talk about here now, though, is the parallel issue of young people's freedom to read.

I think that anyone over the age of (say) ten should be allowed to read any book they want. Put it this way: most adult authority figures would have no problem with a young person reading a newspaper, despite the heinously ill-written and pandering drivel that (sadly) often passes for reporting in those. So why the focus on fiction? Even without the willing and expert help of librarians and booksellers as well as parents or guardians, young people are quite capable of judging for themselves whether a book is suitable for them or not. If it's not, they can put the book back on the shelves. But at no point in that process has anything taken place that gives anyone the right to restrict other readers' access to that book.

Banning books is WRONG. It's driven by fear: fear of ideas that disagree with one's own – a fear that must be confronted and fought if human beings can ever hope to be able to understand each other. But books for young people are being quietly challenged and banned from libraries all over the US and UK – two of the nations who make the most noise in the world about how supposedly free and progressive and democratic they are.

I don't know which reaction I feel more strongly: horror that banning like this seems to take place so easily, or glee that thanks to the internet these decisions can now be exposed, to the embarrassment of the participants who should have known better. But I tell you: I'll be following this story to the end. Go, Maureen!


Monday 30th April 2007


I have just returned from a wonderful week in Italy! My reason for going (ostensibly at least) was the Bologna Children's Book Fair, an enormous trade fair specifically for children's books, the biggest such fair in the world. Now: Bologna is a business fair. It's not really for readers: in fact, as I found out, it's not really for writers, either! It's more a place for trade professionals such as publishers and agents to get together from all over the globe to network and make deals. It was my own idea to go, and I spent my own money to get there: at this point I want to find out everything I can about every aspect of the book business that might affect me and my writing, and my visit to the fair was certainly an eye-opener. Better yet, once I'd told my agent Penny that I was coming, she'd arranged a small drinks party for me to meet people and do my best to enthuse them about my stories and my plans for the future. Several people from my German publishers were there: it was great to meet them and hear about their intentions for the forthcoming German edition(s!!) of Black Tat. My US editor Ben was there, as was my UK editor Kelly. One of the people behind the Black Tat US Audiobook was also in attendance, plus various other interested parties – and we all sat round a table in Bologna's historic Piazza Maggiore and toasted the sinister masterplan to conquer the universe! Very civilized!

Even better still, however, for the rest of the week I and my girlfriend Laura were on holiday (YAY!) here: the Castello di Galeazza Laura found it for us. It's a crumbling but beautiful and atmospheric castle full of books and comfy places to sit - bliss! With all the craziness of this last year Laura and I hadn't had a chance to get away anywhere in what felt like ages. We recharged our batteries in fine style, ploughing through stacks of books and, in my case, sleeping for something like twelve hours a day (Yep! Must've been more tired than I thought!) Though I knew it would mean I'd be facing a giant monster of a deadline on my return, I decided not to take my work with me. That was definitely the right decision. When you're off, you're off, I reckon - and what a wonderful place to be off in. Hee hee hee!


Friday 20th April 2007

'Cracking the Teen Library Code'

A real thrill for me, this: not just my first ever panel appearance (huzzah!) but a day spent finding all about the amazing work of the London Youth Libraries Group.

The occasion was a one-day training conference for librarians. Authors Sherry Ashworth, Alan Durant, Sharon Dogar and, er, me(!) had all been invited to speak at the closing event of the day, a panel discussion on the subject of 'Writing for a Teen Audience.' I said I would be delighted to come, of course, but on one condition - that I could be allowed to go to the rest of the day's talks and seminars to glean what I could about the ways librarians work to attract young people to their libraries. Cathy – the lady who kindly invited me – agreed. I was glad she did: it was fascinating stuff. I had some limited experience of young people's reading groups, for instance, from the two I've visited, but I had no idea of the hard work (and psychology!) involved in setting them up and getting readers to keep coming. It was also particularly interesting to discover that right now in the UK public libraries are under a strong political pressure to attract young people: under current government initiatives a library's future funding depends on its ability to engage with young readers in its local community. To this end, there's real scope now for young people to become involved with all aspects of their local library, including choosing what facilities they offer and – particularly – what they stock. Finally, I was especially impressed by the passion and commitment of the library professionals I met during the day.

