TPBP Winter Showcase

We were delighted to see IndieBooks’ titles selected in all categories for The People’s Book Prize Winter Showcase: charity fundraising title, From Syria With Love in non-fiction; Richard Major’s Quintember in fiction; and the timeless Worrals series in children’s books.

The People’s Book Prize spoke to Richard Major about Quintember, and what he has planned for the future:

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  1. Have you got a message for your readers?

 I hope people thoroughly enjoy Quintember! It’s supposed to break out of the usual genre divisions – it’s a satire as well as a thriller, a novel of ideas as well as a romp, a fantasia but also a comedy of manners  – and to be neither high-brow and serious nor low-brow fluff. And if you do enjoy it, there’s lots more to come.

  1. What can we expect from you in the future?

There are five more installments of the misdemeanours of Felix Culpepper written, and they’ll appear over the next few years. He doesn’t become any better behaved.

My short novella Attu appeared as an ebook at Christmas. It’s about a mischievous president who announces the end of the world. He’s joking, he’s just kidding about with comets – isn’t he? Eight billion people around the world aren’t so sure.

A more serious political novella, begat, will be published spring. It’s a blackly comic tale set in a grisly, too pre-failed to fail, English university, where the students invent a mascot: an imaginary student, who bodes larger and larger as they empty into him all the worst of themselves. He’s monstrous, he even looks monstrous (being a bad online montage, a photoshop Frankenstein); but his nastiness is oddly irresistible, especially on social media; he effortlessly rises to national power, and inflicts national destruction, without having to exist. begat’s a satirical study of how an apocalyptic monster is created: how the mob drains all the evil stowed within their ids into one phantasmagorical abortion of a human, cherished for his deformities. For what it’s worth, it was written fourteen months ago, before I had heard of Donald Trump.

  1. Any suggestions to support libraries?

Like (I imagine) most children, I discovered the joy and importance of reading at my local public library — and not at school — and therefore owe libraries a debt that can never be repaid. It’s worth saying this, perhaps, in a time when arts funding of all sorts is under question in this country and elsewhere. So nothing would make me prouder than bringing this tiny addition to literature in English back to libraries by way of talks or readings or displays.

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Richard Major

You can vote for Quintember here.

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A Woman’s War

Last weekend we visited the LeAnna Leska by Lee Millere Miller exhibition ‘A Woman’s War’ at the Imperial War Museum.

One photo that particularly caught our eye was this brilliant, and very Worrals-esque, shot of Air Transport Auxiliary (ATA) pilot Anna Leska.

The ATA was a civilian organisation set up during the Second World War, responsible for ferrying military aircraft (new, damaged and repaired) between airfields, factories and maintenance units – much as Worrals is seen doing in the opening book of the series by Captain W.E. Johns, ‘Worrals of the W.A.A.F’. The ATA’s  role was vital to the war effort: their delivery of aircraft from the factories to the Royal Air Force freed countless numbers of combat pilots for duty in battle.

The ATA employed pilots deemed unsuitable for the Royal Air Force, through age, fitness, or notably, gender. These pilots needed to be capable of flying a large and challenging range of military aircraft in difficult conditions, and at risk from enemy attack.

‘Worrals of the A.T.A’ would have in fact been more accurate than ‘Worrals of the W.A.A.F’, as whilst members of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force were not supposed to pilot planes, over one hundred women served as wartime pilots for the ATA, and Johns actually modelled the character of Worrals on ATA pilots Amy Johnson and Pauline Gower.

Experienced pilot, aviation writer and civil defence commissioner Pauline Gower proposed the establishment of a women’s branch of the ATA, and subsequently headed up this division.

Amy Johnson was a pioneering aviator, being the first female pilot to fly solo from Britain to Australia in 1930 and setting numerous other long distance records. She joined the newly formed ATA in 1940 and famously lost her life in 1941 in service during a ferry flight, after bailing out into the Thames Estuary. The exact circumstances surrounding her death are still disputed and her body was never recovered.

