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Thomas Bloor

Thursday, February 26, 2009


I read WAYWALKERS recently, an enjoyable fantasy about a war between various gods, a war that spills over onto earth. WAYWALKERS was written when its author, Catherine Webb, was studying for her A’ levels. And that wasn’t her first book, either. In fact it was her third published novel, I think, the first having been MIRROR DREAMS written when she was fourteen. She’s at University now, a prolific producer of fiction, both for young adults and adults (under a different name). That’s quite an achievement for anyone. I couldn’t even finish anything I wrote until I was well into my thirties, let alone get it published! But authors who start young have the chance to write a great many books, if their fortunes and inclinations continue to run that way.

Quite some years ago I happened to read a book that I’d found when clearing out a cupboard at work. It was by a teenage writer from an earlier generation, though I didn’t know that until after I’d read it. Marjorie Bowen’s first book, THE VIPER OF MILAN: A ROMANCE OF LOMBARDY, was written when she was fifteen, I believe – though it wasn’t published until 1906, when the author was twenty-one. It’s an extraordinary story, if only for the almost sadistic level of troubles Bowen comes up with to heap upon the head of her principled, honourable hero. She sends him on a journey into personal damnation, in the course of which everything he values is ripped away until finally, hopeless, broken, insane, he lurches into the final scenes of the tale, intent on revenge…and even then the storyteller will not grant him even this small shred of resolution! I can still hardly believe it, even now, twenty years later!

Marjorie Bowen went on to write historical romances, supernatural horror stories, popular history and biography, over 150 volumes in total.


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