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“The Man in Red Trousers” for “Stories of WW1”

Year one of commemorating the start of WW1 has ended – during which time so much has already been written, commissioned and broadcast. When I was asked to contribute to two anthologies for the occasion, I wrote a short story called “The Man in the Red Trousers” for Tony Bradman’s excellent collection of short stories for called “Stories of WW1” published by Orchard books. It contains excellent contributions by people like Malorie Blackman (our Children’s Laureate) and Geraldine Mccaughrean. I think we all made it an opportunity to explore issues through our own prism. For my part, I wanted to reflect the experience of so many Indian soldiers who fought in the trenches. I continued that exploration in my furhter contribution to Michael Morpurgo’s excellent anthology called “Only Remembered” published by Random House, containing contributions from all walks of life. We have four more years to go – and I’m sure there are still many more aspects of that period to write about. I recently reviewed a book called “Unknown Warriors: the Letters of Katie Luard RRC and Bar, who was a nursing sister in France throughout WW1. It reflects the dedicated, unsung, quiet heroism of the hundreds of nures, doctors, ambulance drivers and stretcher bearers who toiled alongside the soldiers, tried to save them, and held their hands as they died. A deeply moving and informative account of life within the theatre of war published by the History Press.


Dear Jamila Gavin,
I just wanted to say hello and to thank you for subscribing to my blog yesterday. I am a long-time admirer of your work. Both Coram Boy and The Blood Stone seem to me the epitome of what I like to call “books for all ages” – accessible and entertaining for young readers and richly rewarding reads for adults. They’re also wonderful for reading out loud (I read both to my son, Ben). I also loved and was very moved by your older Surya trilogy, which I know I’ll read again. I am eager to explore your other novels, stories and folk tales. So, I also wanted to thank you for inspiring me. My first novel, Prairie Hill (published so far only as an eBook) appeals to both young adults and adults, but I hope to capture that “books for all ages” audience with the novel I’m currently writing, a comic fairytale.
I was very interested in your comments above about World War One. I will seek out the anthologies you mention as well as the collection of letters, which sounds fascinating. I haven’t yet considered writing fiction related to World War One, although I have a couple of Prairie Hill-related historical novels in mind, but I am gradually working on a book of my uncle’s World War One letters. I’ve written about him (Edward Langworthy Burwell) and excerpted some of his very detailed letters on my blog in a series I call “A Writing Family.” There are so many letters, it’s turning into quite a big project!
I hope that you have a lovely year ahead – with plenty of time for writing! Thank you again.
Fred Burwell

I’m so glad you have been enjoying my novels over the years and good luck with all your writing projects. When you say you’re writing a comic fairytale, do you mean comic as in amsuing or comic as in graphic – noting that the graphic novel is very popular these days? I have always loved fairytales, and published my own collection last year called “Blackberry Blue.” The WW1 centenary is throwing up the most fascinating material documenting family history – sounds like you have your hands full with your own. All the best.

Hello again, Jamila,
Thanks for your reply. I meant comic as in amusing, not a graphic novel, although I’d be happy to find an illustrator. The novel (I have about two-thirds of a draft so far) is a tribute to the dozens of fairytales I’ve read over the years. My father also read many to me and both he and my grandmother were adept at inventing their own, so I grew up with stories seemingly everywhere. I also enjoyed the various Andrew Lang collections such as the Green Fairy Book and the Orange Fairy Book, etc., which included stories from around the world. I inherited my love of wordplay from my father and that silliness is a strong element of my novel.
I will purchase a copy of “Blackberry Blue.” Thank you for the recommendation! The reviews make the book sound right up my alley. I am sure that you must have some wonderful projects in the works. I look forward to reading more of your books.
Fred Burwell

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