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Sunday, 10 April 2011

Guest Post by Johnny O'Brien (Author of the Jack Christie Adventures)

The very first book review I posted on the Book Zone back in October 2009 was for Day of the Assassins by Johnny O'Brien. I can't remember why I chose this book specifically to kick-start my blog, other than that I had really enjoyed its time travel adventure storyline. Since then Templar have published the sequel, Day of Deliverance, which I reviewed last September and which is now available in paperback. Johnny has now very kindly written a guest post for the Book Zone which I want to share with you today - the first part is written in Jack Christie's voice (a very nice exclusive for the Book Zone), and then this is followed up with a Q&A in which Johnny tells us a little more about his books:

Jack’s blog post 

I am going to start writing all this down because I am not sure where it is really going to end and whether it’s finished yet. It’s been all quiet on the Revisionist front for a good few months, but they’re still out there and everyone at VIGIL seems to be getting twitchy. It’s not helped by what happened today. Angus and I were down at old Gino’s – I’ve got to tell you that Angus’s eating habits are getting worse – a Ginochino and four chip butties. Gross. When that last chip butty started to leak and the ketchup went all over the place – tell you, it looked like some kind of nuclear accident. Anyway, Angus had the bright idea of going up to the old fire tower at the top of the forest on the bike. We’re not supposed to be up there for a start. Anyway, first we nearly mow down this hiker on one of the trails and then when we get to the fire tower at the top of the hill (great views by the way), we find that someone’s been living up there. There’s all his stuff there and, here’s the spooky bit, there are a couple of books – one called ‘Principles of Quantum Mechanics’ and the other is Shakespeare and it’s opened at an entry in Hamlet, and it’s one of the speeches that I have learnt for the school play we’re doing with Beattie. How weird is that? But that’s nothing to what happens next. Even Angus is getting a bit spooked at this point, we don’t know who this guy is or whether he’s going to come back at any minute so we decide to leave. Just as we go, I see a letter pinned to the back of the door. It’s addressed to me. Yep. Me. I nearly have a heart attack. I rip it open and... this is what it says:

“Jack,

I had hoped to be able to meet you in person and have time for a proper talk. However, I fear that VIGIL may soon learn of my location and therefore I have had to leave in haste. This is a sad time for me. You already know about my exile from my former colleagues in VIGIL. It grieves me that, because of this, I have not been able to see you or your mother over the past nine years. But now, I also find myself in disagreement with my friend Pendelshape and the Revisionist team. We were once so unanimous in our opposition to VIGIL. But now. . . Some months ago we started work on a new timeline simulation – one that aims to bring about great good for humanity. However, I could not accept further development of this simulation before I knew that you could be safely isolated from VIGIL and brought over to our side. Pendelshape and my Revisionist colleagues have become frustrated by my attitude, to say the least. We have argued and now, fearing their retribution, I have left them. Furthermore, with your safety in mind, I have, as of today, taken the unprecedented step of warning VIGIL of what I know of Pendelshape’s plans. I now find myself alone in the world – a fugitive. I never wanted to put you in this position or to expose you to all you have experienced. However, I live in hope that we can one day meet and that you will join me in my mission.

Dad”


This letter – it’s from Dad. I can’t believe it. And then it all comes together. He was the guy we nearly knocked over in the woods on the bike, and he’s been holed up here – a fugitive from VIGIL and now from this own guys – the Revisionists. Now he’s running away. I’m confused and I’m scared. And judging from the letter, I’m not the only one who’s scared. He’s talking about a new timeline simulation. That might be gobbledygook to you – but I know what that means – after all I was the one that got transported back in time to 1914 to the assassination in Sarajevo and nearly got killed in the process. Basically, it sounds like the Revisionists are planning to try and make another change to history. I’m with VIGIL on this one – it’s incredibly dangerous – and if that is their plan they will need to be stopped. I’m standing there, trying to work out what it all means, what to do, I’m thinking about Dad and if I’ll ever see him again... and then it all kicks off. The whole tower starts shaking and there’s a helicopter landing outside (yes – a helicopter) and a bunch of Landrovers and some guys with dogs. It’s VIGIL. They’ve been tracking my movements (of course – how could I forget) and they’ve already worked out that something’s up. I look at Angus and he knows what I know.

It’s starting again.

Johnny’s Q and A

How would you describe the Jack Christie books to potential readers?


The Jack Christie books are action stories which have a time travel theme involving our modern heroes (Jack and Angus) in real historical events (like the assassination in Sarajevo in 1914, the defeat of France in 1940, Elizabethan England and the Armada in 1588).

Day of the Assassins is the first in the series and is based just before the First World War. I got the idea when clearing out a cupboard at my Dad’s home in Scotland. It contained all this memorabilia from the First World War - when my Grandfather fought in the Irish Guards. There was all sorts of stuff including uniforms, medals and even a citation from Winston Churchill. My Grandfather was injured in the war and this triggered the idea for the book. Basically, it got me thinking about the choices people make and the consequences that follow – even from quite trivial decisions. This made me think about the causes of the First World War – and the trigger point of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo in 1914. I wondered what I would have done if I had been there – would I have stopped it and thereby perhaps prevented the war. It was a small jump from that to Jack and Angus – ordinary kids who go back in time and face exactly that choice.

Why Day of Deliverance?

The second book in the series is called ‘Day of Deliverance’. I wanted to do something Elizabethan – because it is such a fantastic period of history. Not only have you got the great political and religious turmoil of the age but you have this incredible artistic renaissance – Shakespeare, Marlowe and much more besides. It was then a case of looking for a possible historical turning point during the period around which to build the plot and so I came to focus on the Armada – which of course is one of the great stories in European history.

What about mixing real history and made up history?

The Jack Christie books involve the heroes in real turning points in history. And there are notes at the back to help you understand what is real and what really happened. Basically, I wanted people to have a great read but also maybe learn something in the process about history, so the notes are to help that. It does take quite a lot of research and you find yourself asking yourself some pretty odd questions. Here are a few:

- Would a fourteen year old boy fit inside the muzzle of a main battle gun on HMS Dreadnought? (Answer – yes, if he is particularly weedy).

-In Napoleon’s march to Moscow in 1812, how many of the 422,000 troops that set out made it back? (Answer: 10,000).

- What did Gavrilo Princip have in his hand and drop before he shot the Archduke Franz Ferdinand? (Answer: a sandwich. Sensible – never try and kill someone with a sandwich, it takes a long time and usually doesn’t work).

- Why do we light fires on bonfire night? (Clue: little to do with Guy Fawkes);

- Do people really free climb up the Colleges of Cambridge? (Yes – and have done so for centuries)

- What kind of beer would you drink in a London pub in 1588? (Many varieties – Mad Dog and Stride Wide are Jack and Angus’s favourites).

What’s next for Jack?

Day of the Assassins and Day of Deliverance will be followed by Day of Vengeance which is all about the Battle of Britain, defeat of France in 1940, the visit of Hitler to Paris in 1940 (check out Youtube for actual footage of this sinister historical event) and the German Vengeance programme. ‘Vengeance’ comes out in September and hot off the press and you heard it here first on The Book Zone (For Boys) – the fourth in the series is about China and the Taiping rebellion... twenty million people died in this event – more than in World War One – but you’ve never even heard of it, have you?


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My huge thanks go to Johnny for taking the time to write this for The Book Zone. Please come back later in the week when I will be running a competition where you could win signed copies of the two Jack Christie books, and I will also be posting a link to an extract of Day of Deliverance.

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