Sunday, 28 November 2010

Opening a Library

I was asked to open a library at Leesland school, Gosport, last week. I went to talk to the children and we played my Football Reading Game. It was fun.

It was all going really well, until I was standing on a shaky table in the new library, holding a pair of long sharp scissors, watched by 250 children. That was when they asked me to speak.

I told them why I like libraries. Because when I got into reading, age 17, the libraries in Leeds fed my passion for books and took me to countries all over the world, first in the books, then on trains and in boats. Because the books I borrowed from them and read in their reference library have given me ideas and thoughts and knowledge and thrills and doubts and hates and loves and have, I am sure, helped make me a much happier person than I would have been without them.

I also told them that I use my local library now and that, without it, I could never write the books I write, because I borrow books about wars and sports and countries and spies and a hundred other subjects.

And I felt almost tearful up there in front of these 250 children, especially when I cut the ribbon.
I have not done that before. And I have to say thank you to Leesland School for giving me that honour.

As I expect the children who go through that school will never forget their exceptional school library, I will never forget being asked to be there when they first got to see it.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Beatrix Potter was a Leeds Fan

There's a new blog out. It is about football and is written by a group of children's authors.

What football team does your favourite children's author support? What do they think of things going on in football today? How do they get their weekly football fix?

Please take a look at And please tell anyone about it who you think might be interested. We want comment, debate and lots of friction.

So far Dan Tunstall, Helena Pielichaty and me and on it. But we're lining up lots more.

(By the way, it's not true about Beatrix Potter. Sorry.)

Thursday, 18 November 2010


I've started the WWI children's book I am writing with George Myerson. We have been sorting out a structure for a few weeks. Today I did 1500 words.

I am kind of happy with it. But it might not be the right thing. It is hard to tell. I am sending it to George to see what he thinks. Then I will be clearer.

I have never written fiction set in the past before. Therefore, it is bound to be deeply flawed. That's why it is good working with George. I suspect we will work out several changes - large and small - that need making before I move on from chapter one. But, once we are happy, I will get stuck in.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010


I've had a good day in Llanelli, south Wales. Tomorrow it's Swansea. Thursday Cardiff. A hell of a week that ends in Portsmouth.

I love doing events, but I miss my wife and daughter a lot. When I am away I work hard in the evenings, so I can spend more time with them when I get home.

Last night I finished a toolkit for the Premier League Reading Stars scheme, which will move into schools next year. I did that on trains from Essex to Llanelli.

Tonight I have finished the final draft of a new novel for younger children. I am sending to my agent in the morning. I have loved writing it.

Tomorrow I start a new book about WWI.

Sunday, 14 November 2010


I had a great run this morning. Up into the hills behind my house, ascending 1000 feet. To Stoodley Pike.

My target is the Hot Toddy, a 5.8 mile hilly road race on December 27th. I started running round then and did it in 52.00 minutes. This year I want to knock 10 minutes off that. I did it in 45.40 recently. But 42.00 is probably beyond me. We'll see.

I love running. This morning it was misty on the first bit of the tops, then the clouds were blown away and I got to see the whole of Calderdale winding down towards Halifax.

And since I braved off road routes, things have been even better. I was always afraid of running off the tarmac because my left knee is knackered. But so far it has held up to gentle fell running. It is amazing to be able to run for an hour knee-deep in mud and water, not seeing another person. I love it. I don't think about anything at all.

Next year, if all goes well, I'm going to do a fell race. I may come last.

After a run I feel great, then tired, then great again. I swear it gives me more energy when I'm writing or talking to school groups.

Six weeks to go. Forgive me if I go on about it.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Trophy Cabinets

This is a new series in my blog - about trophy cabinets at professional football clubs.

Today, I'm featuring Portsmouth. This was what I found in theirs. A thimble with a picture of Harry Rednapp.

Saying that, I should be careful. Nowhere in the country have I had better events. Brilliant audiences. Lovely people. Great book sales. Spectacular organisation.

Thank you Portsmouth. I'll be back next week and the week after.

Being Danny

It's very odd. Two days ago I stop living the life of a football detective through Danny Harte... and today I find myself doing what Danny would do.

We were wating outside Fratton Park to do an activity. Me and several librarians. It was cold. Nobody had arrived to let us in. We needed to get inside. And quick.

Suddenly, was possesed by Danny. What would he do? He'd get in.

So, I managed to push the gates open a little. Then I removed the unlocked padlock and slid the bolt open. After that I was able to pull up the bolt fixing the gates to the tarmac.

Bingo. We were in.

I have to admit, I was proud of myself. Of course, there was nothign illegal about what I was doing. It was for the greater good.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Killing Your Characters

I have just finished the last edit on the last Foul Play novel, Own Goal. And, have, therefore finished writing Danny Harte.

It took me nearly twenty years of trying to get my first book deal with Puffin. And it was Danny Harte who did it. He was the character who meant I could be a full time writer.

When children ask who is my favourite characters it is always him. When they ask if he is based on me, I say that he is based on what I wish I had been like when I was fourteen.

In the first draft of Own Goal Danny sat on a bomb to stop it going off and killing Charlotte. He died. But none of the people who read my first drafts liked that, so he lived on. And I'm kind of glad. I have this idea that he might join the police and that I might write adult crime fiction about him.

But today I say goodbye to Danny Harte... and I turn my mind to a twenty-year-old man called Jack, who is about to find himself in the trenches at the Somme.

Monday, 1 November 2010

What I'm Doing

I am writing a WW1 book with another author.

It's new for me. My books, to date, are contemporary and have a football background.

We are using a real story, but fictionalising it. This is the new thing. We know lots of facts and lots of people who were there, but not the content of their conversations and the details of their relationships.

So, now I'm plotting. Trying to stick to the story, but also trying to include regular cliff hangers, character development, excitement, etc. All this without corrupting the essential story.

By the end of the week we should have a solid plot. Then I'll need to do the edit on Foul Play 5, which I'm really looking forward to. All while reading up on Ukriane, Poland and Norway for the new series for 2012, The Squad, which Puffin are publishing.

I'm learning.

Dark Matter

I read Dark Matter by Michelle Paver this weekend. Brilliant book.

I've had a love-hate relationship with Michelle Paver's books. She is next to me on the bookshop shelves. You'll sometimes find one of my titles holding up dozens of up her six Ancient Darkness books. But I'll read the Ancient Darkness ones now. There are dozens of them there for a good reason.

Dark Matter follows a 1937 Arctic expedition to Spitsbergen, to four months of sunless darkness, one man left on his own. Except he is not on his own. It's chilling, thrilling and beautifully written.
I think the publisher are pitching it as a young adult/adult book. Either way, it's great.