Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Buried Thunder: The Very Dangerous Tim Bowler

Tim Bowler gives the impression of being a very dangerous individual. His books - often masterful psychological thrillers aimed squarely at teenagers - are frequently dark, menacing and subversive, the opposite of a safe read. Multi-layered with troubled characters, wild and remote settings, he plays with words like a poet to inject plenty of raw emotions, and hints of darker forces floating just below the surface.

So I was expecting someone a bit more menacing when we welcomed Tim to Abingdon for two school events today, but he was quite the opposite. Friendly, generous and utterly passionate about writing - I defy anyone to spend five minutes in his company and not come away wanting to start to write.

But Tim is in no way 'safe'; he is definitely a very dangerous and frightening individual. That much passion and energy, barely contained, frequently seems to charge up and fly off like an electrical spark, challenging you to throw caution to the wind and write. He was throwing plenty of advice (and even the off Ernest Hemingway quote) about, and - at the first event of the day at Abingdon School - had 13 year olds reading their creative endeavours out in front of their mates. Casting my mind back to school days, that's the kind of activity which would have scared most of us witless:



The workshop he ran - short, intense and very effective - elicited some cracking prose from the boys, and Tim used the start of his new book, Buried Thunder, as a starting point for the exercise.



Having finished the book last weekend, I found Buried Thunder a simply brilliant and utterly compelling book. It opens with a very unsettling (and gruesome) start and then - a few pages in - there's a genuinely scary supernatural twist that makes the hairs on your arm stand up - and there you are, hooked right through to the race-against-time climax. In terms of the unsettling mood created, I was reminded of Alan Garner's The Owl Service (a book I read when I was about 14, and one that I remember vividly at the time in terms of the way it made me feel)



After signing some copies for the boys, we were able to have a relaxing lunch (at the wonderful Wells Stores) - although the subject matter stayed scary (eBooks and the future of the High Street). We then headed over to Larkmead School, for a daunting talk in front of about 90 year eights...


Cue a range of questions, ranging from 'why are your book titles often oxymorons', to 'do you feel for trees that are cut down to make your books'...



And then more signing, and some impromptu advice for students looking to get started on their own stories:



All in all, a busy but thoroughly enjoyable day spent in the company of a true great of English children's writing (learn more on Tim's website). As time goes on, I increasingly feel that the best children's writing is subversive, and after today I may add 'dangerous' to that as well...

3 comments:

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  2. Is that the mighty Rod Mearns in the top photo? Finest English teacher i ever had. He still looks exactly the same as he did 20 years ago.

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  3. It is indeed, and I saw him again today and mentioned your very kind comments...

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