Literature Matters: The Adventures of Jack Moon

The Adventures of Jack Moon: The Curse of the Body-Snatchers by Keith Souter, 2012, Golden Guides Press, ISBN978-1-78095-003-7, £7.99; also available on Kindle and e-pub.

Looking for a last-minute stocking-filler for an older child? I can recommend The Curse of the Body-Snatchers, the first Adventure of Jack Moon by Wakefield-based author, Keith Souter (who joins me below to chat about his work). Body-Snatchers begins with the 12-year-old hero, Jack Moon, secretly burying the body of his best friend in a spooky cemetery in Victorian London, and goes on to become a cracking adventure yarn full of twists and turns. Jack falls into the hands of the sinister phrenologist Professor Stackpool, who purports to diagnose his low character from the shape of his head, (a form of quackery much in vogue in the 19th century); is rescued and given a job by the benevolent Sir Lionel Petrie; and befriends Sir Lionel’s pretty grand-daughter, Olivia, who is soon overtaken by a horrible fate…

I don’t want to give more of the plot away; suffice to say that it’s a gripping period piece with plenty to engross intelligent older children or young teens – and an entertaining read for their parents, too!

Its multi-talented author Keith Souter is a prolific writer in various genres; as well as non-fiction medical books and a health column in the weekly Wakefield Express, he writes historical fiction for adults, crime novels under the pen-name Keith Moray, and Westerns as Clay More! So I’ll ask Keith to join me now to answer a few questions about Body-Snatchers and his other works:

HRR: Keith, your literary output is staggering, and puts mine to shame! How many hours per day (or week) do you spend writing?
KS: Firstly, thank you for having me on your blog, Helen, I appreciate it. Actually, I have no set schedule. I usually have several projects on the go at once and have to be a bit of a plate-spinner. I devote however much time is needed to keep the various projects moving along. In part it’s deadline driven, in that my agent arranges book deals so I have a contracted time in which to deliver each book. I have an absolute minimum of 300 words a day, but I once did 9000 in a day.

HRR: Do you have a favourite genre and/or character – and if so, what?
KS: I like writing in all genres, but curiously, when I’m writing one I want to be doing one of the others! I read many years ago that if you want to write, you should aim at having at least two genres to help stop you going stale. The very first things I wrote were children’s stories for The People’s Friend, a Scottish family magazine, and for the Kingston-Upon-Hull telephone exchange. They had a dial-a-bedtime-story service, so parents could ring up and get a tuck-me-up tale for sixpence. Then I started writing medical articles, and when we moved to Wakefield I was fortunate enough to be asked to write for the Express – which I’ve now been doing every week for the past thirty years! About ten years ago, I started writing my Western novels. After three of those I turned to crime fiction, then to historical fiction with my Sandal Castle mysteries – then Jack Moon popped into my head and I returned to where I started, writing children’s stories.

HRR: Body-Snatchers has some rather gruesome scenes – what age-range are you pitching it at?
KS: It’s aimed loosely at 8 – 13-year-olds, but a lot of young adults and adults have read it and seem to have enjoyed it. One very interesting thing you learn in writing for youngsters is not to use clichés like, for example, ‘my heart was breaking’. You have to be far more careful with your choice of language.

HRR: The cliff-hanger ending of Body-Snatchers suggests there might be a sequel… am I right, and if so, when will it appear?
KS: Oh yes, it’s the first in a series. I’m working on the second, but other projects with deadlines have had to take priority.

HRR: What was your inspiration for Body-Snatchers?
KS: I love Dickens and always wanted to set a story in Dickensian London. I had been working on a book entitled Medical Meddlers, Mediums and Magicians – the Victorian Age of Credulity and had delved deeply into phrenology, spiritualism – that is, fraudulent spiritualism as it was practiced then – and the stage magicians of the age, who exposed their frauds. Then one misty day I looked out of my study window, and for a moment imagined I saw a Victorian urchin staring in at me from the mist – and Jack Moon was born. I immediately grabbed a notebook and the plot started to unfold.

HRR: What projects are you working on now?
KS: The fifth in my series of crime novels, along with two medical books, one on stroke and the other on depression. I’m also working on a collaborative novel with some American Western writers, and a series of Western short stories for an ebook publisher called High Noon Press. These are about Doctor Marcus Quigley, a dental surgeon, gambler and occasional bounty hunter, and are coming out one a month – each is a separate adventure but they build into a complete tale, like the old Saturday matinee serials. All in all, I’m having a lot of fun!

HRR: Keith, you must find more hours in your days than I have in mine! Many thanks for sharing this – and the very best of luck with all your ventures.


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