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.

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.

First Worrals Review!

The ‘Mature Times’ is first off with a review of the Worrals relaunch, describing her as “…a timeless heroine, well-deserving of resurrection” and commenting that “…as a courageous, independent female role model, she still has much to offer today’s young readers.” Quite! You can read the full review here.

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.

Why we need Worrals (Pt 2)

When Frecks suggests that they ask permission from their Commanding Officer before plunging into their next adventure, Worrals replies: “He’d probably start raising all sorts of objections — you know, not the sort of work for girls, and all that sort of rot.” 

Has the RAF changed that much in the intervening seventy years? This week the case of Group Captain Wendy Williams suggests not. An Employment Tribunal found that she had been discriminated against by the RAF because she was a woman, being passed over for promotion in favour of a less well-qualified male colleague. Perhaps these attitudes are not entirely unconnected to the number of women in the most senior RAF grades: just 6 out of 470. But we think Worrals would have approved of Group Captain Williams for taking on the Top Brass…

 

Why we need Worrals (Pt 1)

Amy Johnson: the new Face of the Fiver?

Amy Johnson: the new Face of the Fiver?

We’ve been cheering on the campaign to make the Bank of England think again about thenext £5 note. If this is news to you, the Bank announced they were dropping Elizabeth Fry from the fiver in favour of Winston Churchill – meaning that English banknotes would be men-only (except our own dear Queen, which doesn’t really count). Fortunately Caroline Criado-Perez and The Women’s Room have launched a petition which is getting huge support.Our own candidate is Amy Johnson, a hugely impressive aviation pioneer and one of the inspirations for our very own Worrals, (though we accept there’s a case for the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, as this is the centenary of her death). You can back the campaign here.

 

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. 

Worrals – Cleared for Take-Off!

Worrals of the WAAF

We’ve now fixed on 4 July as the launch-date for the Worrals series. The RAF Museum are kindly hosting the event, to include a tour of the surviving examples of the planes flown by Worrals, and we’re hoping a mystery guest may drop in herself…

Publisher’s Weekly Praise for Matt Kindt

redhanded

Matt’s latest work ‘Red Handed: The Fine Art of Strange Crimes’ is just out and Publisher’s Weekly is full of praise, calling it ‘nothing short of exceptional’. We haven’t seen it ourselves yet as the UK launch date is 17 June, but Gosh Comics and Waterstones.com will both stock it. He also has another book, ‘Mind MGMT’, due out any day and his artwork will of course be gracing the covers, and interiors, of our own Worrals series in a few weeks.