It takes a bold artist to follow up a masterpiece. Far too often, the original creators can’t even recapture a work’s magic in its sequel. Sometimes though, the most devoted admirers are up to the task. Norman Whaler’s Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge – The Sequel to A Christmas Carol might be derivative, but it’s derivative in all the right ways. Whaler knows he’s trying to extend Dickens classic, and he succeeds.
Whaler opens his sequel by briefly summarizing the ending of A Christmas Carol – which quickly helps ground any readers who haven’t read it recently. Here, we see right away that Whaler makes the smart decision to evoke Dickens rather than imitate him. He echos Dickens’ source of tension in the characters’ lives: for crippling poverty still grips this corner of London. And with the newly philanthropic Ebenezer Scrooge now deceased, the citizens again find themselves facing an English winter without money for food or clothing.
My favorite part of the reading was hearing more from the side characters whose voices drive the plot. Unfortunately, the illustrations that start each chapter vary wildly in terms of style and medium. They all match the subject of the story well, but fail to match each other. Some appear hand drawn while others have been made on a computer. Even just applying the same filter to each illustration would have helped unify the novel.
Whaler clearly admires and respects Dickens, but I do think he missed out on an opportunity to be a little more self referential with the sequel – Dickens might very well have appreciated just such humor. Regardless, the voice and tone that first made this Christmas classic are there in full force. If you read the conclusion of Dickens’ original to your children while a cold winter blast beasts against the frame of the house, they might just turn up toward you and ask, as so many readers have over the decades, “what happens next?” In such an event, you now know where to turn.
Pages: 96 | ASIN: B076YGMGF9
Tags: A Christmas Carol, alibris, allegory, author, author life, authors, barnes and noble, book, book club, book geek, book lover, bookaholic, bookbaby, bookblogger, bookbub, bookhaul, bookhub, bookish, bookreads, books of instagram, booksbooksbooks, bookshelf, bookstagram, bookstagramer, bookwitty, bookworks, bookworm, Charles Dickens, christmas, classic, dickens, ebook, fantasy, fiction, goodreads, holiday, ilovebooks, indiebooks, kindle, kobo, literature, london, nook, Norman Whaler, novel, publishing, read, reader, reading, Scrooge, shelfari, smashwords, story, Tiny Tim and the Ghost of Ebenezer Scrooge, writer, writer community, writing
In Degsy Hay: A Juvenile Redeemed, Brian Montgomery sets himself up as a modern day Horatio Alger or Charles Dickens, telling a tale of a hard-done-by young man who overcomes his humble beginnings to become something more.
Degsy Hay, born inside a UK prison to a heroin addict, inherits his mother’s chaotic life, as well as a mysterious diary with missing pages. At age 16, he’s released from McAlley-Stoke youth facility with no prospects. He spends a few months on the streets, during which he assembles a small entourage including a three-legged dog named Sadface, a girlfriend (and her young son) and several homeless tradespeople. Before long, though, he’s back in McAlley-Stoke, where, through a mix of violence and charisma, he quickly becomes the Gaffer, the big man in the youth correctional facility. He launches a reform campaign to encourage the young offenders to educate themselves during their incarceration and convinces (via a bloody riot complete with hostage-taking) the facility itself to treat its wards more humanely. All the while, a mystery around missing children and how they’re connected to the missing pages of his mum’s diary builds around him.
Montgomery gives his hero/narrator a distinct voice, rife with Cockney slang, locating him squarely in the rough and tumble housing estates of urban London, a lot of “nar’mean” this and “geezer” that. But for all his streetwise exterior, Degsy is a kind soul at heart and looks out for the people around him. It seems that everyone he meets has a lesson to teach him, even if they have to die a grisly death for him to learn it. The people closest to Degsy have a nasty habit of ending up dead, or filthy rich. Sometimes both.
For a book that tackles some extremely difficult topics like poverty, addiction, and child abuse, Degsy Hay can be a bit simplistic at times. It seems more concerned with showing how one extraordinary character overcomes these heinous hurdles with a plucky attitude and a few well-placed friends, and yet there’s an internal logic to it too. It’s Degsy himself who tells the story, and so why wouldn’t he place himself at the center and give himself all the credit?
On the surface, the story of a streetwise youth pulling one over on the world with nothing more than his wits, a few friends, and a three-legged dog should appeal to middle grade readers, but the very strong language and heavy theme of sexual abuse are better suited to older readers with a bit of maturity to process the trauma at the core of Degsy’s tale. More sophisticated readers, though, might find the very Dickensian style of storytelling a bit old fashioned. But then, we’re still reading Dickens, so why not? At any rate, the colourful language and Degsy’s unforgettable voice should keep them interested.
