Asked by one of his fans why he started writing, Terry Deary replied: “Lewis Carroll told a story about a place called Wonderland to a little girl called Alice. The little girl said, ‘You should write it down or it will disappear!’ So, he wrote Alice in Wonderland, which became a classic book. I used to be an actor, performing very popular plays, especially children’s plays in school. I decided to write those plays down as stories before they disappeared.”
Prolific. That is Deary. The popular UK-based author writes both fiction and non-fiction with élan. According to The Daily Telegraph, in 1999, he outsold Enid Blyton by four to one. And a 2001 Libraries’ survey made him the most-borrowed author of children’s non-fiction in Britain—with 17 titles in the top 20.
Deary’s Flight of the Fire Thief, the second part in the Fire Thief trilogy, marries mythology and the adventures of a father-daughter travelling-show-performing duo who call themselves “Dr Dee’s Amazing Carnival of Danger”.
Helen—Nell for short—has to help her father in convincing the public that it is a big show. So Nell—with swift changes in costume and hairstyle—plays Gregor the Russian cannonball, Miss Cobweb the tightrope walker, and Captain Dare, who can swim in fire, in quick succession.
Though Pa plays the confidence game with great panache, he meets his match in the folk of Eden City, which is besieged by enemy forces. Dr Dee promises weapons in their battle against their foes in exchange for money. Dee’s plan is to escape with the money in their hot air balloon. But the mayor wants to hold Nell hostage as guarantee for delivery.
There is a parallel story. Prometheus (Theus), the Greek demigod who stole fire from the gods and gave it to humans, has been punished by Zeus. The fire thief has been tied up and the Avenger, an eagle, is assigned to torture him everyday. Zeus, however, frees Theus on one condition: He must find a true human hero. But the Avenger vows to hunt Theus down. The latter’s search takes him from Achilles and Paris in ancient Troy to Eden City, where he meets Nell and her father.
Zeus, in the meantime, gets kidnapped. The story moves from the city of Troy 4,000 years ago to Eden City in the year 1795 easily. Can Prometheus escape the Avenger’s wrath? Will Zeus—the only one who can call off the Avenger—be rescued? Deary takes the reader through a delightful journey from Greek mythology to modern 18th century Earth.
Deary has also authored some books in the Horrible Histories series of non-fiction. Equally skilful in that genre, he expertly explains historical happenings and events couched in an irreverence that appeals.
In another response to fan mail, Deary, asked where he got his ideas from, said: “Ideas fall out of the sky like raindrops. Everybody has ideas, but most people let them slip away like they let raindrops fall to the ground and vanish. A writer sees the value of those raindrops of ideas and catches them in a bowl. He stirs them up and pours them out as a story. That’s what makes a writer different.” And Deary is certainly not run-of-the-mill. Coming up in June is Fire Thief Fights Back.
The writer is editor of Heek, a children’s magazine. Write to email@example.com