Some of my best reading experiences have happened in public libraries, especially when I was the age I'm writing my stories for. There's nowhere else where you're welcome to spend as long as you like trying out whatever books you can find, and all for no money whatsoever. That freedom was a crucial part of giving me the love of reading that has been such a huge part of my life ever since. By the sounds of it, public libraries here in the UK right now are better for young people than they've ever been, and staffed by talented people who genuinely care about helping you find books you'll enjoy. Use them or lose them – it's up to you. Meanwhile, since we're on the subject of reading groups, I'd like to say again that right now I'll come and speak to public library reading groups in London FOR FREE – no fee. If you run, or go to, a reading group in the London area (or not too far outside it!) and you'd like me to come and do my thing for you, then simply head over to the Visits page of this site and drop a line to the email address provided. I'm looking forward to hearing from you. And thanks again to Cathy for inviting me to such a terrific and inspiring day. :)


Thursday 19th April 2007


Yes folks, at last the time has come to unveil the title of my NEXT BOOK! Just in case that wasn't loud enough for you first time (above) it's called TIM, DEFENDER OF THE EARTH, and it's due to be published simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic in early 2008. YAY!

I am HUGELY excited about this book. As those of you who've been following this site for a while will know it's not a sequel to Black Tat but is instead its own beast, full of spectacular action, destruction, and GIANT MONSTERS, and I think it's going to be a lot of fun. A dedicated Tim website is in the works (the WebSphinx and I are thinking powerful thoughts as I write these very words) and my publishers have all sorts of grand plans. There's a lot of work still to be done between now and the book's launch, but from here on I'll do my very best to keep you posted about what's going on.

And in case any of the Penguin US Sales and Marketing team are reading this (they're having a big meeting today) a HUGE AND GLEEFUL HELLO TO YOU OVER THERE, FROM ME OVER HERE! Sorry to shout with all the capital letters like this, but you're a long way away! Here's to the sinister masterplan to conquer the universe – PHASE 2! Hee hee hee!


Tuesday 17th April 2007


An enormous and hideously overdue (sorry!) thank you to... J (from Paso Robles, CA); Arkie (from Australia), and Dylan (from Texas). Those were some fine questions you left in the Guestbook over the last month or so – hope my answers are as good. Head on over to the Q&A page to find out!


Saturday 14th April 2007

Black Tat UK Paperback, Coming Soon!

Look what arrived in the post this morning!

This is what's called a jacket proof, sort of a sneak preview of what the upcoming paperback edition of Black Tat is going to look like in the UK and associated export territories. The details haven't been completely finalized yet, that's why I went for quite a lo-res scan of it, but it's pretty striking, no? A nice little spin on the UK hardcover design! And one thing I particularly like about it, though unfortunately you can't quite make it out here, is that the tattoo pattern and the text on the front cover is all embossed, pushed outwards, giving a really tactile feel to it - very satisfying to pick up and hold. I loved the all-black design from the RHCB hardback [see Editions] but now you can make out the tattoo shapes around Mr Palencar's Charlie even more clearly. The way the tattoo is spreading its dark influence across the white background – even the way the shape suggests the butterfly scene – it's all very cool! And it's coming out this August, '07! HEE HEE HEE!


Friday 6th April 2007


I refer, of course, to THE WEBSPHINX, who has been working flat out behind the scenes here, even harder than usual over the last week or so. As some of you may have noticed, she has finally cracked a long-running problem of this site, namely that in some resolutions and on some browsers the whole thing appeared glued to the top left hand corner of the screen. From now on, it should appear in the centre. HURRAH!

You may also have noticed the appearance of a WIDGET! Specifically, a LibraryThing widget that the WebSphinx is about to install on the Fun Stuff page. Every time you visit this should display a random book from the 450-odd (some very odd) titles I've listed so far on my LibraryThing catalogue. Just another way for you to find suggestions for further fine reading if you liked Black Tat – and if you don't see something you fancy straight away, just hit 'Refresh'! GO, WEBSPHINX!


Thursday 5th April 2007

My Apologies...

I'm so sorry for not having updated this page in a while. The fact is I've been completely up to my ears in rewrites on my NEXT BOOK. However, I'm happy to report that after a lot of hard work, Draft 2 (or 3, if you include my 'Zero Draft'!) is now complete, as of this evening in fact. The story is in much better shape now, with several crucial elements anchored in place that weren't quite stated clearly enough before – and it's about ten thousand words shorter, which always helps! There's still plenty more work to do, another draft to come at least, so before I have to disappear back into my garrett – again – I'd better quickly get on with mentioning one or two more things...


Sunday 1st April 2007


At the start of this year ('07) I joined the UK's Federation of Children's Book Groups as an Individual member. I thought it looked like a terrific organization, and I was absolutely right: today I returned, knackered but delighted from my first FCBG Annual Conference. What a wonderful weekend! Very inspiring and energizing. I saw some terrific writers doing their stuff - Tim Bowler, Rick Riordan and the awesome Malorie Blackman were all particularly brilliant. I had some fine chats with all sorts of people all passionate about kids' books, and generally had a very nice time indeed. This was helped, I must admit, by a couple of nice compliments about Black Tat – very good for the ego, hem hem! Here's looking forward to next year!


Read earlier news posts here.

what the Hell is this?