Sunday, 4 March 2012

JOHN CHRISTOPHER DIES


I was deeply saddened last month to hear that John Christopher passed away. I discovered him in the mid-1980s when the BBC adapted and broadcast two thirds of his Tripods trilogy.

I bought the books upon which it was based and was hooked from thereon.

I believe Alex Proyas (I, Robot, Dark City, Knowing) has acquired the rights to the trilogy and plans to film the first book The White Mountains. If it doesn't do well, he will leave it there (as it's a complete story). If it's a big success, he will film The City of Gold and Lead and The Pool of Fire back to back. Here's hoping he does!

Penguin Classics republished his 1950s dystopian future novel The Death of Grass. It is a gritty but realistic depiction of human nature when life becomes a matter of survival. I was fortunate enough to meet John Christopher (real name Sam Youd) as a guest at his home in Rye, East Sussex.

We drank tea and talked Tripods. After a while, having got tired of my Tripods fixation, he asked if I had read anything else that he had written. I confessed I hadn't. He promptly invited me up to his study and signed two novels for me, The Guardians and The Lotus Caves, both of which I now treasure.

Sam's own favourite of his own work is The Prince in Waiting trilogy (aka The Sword of the Spirits trilogy). Like The Death of Grass, it has a downbeat ending. Sam believed that Hollywood hadn't gone near it because of this, and it was likely to be the reason why the books were out of print.

Sam saw himself as "the forgotten children's author". This upset me at the time, and even more so now that he has died. The tributes in newspapers The Guardian and The New York Times demonstrate how loved and respected he was.

He will forever be my literary hero.

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