CHRISTOPHER TEAGUE ON THE WONDERFUL STORY OF HENRY SUGAR & SIX MORE BY ROALD DAHL
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More by Roald Dahl
When I were a lad, I was never a book worm – I liked reading, but I was more interested in making my computer do stuff, not to mention frentic joystick waggling (I blame Daley Thompson for a weak wrist) and slaying those goblins among other beasties in the Fighting Fantasy game books.
But, checking out the school library one day I happened across this collection. I had read Dahl’s two Charlie books (Chocolate Factory and Glass Elevator) but what made me pick up the book was that it contained the original story “The Boy Who Talked with Animals” which I remembered from Tales of the Unexpected. Although the short stories were okay it was the main tale, a novella, which really hooked me.
I re-read it fairly recently, older though not necessarily wiser, and what really amazed me was how easy Dahl crafted a triple flashback tale, concerning a very wealthy man who reminisces about the time he discovers a medical journal written by a doctor visiting India, who met a gentleman who could ‘see’ without his eyes.
You discover how this wealthy man, a playboy in his youth, was so taken with this account that he sets about trying to see if it is indeed possible. As his pursuit continues, you the reader begin to ponder: is it really possible? Can you really ‘see’ without eyes? Through ups and downs, you are unashamedly hoodwinked by this man and his gift and marvel at what he does with it.
Finishing Henry Sugar definitely opened my eyes to fiction: I joined the school’s book club, and even though I continued to read the gamebooks I became hungry for ‘proper’ novels (not that Livingstone or Jackson weren’t real writers you understand, far from it).
It wasn’t until I was 16, though, and leaving school that I really caught the reading bug, especially horror when a friend of mine lent me a couple of James Herbert books.
So, to recap, if it weren’t for Roald Dahl and specifically Henry Sugar then it is doubtful I’d be reading for pleasure as an adult.
Now you know who to blame.
Chris Teague founded Pendragon Press in 2000, and the company's first release was Nasty Snips, a collection of flash fiction, with contributors that included Simon Clark and Tim Lebbon.
Over the following years the company has had a busy chedule, with between fifteen and twenty books launched onto the market. Writers in the Pendragon back catalogue include Tony Richards, Paul Finch, Lavie Tidhar, Gary McMahon and Rhys Hughes, with the novella form a particular strength. Pendragon and their books have often been in contention for the British Fantasy Awards, and in 2006 Stuart Young's novella The Mask Behind the Face carried the day, a feat that was repeated the following year with Kid by Paul Finch from the Choices collection.
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