Their stories, and also that of Lee Miller, are as interesting as a Worrals book, and well worth looking into.

The Spitfire Girls

Worrals Spitfire Girls frontWe’ve always thought the Worrals books by W E Johns would make a damn good film and it seems we’re not the first to do so. A copy of the script for “The Spitfire Girls” has recently come our way, starring Worrals of the WAAF and her trusty sidekick Frecks, and it’s packed with action and humour from Worrals’ first brush with the RAF Top Brass to a life-or-death struggle in the cockpit of a plane gliding to destruction. It’s a mash-up of elements of the first two books, so we get a trip to London in the Blitz, and von Brandisch as a properly caddish villain, and perhaps a bit more love interest than the author might have wanted (or perhaps not…).

All in all, a great read and it would be even better if they actually made it. Despite funding from the National Lottery and Screen Scotland, it’s yet to find a backer. The fate of the Biggles movie of the 1980s – a legend in the industry about just how bad a film adaptation of a much-loved classic can be – may not have helped, but we waited over 50 years for Worrals to be back in print so maybe we’ll see her in Hollywood before too long…

Spitfire Girls by Robert MurphyMeanwhile, we’ve decided on the back of this exciting discovery to make “Worrals of the WAAF” our Book of the Month for February with a special offer of 50% off. Just enter the coupon code “SPIT” at the checkout any time from now until midnight on 28 February and it will be yours for a fly-away £6 instead of the list price of £12. This offer is only available through our website.

Worrals is Back!

W E Johns' Worrals at the RAF MuseumThe RAF Museum Hendon was the rendezvous for the launch of the first three Worrals stories, back in print after fifty years. And amongst the many eminent attendees was one rather special guest – Worrals herself, pictured with the new editions and with the iconic Spitfire in the background. The event included a talk on the books themselves and also a tour of some of the planes featured in the stories, which can be seen up close in the museum’s impressive collection. More on this very special day to follow.

The Home of All Things Worrals

Image of the cover of Worrals of the WAAF from 1941

With the launch of Worrals just a couple of weeks off, you might like to soak up some of the background on the original Worrals books, her creator W E Johns, and his other fictional stars, including the legendary Biggles. And there’s nowhere better to start than here at Roger Harris’ Worrals fan-site. He’s put together a wonderful collection of original covers, interior illustrations and plot summaries for all the Worrals novels. And from worrals.com you can explore further into the parallel sites that Roger has created on Biggles and on WE Johns himself. The whole site is a treat, but we’d particularly recommend the comprehensive collection of Biggles front covers which stretches over decades and reflects trends in design, illustration and typography. It’s a must for anyone interested in the development of book design and publishing, as well as Biggles fans. 

Matt Kindt – Working on Worrals

Worrals on the War path - the original cover

Worrals on the War path – the original cover

The original illustrations for Worrals have a period charm, but we wanted something more contemporary and exciting that still respected the time when the books are set. So we were delighted when the award-winning graphic novelist Matt Kindt agreed to work with us. His own books, particularly Super Spy, showed he had just the right feel for the 1940s while using a much more dynamic and informal approach.

We started with Matt’s first pencils of how he thought Worrals might look. Once we were happy that he’d caught the character, we found six of the most dramatic scenes from the book itself and Matt came back with some prelim sketches. Matt also came up with a great design for the cover, including Worrals’ trusty side-kick Frecks. (Long-time fans of Worrals may not recall exactly this scene from the book, but we felt it was just the kind of scrape that Worrals would get into.)

Worrals of the WAAF-interior prelims  Worrals of the RAF prelim cover mockupWorrals of the WAAF - the new Matt Kindt cover

All this involved a lot of emails, but it’s surprising how you can still find the same wavelength as artists even without ever meeting (or in the case of other artists we’re collaborating with, without ever even speaking). Partly that’s because Matt is a delight to work with and a real professional. But also the Worrals stories are a joy – a project we all love to be part of. And we hope the final result will meet with the approval of Worrals fans, old and new.