Tag Archives: Gareth P. Jones

Death or Ice Cream by Gareth P. Jones

I love finding authors who write a wide range of stories.  They don’t just write the same kinds of stories for the same age group, but really branch out and write all sorts of stuff.  Gareth P. Jones is one of those authors.  I first discovered Gareth when I picked up his first book, Constable and Toop.  I loved this book so much that I just wanted to read everything that he had written.  He stories can be hilariously funny, spooky and spine-tingling, or eerie and mysterious, and can feature ghosts, dinosaurs, and pirate robots.  In Gareth’s latest book, Death or Ice Cream? he takes us to the town of Larkin Mills and introduces us to the weird and wonderful characters that call this place home.

DeathLarkin Mills: The Birthplace of Death! Larkin Mills is no ordinary town. It’s a place of contradictions and enigma, of secrets and mysteries. A place with an exquisite ice cream parlour, and an awful lot of death. An extraordinary mystery in Larkin Mills is beginning to take shape. First we meet the apparently healthy Albert Dance, although he’s always been called a sickly child, and he’s been booked into Larkin Mills’ Hospital for Specially Ill Children. Then there’s his neighbour Ivor, who observes strange goings-on, and begins his own investigations into why his uncle disappeared all those years ago. Next we meet Young Olive, who is given a battered accordion by her father, and unwittingly strikes a dreadful deal with an instrument repair man. Make sure you keep an eye on Mr Morricone, the town ice-cream seller, who has queues snaking around the block for his legendary ice cream flavours Summer Fruits Suicide and The Christmas Massacre. And Mr Milkwell, the undertaker, who has some very dodgy secrets locked up in his hearse. Because if you can piece together what all these strange folks have to do with one another …well, you’ll have begun to unlock the dark secrets that keep the little world of Larkin Mills spinning.

Death or Ice Cream? is dark, devilish and fun and I loved every minute of it!  The book is a series of interconnected spine-tingling stories, with a large helping of black humour, that draws you into the strange town of Larkin Mills.  Gareth made me laugh out loud, shiver and cringe.

I love the way that each of the stories interconnect and interact with each other.  There are characters (Mr Morricone) and objects (a vial of purple liquid) that pop up in a few of the stories and you wonder about the significance of these.  A story that you have just read could relate to the story that you read next, and I often thought it was quite clever how they related to each other.  Each of the stories is a piece of the jigsaw that you add to with each new story, and by the end of the book we know all about Larkin Mills and its secrets.

There are so many characters to love in Death or Ice Cream?  We get brief glimpses of characters, only to realise that they are much more important than you thought, and they turn up in another story.  In the first story there is a man going door-t0-door selling anecdotes.  You don’t learn much about him but you just know that he will turn up later.  Like the town itself, many of the characters appear to be hiding something.  Why, for example, is Mr Morricone’s Ice Cream Parlour so popular?  Why does his ice cream have such wicked sounding names, like Mowed Down Madness or Trigger Finger of Fudge?  Then there is the undertaker, Mr Milkwell, who runs a hotel/funeral home where the guests are both living and dead.

The TV shows that Gareth has added into the book gave me a good chuckle too. My favourite is called Flog It Or Burn It, where competitors are trying to sell their family heirlooms against the clock.  The person with the most unsold items has their burnt in front of a live studio audience.  It sounds much more exciting than Antiques Roadshow or Cash in the Attic.  One of the characters loves watching competitive basket weaving, which I’m sure would be thrilling.

Pick up a copy of the devilishly funny Death or Ice Cream? now and discover what’s going on in Larkin Mills.  This is one town you don’t ever want to visit!

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Seriously Spooky Month: Guest Post – Gareth P. Jones

As part of my Seriously Spooky Month I asked some of my favourite spooky authors to write a guest post for My Best Friends Are Books.  Today I’m joined by Gareth P. Jones, author of my favourite funny book about ghosts, Constable and Toop, and the forthcoming Death and Ice Cream.  Gareth talks about why he loves writing about death.  Thanks for joining me Gareth!

