While I was interviewing local author, Richard Hardie (author of Leap of Faith and Trouble with Swords), we discussed favourite books and writers. Then came the sad announcement of Sir Terry Pratchett’s death after a long battle with a rare form of Alzheimer’s.
Richard and I share a huge admiration for the Discworld novels. What follows below is what came out of my initial interview with Richard and it was felt this could stand alone as a local appreciation of one of the finest and funniest writers this country has ever produced.
My full interview with Richard will appear on Friday and which I hope will shed a light on a writer’s life.
Any Discworld novel release was a highlight of our reading year and will be much missed by both Richard and I. Whether you read the books or listen to the audio books, it is our view that for wit, Sir Terry Pratchett led the field.
Why the devotion to Sir Terry and Discworld?
Richard Hardie and I share a great love for the Discworld novels. The humour is a joy and the characters are wonderful.
Any writer who can make heroes out of dwarves, female werewolves (Angua has such good hair!), reformed rogues and drunks (Moist Von Lipwig and Samuel Vimes), a robust University Master (Mustrum Ridcully) and witches (Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg) must have something going for them!
P.G. Wodehouse is the only other humorous writer who invented more than one set of major characters and produced wonderful stories out of them. (The obvious ones are Jeeves and Wooster but there are Uncle Fred, Lord Emsworth, Mr Mulliner and Ukridge as well).
The likes of Sir Terry and Sir Pelham Grenville Wodehouse show that humorous writing has depth, can get points across far better than “straight, serious” novels and can inspire other writers to flesh out their characters more and improve their stories.
Writers learn a lot by reading how other writers do it and the best hints of all to any would-be writer are to read across genres, write, not give up and always read from the best. You want to learn from the best.
Sir Terry was one of the best and his works will live on. That probably is the best tribute to him.
Questions and answers with Richard Hardie regarding Sir Terry Pratchett
Allison: We both share a love for Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series for their humour and wonderful characters. What is your favourite Pratchett character and why? Likewise, what is your favourite Discworld novel and why? I would nominate Samuel Vimes (and also Willikins, his butler. Think Jeeves with attitude!). My favourite novel is probably Men At Arms where I feel Vimes really begins to take off as a character.
Richard: Choosing one Terry Pratchett character over so many wonderful ones would be next to impossible, though (Commander Samuel) Vimes has to be a worthy candidate. His character has evolved superbly through the series and his cynical sobriety is always a joy.
The Night Watch has always been one of my favourite Pratchett books, though all his books are great. It’s a major testament to Terry all of his 50 odd books are very much in print and selling well. None have been remaindered.
Allison: The best compliments to a writer are:
- Your books sell consistently well, or
- Your books are consistently borrowed in huge numbers from libraries, or
- Your books are consistently nicked from bookshops. You’d only pinch works you’d want to read!
At one point Sir Terry was the most shoplifted author in the UK. A definite category (c) there!
The Gang Show and Sir Terry Pratchett
Richard: I managed to get Terry to work with me on one of the Gang Shows and we ended up co-writing one of the scenes in which he agreed to film on video so we could show it every night.
It was a kidnap scene and we got the press to run a Who Kidnapped Terry Pratchett? story for a couple of weeks up to the opening night.
It was great publicity from a great guy. One evening as I was driving him home, I asked Terry Pratchett whether it was getting harder to think of new plots after having written so many books.
He said that it wasn’t because his characters are so well constructed now, that he tends to choose around 10 main ones and their personalities will tend to dictate the story based on a minor plotline. He reckons it gets easier the more books he writes.
Allison: Is there a character you would love to have invented yourself? If so, who and why?
Richard: I would have loved to have invented any of Terry Pratchett’s characters and I must admit I do have three witches in one of my books, though they are rather different from Terry’s ladies of that ilk.
The finest, funniest writer
Allison: I believe Sir Terry Pratchett was the finest funny writer this country has produced since P.G. Wodehouse. The range and depth of Pratchett’s characters were amazing and sustained over 50+ books, a magnificent achievement.
For fellow fans, my favourite characters were Death, Vimes, Granny Weatherwax, Nanny Ogg, Moist Von Lipwig and Mustrum Ridcully. Discworld will live on long after its creator.
Our wonderful library does stock his books so if you wanted to try before you buy, I can’t recommend Chandler’s Ford Library highly enough.
Now over to you!
For fellow Terry fans, why not write in with your favourite Discworld books and characters? If there is enough response, it might be fun to compile a top ten.
Credit: feature image adapted from “Terry Pratchett kindly posed with his hat for Myrmi”. By Myrmi via Wikimedia Commons.