David Ashby skriver om sin vättebok
When I was growing up in Brighton in the 1970s, my favourite shop was Vortex Books, just up from London Road.
It was a satellite of the unexpected. I started going there for the comics – Batman, Superboy and the Legion of Superheroes, Captain America, Captain Britain (yes really), The Invaders and so many more – but soon realised that there was a lot more to discover. They had a wide range of science fiction and fantasy books, and I was soon reading the Dumarest Saga, the White Mountains Trilogy, Alan Garner and whatever the owner suggested I might like. He was great, almost like a character from a fantasy novel himself, with his flowing hair, interesting amulets and quiet, zen-like nature.
So I grew up with a love of fantasy and science fiction and goblins and ray guns and capes and cowls and aliens and radioactive aardvarks. I started to write and draw my own comics (there’s one left somewhere, up in the attic, it’s rubbish) and would spend ages debating with my friend Jonathan Hepbir whether DC or Marvel were best, whether the Hulk could take down Wonder Woman or not (of course not).
Jonathan is now known as Jonny and is a gypsy jazz guitarist who played Paul McCartney’s Christmas Party. I’m still David (although Davey appeals) and my debut middle-grade children’s novel is just about to be published. It is called Gribblebob’s Book of Unpleasant Goblins and as the title suggests it probably has its roots right back in those early days of reading at Vortex Books, as it involves goblins, swordplay, witches and evil beasts. It may have its roots in the UK, but it only started growing properly here in Sweden.
I’ve lived here since 2002, and one day, about two years ago now, I was walking home through the woods from Skärholmen with my two children when I spotted something glinting in the sun. We went to investigate, and it was a little stone, but it looked very much like a little tiny book. I said to my children, “Imagine if this actually was a little book, and it had been dropped by a goblin.” So I started to make up a story as we walked home, about this odd goblin and his almost not-there dog, Dimple. When we arrived home my wife said, “You should write that down” and so I did.
I wrote a few chapters every night or so and read them to my children, who gave me feedback about what they like or didn’t like and about what might happen next, so it was a real family endeavour. When it was finished I saw that Sarah Odedina (the editor heavily involved in the Harry Potter series and with Neil Gaiman and Louis Sachar) at Pushkin Children’s was holding an Open Submissions event, saw I sent it in. Sarah liked it and now it’s coming out. My first book at aged 55. Who would have thought it?
How I wish that Vortex Books was still around (it went back up to the mother ship sometime in the mid to late 80s) and that they could stock it and tell people that it’s a really funny, laugh-out-loud fantasy story about facing your fears and beating witches and a horribly rude goblin and his vanishing dog.
The twelve-year old me would most definitely have bought a copy, along with the latest issues of Claw the Unconquered and Ms. Marvel.