“Honestly, Gareth, why do you have to write about death?”

My new novel (published by Hotkey Books) comes out January 2016, and I already know that my mum won’t like it because of its title. It is called Death or Ice Cream?

“Why can’t you write a nice book like Little Women?” she says.

“I think because I was born a hundred years too late,” I reply. “Also, I’ve not read it but I have seen that episode of Friends about it and I’m pretty sure someone does die in it. Beth possibly?”

“Black Beauty then.”

“I’m not massively keen on horses.”

My mum’s real question is: “Why do you have to write about death?”

Firstly, I should explain that I don’t only write about death. I have three series of books (Ninja Meerkats, The Dragon Detective Agency and The Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates) in which the vast majority of the characters make it to the end. I have also written the text for two picture books, (The Dinosaurs are Having a Party and Are You the Pirate Captain?) which are very light on the subject of mortality.

But when it comes to writing my standalone novels, I am often drawn to the subject of death. The Thornthwaite Inheritance is about a pair of twins trying to kill each other, The Considine Curse begins with a funeral, and Constable & Toop is a Victorian ghost story named after a real undertakers.

It was the real Constable and Toop that sparked the idea for my new book, Death or Ice Cream? I follow them on Twitter (sure, why wouldn’t an undertakers have a twitter account?) and they put up a link to an article called 500 Ways To Say Dead about all the euphemisms we use for dying (kick the bucket, push up the daisies, fall asleep, bite the bullet, pop your clogs etc.) It got me thinking about why we have such a long list of ways to express the one thing that will definitely affect us all. The answer is that death is something we are scared of so we use language to soften its impact. We try to make it sound funnier, gentler… more temporary. But, if Dumbledore has taught us nothing else, it is that fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself.

“Yes, Gareth.” This is my mum again. “But you write children’s books. Why can’t you be more like that nice Beatrix Potter or Enid Blyton?”

Over the nine years I have been a published author, I have visited hundreds of schools and met thousands of children. I have observed that these children have not yet learned to fear death but they are fascinated by it. And literature allows us to consider subjects in a way that is engaging, satisfying and, above all else, entertaining. So whether it’s war, religion, prejudice, sex or death, books help us explore these tricky subjects in a unique – and rather wonderful – way.

Anyway, my new book isn’t just about death. My favourite thing about being a children’s author (rather than – say – a crime writer or a purveyor of historical fiction) is the freedom to employ different genres and draw upon a variety of influences to tell my stories. As my publishers will tell you, Death or Ice Cream? is a difficult book to describe but I’ll have a go anyway. Death or Ice Cream? is a selection of dark morality tales, closely interwoven and all set in the same fictional town of Larkin Mills. While the characters change from story to story, the book has an underlying theme about the duality of the daily choices we are forced to make. Let me try that again. It’s about god and the devil and why religion forces us to make a choice between them. It’s also about domestic sharks, concrete sculptures, dodgem cars, corrupt politicians, evil doctors, the Roman empire, the dangers of archeology, zombies, the art of making television, alien landings, death and ice cream.

Oh and if you’re thinking that the question Death or Ice Cream? is a no-brainer, then I should point out that it is not really a choice at all.

After all, you can choose never to have an ice cream.

Cover illustration by Adam Stower

Cover illustration by Adam Stower

Death or Ice Cream? is published January 2016 by Hot Key books.

You can read my review of Gareth’s Constable and Toop here on the blog.

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Yo-ho-ho! Here come the Steampunk Pirates!

Avast me hearties! Are you a land lubber lookin’ for a book chock full of adventure on the seven seas, robot pirates, laughs aplenty, and gold?  Well the Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates is the series for you. Hop on board The Leaky Battery and set sail with this rag-tag crew.

