Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Writers who DID give up the day job

My daughter spent some book vouchers at the weekend and one of the titles she bought was Roddy Doyle’s new children’s book, Greyhound of a Girl, interestingly a ghost story.

The book my daughter bought
I’ve not read it, but once she’s finished, I’ll borrow it.

Doyle’s earlier stories for younger readers, The Rover Adventures, are very funny, scatalogical, and break the fourth wall (if such a thing is possible in a book) in ways that would have made fellow Irish comic fantasists Flann O’Brien and Spike Milligan proud.

Of course, Doyle’s best known for his classic grown-up novels set in Barrytown, notably The Commitments.

The versatile Roddy Doyle
But when he became a parent, writing something for his children was a natural step.

It got me thinking about other writers established in different genres who have dipped their nibs into children’s fiction.

Frank Cottrell Boyce's first children's book
Frank Cottrell Boyce began as a scriptwriter on TV soaps like Brookside and Coronation Street, moving into film with the screenplays for Welcome to Sarajevo and 24-Hour Party People.
Then he wrote a script for director Danny Boyle. It was called Millions and featured two young brothers.

The story was crying out to be a children’s book. So Frank wrote it. It won him the Carnegie Medal and took the screenwriter on a very successful and unexpected detour, turning him into a bona fide children’s author.

Mr Cottrell Boyce himself
More children’s books have followed and recently he was asked by the Ian Fleming estate to write a sequel to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Things are certainly very rosy for Frank at the moment.

Colin Bateman quit his job as a journalist on a local weekly newspaper in Northern Ireland when his crime novels started to take off. Always prolific, Colin soon found that he wanted to write books for children too, deploying his talent for punning titles, such as Reservoir Pups.

Another crime writer, Carl Hiaasen (also an award-winning crusading newspaper columnist who keeps the wrongdoers of Florida on their toes) has done the same as Bateman, spinning his distinctive style of hard-boiled humour for a younger audience. Hoot! is his best known children's book.

Unexpected tale of Mr Dahl
But perhaps the greatest example, of course, is Roald Dahl. Before he published James And The Giant Peach, he was best known as the author of wonderfully sly, black and sophisticated tales of the unexpected published mostly in magazines such as the Saturday Evening Post.

It’s debatable whether Dahl would still be remembered now if that was all he had published.

Writing a children’s book was the shrewdest move he made.

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