Posts Tagged ‘Aquila’

Oswiu: What Writers Think – no.4 in a short series

Sunday, October 16th, 2016
Andrew Norriss

Andrew Norriss

Some unusual acquaintances are made online. In my case, few have been more unexpected but more welcome than my getting to know Andrew and Jane Norriss online. The name might not immediately mean anything but anyone watching TV in the 1990s will know Andrew from The Brittas Empire. Andrew wrote the first five series.

brittasempire001bBut then, with one of the more unexpected career swerves, he decided to throw in TV writing in exchange for the considerably less lucrative vocation of writing books for children. Mind, he still couldn’t completely escape the octopus clasp of television, for the producers took one read of his book Aquila and immediately saw what anyone reading it must see: that this is one of the most perfectly crafted stories ever written. And they promptly slapped it on television.


I must admit that the Aquila TV series was really rather wonderful. But, of course, past performance is not an indicator of future returns and, given the unlikely collision of talents that go into making a good TV programme, it’s unlikely that the lightning of success would strike again. Besides, working with TV people is like supping with the devil: something best done with a very long spoon.

So, thankfully, Andrew’s been able to escape the dead grasp of television, and he’s been busy writing further books for children – most of which I’ve read and reviewed, here (The Unluckiest Boy in the World) and here (The Portal)  and here (The Touchstone). His latest, Jessica’s Ghost, I fear lays him open to the further blandishments of TV land so get in there and read it before some producer ruins it.

Given my untrammeled enthusiasm and admiration for Andrew’s work, imagine how pleased I was to find out that he liked my work too. He’s actually read Edwin: High King of Britain and Oswald: Return of the King. This time, though, putting my marketing cap on, I thought I’d get him to read a pre-publication copy of Oswiu: King of Kings in the hope that his recommendation might open up the 8-12 junior reader market to me. Well, not really. Oswiu is not really suitable for 8 year olds (although I don’t think there’s anything in it that would be unsuitable for a 12 year old moving on to trying adult books for the first time). But, really,  I just wanted Andrew to read it. And he did, and here’s what he had to say about it.

Edoardo Albert conjures up an extraordinarily vivid and authentic picture of life in 7th Century Britain that is hugely enjoyable. This is fabulous story-telling, with the themes of greed, ambition, nobility and the power of religion woven together with consummate skill. This is the real Game of Thrones – a fabulous story, beautifully told, that turns out to be based on fact!

You can imagine just how pleased I am with this. Andrew is probably the most talented writer I know and to have such an endorsement is praise indeed. You hear that low pitched hum in the background? That’s the sound of a writer, purring.

Book review: The Unluckiest Boy in the World by Andrew Norriss

Friday, February 6th, 2015
The Unluckiest Boy in the World

The Unluckiest Boy in the World

Andrew Norriss is, in fact, The Unluckiest Author in the World. In any sane society a writer who consistently produces such unfailingly delightful books for children would be lauded and applauded, hailed as a national treasure and put before Parliament and Queen as an example of what children’s writing should be like. Instead, we get Michael Morpurgo (I don’t know if you agree, but my children always, always groan when yet another Michael Morpurgo book is dragged out of the cupboard and plopped on their desks at school). It should be Andrew Norris.

What is particularly strange is that not even television, that usual sprinkler of authorial fame and sales, seems to have been able to destroy the curse of forgetting that hangs over Andrew Norriss. ‘Aquila? Wasn’t that on the telly a while back?’ Yes, it was, and normally that should mean huge sales and, at the very least, a publisher eager to publish a whole series of Aquila books. But – and I have this from the author’s wife – Puffin simply aren’t interested! Can you believe that? Despite there being huge mileage in the book (my son and I are desperate to learn more about the Denebians who made Aquila and the Yrrillians with whom they are locked in conflict), a successful TV tie-in, the first book having won the Whitbread Award, and yet Puffin still aren’t interested in publishing Aquila 3. You’re beginning to agree, aren’t you? Andrew Norriss really is the unluckiest writer in the world.

But stop. There’s more. The Brittas Empire. Remember that? Ran in the 1990s with Chris Barrie as he manager of the Whitbury New Town Leisure Centre. Andrew Norris co-wrote the first five series (when it was good). Yet, still, despite all these TV accomplishments, his publisher isn’t interested in publishing Aquila 3.

Andrew, I’m beginning to wonder if you unwittingly urinated on to the grave of a mouldering publishing executive, thus incurring his everlasting curse (as happens to the unfortunate hero of The Unluckiest Boy in the World, except in his case it’s not a publishing executive but a dead wizard who curses him). There’s no other explanation why publishers are not queuing up for such graceful, deft and funny stories.

Surely there must be some way of banishing the curse. For Andrew Norriss, while maybe the unluckiest writer in the world, is also, undoubtedly, one of the very best. Read this book, read Aquila, then tell your friends, tell Puffin: we have a treasure amongst us, let us celebrate (and publish!) him!

Book review: Aquila by Andrew Norriss

Sunday, October 19th, 2014
Aquila by Andrew Norriss

Aquila by Andrew Norriss

Wonderful story. Two boys – united by friendship and a determination to pass through school entirely unnoticed – discover a strange machine, hidden in a cave, and take it home. Given that the cave also contains the skeleton of a Roman centurion, the machine must be old. But did the Romans build machines?  Trying to figure out what it can do (pretty well everything turns out to be the answer in the end) causes them to blow their school anonymity as they start asking questions (shock, horror) and they even start to study independently. Norriss writes with a delightfully light touch and the two heroes, and the suspicious deputy headmistress, are wonderful creations.

And, on further thought, I’m going to give this book the ultimate 5-star accolade: it really is one of the best children’s books I’ve ever read.