Wanted: Dead or Alive! (Or smashed into little bits and delivered in boxes.) Causing chaos wherever they sail, the robotic Steampunk Pirates are roaming the high seas, hunting for gold!

But the evil Iron Duke has other ideas…He’s determined to capture the pirates in return for a handsome reward from the King. Can these mechanical marauders stay one wave ahead of their enemy?

The Leaky Battery Sets Sail is the brilliant first book in Gareth P. Jones’ swashbuckling new series, Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates.  The Steampunk Pirates are a crew of robots who were once servants. They decided they didn’t want to be bossed around so acquired a ship and set out to find adventure.  Their crew is made up of their hot-headed leader Captain Clockheart, First Mate Mainspring (who gets dangerous when he gets overwound), Quartermaster Lexi (the brains of the crew who is fitted with an information file), Mr Gadge (so named because of all the gadgets he can attach to himself) and twelve other robotic low-lifes.

Their first adventure sees the Steampunk Pirates on the hunt for all the loot they can find.  They’ve discovered that life at sea isn’t so great when you’re made of metal because it rusts in the salty sea air.  They hear of an alchemist who can turn metal in to gold and Captain Clockheart believes this is the answer to their problems.  Along the way they meet the Iron Duke and other nasty humans who try to foil their plans.

Adventures of the Steampunk Pirates is perfect for readers aged 7+ who love adventure and love to laugh. They’re quick, fun reads with quirky illustrations that will appeal to young readers.  I look forward to seeing what happens in the next adventures of the Steampunk Pirates in Attack of the Giant Sea Spiders.  I highly recommend this series and you should definitely search out Gareth’s other books, including the Ninja Meerkats series, The Thornthwaite Inheritance, and one of my favourite books Constable and Toop.

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Interview with Gareth P. Jones + giveaway of Constable & Toop

Garth P. Jones is the author of the creepy, gruesome and funny new book, Constable & Toop (you can read my review here).  After finishing Constable & Toop I wanted to find out what else he had written and I discovered that we had his Dragon Detective Agency series and The Thornthwaite Inheritance sitting on our library shelves.  I love his writing style and I now want to go and read all of his other books.  Gareth very kindly answered my questions about his writing and his fantastic new book.

  • What inspired you to write Constable and Toop?
I was sitting in a coffee shop in Honor Oak (which is not far from my flat). The coffee shop is opposite an undertakers called Constable & Toop. At the time I was trying to come up with a new idea. I wrote down the name of the undertakers, which I found especially evocative. By the time I had finished my coffee the bare bones of the idea were down on paper.
  • Are any of the ghosts in Constable and Toop based on real ghosts?
As a non-believer, I am amused by the idea of real ghosts, but yes – some are. The Man in Grey is the best example. A tour guide by the name of David Kendell-Kerby (also an actor and writer himself) told me about several ghosts who haunt Drury Lane (apparently the most haunted theatre in the world). I liked the story of the Man in Grey best. The stuff about him being bricked up in the wall and possibly killed for discovering accounting irregularities is all ‘true’ although his name was unknown so I borrowed David’s. The part about him whispering to lines to actors is ‘true’ as well – a kind of spiritual teleprompter.
  • In your story there are different types of ghosts, including Enforcers, Prowlers and Rogues. What sort of ghost would you be?
Well, I have certainly worked for large organisations like the Bureau where you can hide the fact you’re not doing much behind all the processes and procedures so maybe I would be a clerk – although a far less conscientious one than Lapsewood .

  • The story is set in Victorian England and you really feel immersed in the period as you read. While researching and writing your story what was the most interesting thing that you learnt about this period?
I think mostly I was struck by how similar it was. I was interested in the South-East London suburbs where I live and where most of the action is based and, although there has been a lot of development, it’s not that different in terms of how connected to London you feel. One of the formative moments in writing was standing at the top of the hill between Honor Oak and Peckham Rye and looking down at London and I realised that the view probably wouldn’t have been dramatically different – give or take a few buildings here and there. There were lots of moments while wandering around London when I felt very connected with the city’s history.

