The Jack Christie Series – Here come the (history) boys
The Jack Christie books are an action / adventure series for 10 to 14 year olds (and many adults!) which have a time travel theme involving modern heroes (Jack and Angus) in real historical ‘turning points’. ‘Day of the Assassins’ is the first in the series and is based around the assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 which triggered the First World War. It’s been long listed for two awards in the UK and short listed for the BBC History/History Association Young Quills Award – which is a real thrill.
The next in the series is just out and is called ‘Day of Deliverance’ and is based in Elizabethan England around the time of the Armada. Next year we’re publishing ‘Day of Vengeance’ which takes Jack and Angus back to the Battle of Britain, the defeat of France in 1940 and Hitler’s visit to Paris (which you can see astonishing actual footage of on You Tube).
I got the idea for the Jack Christie stories 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 – uniforms, medals and even a citation from Winston Churchill. My Grandfather was injured in the war and this got me thinking about the choices people make and the consequences that follow – even from quite trivial decisions. It also made me think about what caused 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 and known what was going to happen– 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.
The other books in the series explore different periods of history but also revolve around ‘what ifs’ and turning points – or ‘counter-factuals’ to use the jargon. I guess my aim is to write action which hook young readers but also provoke an interest in history. It’s a brilliant subject and teaches great skills and is invaluable for pub quizzes. However, it does require quite a lot of research and you find yourself having to find the answers to some pretty odd questions:
– 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).
I’m trying to work out where Jack and Angus go for book number four – so if anyone has any bright ideas – please let me know!