Off The Record
My big news of the week is that my new book, Off The Record, is out. My word, it looks good! And, if you go onto the Books page of the website (use the neat little toolbar at the top) you can see it too. And, should you fancy it, you can read the first chapter, as well.
It’s called Off The Record because I like bad puns. Well, I think they’re good puns actually, but the family don’t agree. Poor old Lucy lost the heel off her boot yesterday and was subjected to about five minutes incessant merriment to the tune of she might not have a heel, but she’s got sole, she’d put her foot in it, etcetera, etcetera. Anyway, the pun in the title of Off The Record is because the story is woven round the hunt for a workable electrical sound-recording system in the early 1920’s, or, to put it another way, how to make a better gramophone.
Not only do I invent a better gramophone, I invent, with a wave of the pen (or computer keyboard) – this is like Grand Designs only cheaper – an entire Ideal Factory and Ideal Village run by the philanthropist, Charles Otterbourne, who manufactures record-players and, as you’d expect in any story that’s got Jack in it, there’s some very rum goings-on in Mr Otterbourne’s life.
I really enjoyed dreaming up Mr Otterbourne’s Ideal Village (it’s all in chapter one – you can read this bit on the Books Page!). My Dad grew up in the 1930’s in Welwyn Garden City, a new town built by one Ebenezer Howard in the 1920’s, and my Ideal Village is a version of Welwyn. I know it’s difficult to think of someone called Ebenezer as having the milk of human kindness sloshing around inside him (he sounds like a grasping miser out of Dickens) but Ebenezer sounds OK. He had the radical idea that working people might like houses with bathrooms (gasp!) and gardens (double gasp!) and – now he was really spoiling folk – enough space. This is when the average working class household lived squashed together in a sort of brick-built shed with a shared outdoor loo and a tin bath hung up in the yard. To add to the idyll, my Granny kept chickens and had an apple tree. He didn’t like the Demon Drink, though, did old Ebenezer, and every Sunday morning was marked by a procession of men strolling out of Paradise in search of a pub.
One other little nugget in Off The Record (and there are many, believe you me!) is the word Otorhinolaryngological. Can you credit it? Don’t bother looking in the Oxford English Dictionary, because it’s not there. It is, however, in the 1911 edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica as a footnote to the article on soundwaves. I giggled myself stupid when I came across that and just had to get it in. In amongst the Ideal Homes, gramophones and unpronounceable words there’s an awful lot of skulduggery, corpses and impenetrable mysteries and poor old Jack (who has a chance to wear full evening dress – soooo mega cool!) has to do some serious brainwork, to say nothing of falling off the odd roof, before it all becomes clear and order is restored.
Newsflash! Beth Kanell of Kingdom Books, Vermont (which is a long way from Welwyn Garden City!) emailed me to say that Off The Record features in the USA Library Journal under the title of What’s Hot For Spring 2011. (The American publication date for Off The Record is March 2011) Here’s the link.
If, however, you’re reading this in the Land Of The Free or elsewhere in the world than Britain and fancy getting hold of a copy of Off The Record now (and why not?) you could try The Book Depository, www.bookdepository.co.uk who have free postage worldwide. There’s Amazon, too, of course, or you could demand it from the library (go on! Be imperious and demand it!) or, as they say, all good bookshops.