Pages: 180 | ASIN: B07K7VSQF8
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The Hobbymen follows Geoff and Book who are Amateur Monster Biologists that are out to separate truth from fairytale no matter how bizarre it may be. Where did the idea for ‘Amateur Monster Biologists’ come from?
It was born out of boredom. After consuming media for over 25 years, I had become bored with the same stories popping up. I was bored with prophecies and characters destined to save the world. I was bored with all these rules about monsters that were in place for no reason other than tradition. I was bored with something as silly as a werewolf being treated with dignity and respect. So I thought, “What if all these myths were only half the story? What if the heroes were actually just some schmucks who had no idea what they were doing? Why don’t we take all the folklore to the stupidest conclusion we can find?” Because I don’t take myself too seriously and thought it was high time modern fantasy reflected that mindset. Also they’re biologists rather than hunters because hunting becomes a game of “find monster, kill monster” and having it be research is not only more fun, it opens a lot more possibility for exploring different aspects of the world they live in.
There is a lot of witty banter and sarcasm being thrown around by the characters. Did you have fun writing this novel?
I really did, sometimes more than I expected. Large portions of the book were sort of mentally written in my head as I was driving or just going throughout my day, but some scenes were completely unplanned and ended up being the most fun by just having the characters bounce off each other. The worst part was always coming up with a bit that got me really excited and it wouldn’t show up for another 3 chapters. I always had to slow myself down and make sure each chapter was worthwhile, even if I wasn’t as excited about it initially.
Liliana is a down-on-her-luck young nun who’s caught stealing a loaf of bread in a little town in Mexico. How did her character develop as you were writing?
Very slow and difficult. That’s what happens when the basis for your character started as “nun that beats things with a bat”. Having her be the audience surrogate in the beginning helped because it gave me a couple chapters for her to breathe before I really needed to know what she was about. I had a good handle on her about half way through the book, and made sure to go back and make sure she was consistent throughout. A lot of things for her sort of fell into place. Her cohorts were each at opposite ends of the spectrum, so she became a mixture of short-tempered and goofy to balance it out. She needed to be strong and independent, yet still function as a part of a team. My biggest focus was always to make sure her actions and dialogue came from herself as a character, and not as “the girl of the group” or “stock archetype #15”. I think a lot of the time she was the hardest to write just because she is somehow the least extreme in terms of her personality.
What were some books or movies that you think were your main sources of inspiration?
I tend to take inspiration from many places, which probably comes across as a cop out answer. The real answer is I grew up watching horror movies, reading Stephen King and Poe, and watching a little show called Mystery Science Theater 3000. The latter, for any unaware, essentially aired old B-movies and made fun of them. As a kid I loved the concept and my family ended up doing it on our own for any movie we watched. So unwittingly the concept for a book where monsters and myths are handled with a heaping dose of self-awareness and eye rolling was planted fairly early in my mind. But in terms of writing I tend to find inspiration through a lot of the classics. Like I think Catch-22 is an amazing tool in teaching about how to create the tone of a scene or how Dickens made sure to utilize his prose to make mundane events a joy to read.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be published?
I am currently finishing up on a short story in the Hobbymen universe titled “Truth, Dare, Scissors” which is going to be released sometime before October. It’s the second short story I’ve written with these characters, the first being “Interview with a Vampire Named Bob” which acts as a prequel to the book. I am currently working on a sequel as well. What can I say, I enjoy these characters and I’m too lazy to come up with new ones for now. The next full novel is too far away to estimate, but I will definitely be finishing it.
Sister Liliana has not been having the best of days. Between running away from the convent and then being thrown into a desolate prison, she has started to lose hope of having a fun Wednesday. That is until she meets two strange men with a rather peculiar hobby: Amateur Monster Biology. From ancient monsters to urban legends, Geoff and Book are out to separate truth from fairytale, no matter how bizarre or ridiculous that truth may be. And as they have found, there is truth in everything. Soon Liliana is caught in a whirlwind of adventure as they show her a side of the world she never thought existed, filled with fantastic creatures hiding in plain sight. But just as it seems her life is finally turning around, the group get a foreboding message from an unexpected, sinister source. Are the three of them in over their heads this time? Yes…the answer is yes.
Posted in Interviews
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