  • One of the things I like the most about Constable and Toop is the mix of the creepy and gruesome with the lighter moments and witty banter between your characters. Was this how you originally planned the story or did you set out to write a more traditional ghost story?
I had a very tight deadline with this book and how no real time to stop and consider what I was doing. Happily the story flowed very quickly from my pen. Gruesome and creepy were necessities of the story and I always intended it to be funny. My editor had told me that she didn’t think my previous book (The Considine Curse) was very funny so I was determined to make sure this one was.
  • What exciting stories can we look forward to from you?

Hm, I’m not sure I’m ready to tell anyone yet. It looks like it will have a Victorian setting again though – at least in part. And It will probably have elements of supernatural and humour – but not ghosts again. I’ll save ghosts for when I do a sequel to Constable & Toop… if I ever do that is.

Win a copy of Constable & Toop!

I have 2 copies of Constable & Toop to give away.  To get in the draw just enter your name and email address in the form below.  Competition closes Wednesday 21 November (NZ only).

Thanks to everyone who entered.  This competition is now closed.

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Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones

If you’re a regular reader of my blog you’ll know that I love creepy stories of all kinds.  Ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, and other creatures that live in the dark are often featured in the books I love.  I’ve been reading many of the first titles from Hot Key Books (a brilliant new publisher based in the UK) and when I read about Constable & Toop by Gareth P. Jones I had to get my hands on it.  A ghost story set in Victorian London, featuring a boy who could communicate with ghosts, sounded absolutely fantastic!  Constable & Toop was even better than it sounded.

Sam Toop lives in a funeral parlour, blessed (or cursed) with an unusual gift. While his father buries the dead, Sam is haunted by their constant demands for attention. Trouble is afoot on the ‘other side’ – there is a horrible disease that is mysteriously imprisoning ghosts into empty houses in the world of the living. And Sam is caught in the middle – will he be able to bring himself to help?

Constable & Toop is a creepy, gruesome story, with plenty of mystery, and a good dose of wit and humour.  Gareth can have you cringing one moment and laughing the next, which is why I liked the book so much.  He has given us a glimpse inside the ghost world and it’s not what you would expect.  It’s the ghost world and the witty banter between his characters that provide the comic relief of the story.  There is also plenty of throat slitting and stabbing for those who like their ghost stories gruesome.  The story is set in Victorian London and from the first page you are immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the period.

There are several different threads of the story, following different characters, which Gareth weaves together perfectly.  Gareth shows us the lives of the living and the dead, and the ‘Talkers’ allow them to communicate with each other.  Characters whose lives seem quite separate from each other in the beginning become increasingly intertwined as the story progresses.

The thing I liked the most about Constable and Toop was the way that Gareth portrayed the ghost world.  It’s very bureaucratic, with each ghost having a role, like Enforcer or Prowler, and there are lots of rules and regulations that ghosts must follow.  If they don’t do as they are told they’re labelled Rogues and are hunted down.  There is an incredible amount of paperwork that needs to be filled out to do anything, and you must have a license in order to be a Poltergeist.  In order to go to the physical world and find out what your unfinished business is (so that you can step through the Unseen Door and cross over) you have to apply for a research license.  Lapsewood is my favourite character because he’s a very likeable guy, who just wants to get away from all the paperwork and get some adventure out in the real world (while impressing the girl of his dreams).  He has some of the best lines and has some incredibly strange conversations with his superiors, who can never seem to get his name right.

If you want a ghost story with a difference grab a copy of Constable and Toop by Gareth P. Jones.  I would recommend it for fans of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant series, Joseph Delaney’s Spook’s Apprentice series, or Barry Hutchison’s Invisible Fiends series.

5 out of 5 stars

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